The song emerged as a kind of prayer for ecological sanity from Americana singer-songwriter Molly McGinn after a trip to Nicaragua where she learned about plans to cut a canal through the Central American country. She had a chord progression and a compelling idea, but she found herself creatively stuck.
Fortuitously, she had a show lined up with Anna Luisa Daigneault, the electronic dance music artist who records and performs under the name Quilla, at the GreenHill Center for NC Arts. Daigneault offered to take the track and pair a beat with it.
At first producing McGinn’s acoustic guitar playing presented a challenge for Daigneault. She turned to Mike Garrigan, a Greensboro singer-songwriter and producer known for his work with Collapsis and Athenaeum, for help.
Visit mollyandquilla.com to learn more about Molly McGinn and Quilla.
“The frequency and sounds are unlike anything I’ve worked with,” she explained. “There’s so much information. I usually work with piano and harpsichord, these very basic sounds. She’s playing and she also slaps the guitar for percussion. Mike Garrigan gave me some advice: Multi-band compression.”
McGinn recalled the time when she heard the production at Daigneault’s house.
“She had me come over and sit in this little room with subwoofers and played it back to me,” she said. “I could feel the power of it. It’s a story-driven song, but it needed something to take it beyond this six-string kind of thing.”
The song “Wild and Kind” was released as a video, directed by Jacqui Haggerty, on April 22. It’s the opening salvo of a budding musical partnership between McGinn and Daigneault. They have three shows lined up over as many months. An ongoing songwriting collaboration is a possibility. In the meantime, they’re curating a private Spotify playlist where they’re sharing music that combines live acoustic instrumentation with electronic production to workshop the ideas they want to explore.
Quilla’s music — a combination of ethereal vocals, electric piano and beats — possesses an organic, shamanic quality that grows out of Daigneault’s experience playing live music with a band before she learned production. McGinn’s work as a songwriter expands outward from the American roots music fusion of the Grateful Dead into honky-tonk, gospel and folk. The two artists’ personae as headstrong women with artistic vision that is preoccupied with liberation and equilibrium are uncannily parallel.
The biggest challenge of adapting Americana to electronic dance music might be the former’s structural DNA of ballads and narrative story songs. Isolating some of the most compelling aspects of McGinn’s songcraft would turn out to be a key part of the alchemy.
“Molly’s music and lyrics are full of vivid emotions and images,” Daigneault said as the two sat for a recent lunch interview at Deep Roots Market. “With electronic audiences, people want to dream and feel.”
McGinn marveled at the freedom and intuitive approach of electronic music.
“They’ll take a phrase and cut it up,” she said. “She was like, ‘You should repeat the chorus twice.’ I was like, ‘Oh wow, I can do that?’”
The two artists operate from different, but complementary MOs — or “games,” as McGinn put it. McGinn has longstanding ties to the Piedmont Triad region, while the Canadian-born Quilla, who has had dance hits played in Miami, has a more global foothold.
“I hate performing alone,” McGinn said.
“I don’t perform a lot, but I get into it when I do,” Daigneault said. “I’m more of a studio person.”
“You’re kind of in this engineering nerd phase,” McGinn said.
As the two were comparing notes, a man sitting in the grocery’s café area coughed.
McGinn turned toward him and asked in a kind voice: “Are you all right?”
The man nodded his head and smiled, and Daigneault gave him the thumbs up.
Later, the man politely interrupted the interview and approached McGinn.
“I have a weird story,” the man said. “Did you post that you loved Willie Nelson’s Stardust album?”
“Yes, I did,” McGinn replied. “You have a good memory.”
The tidbit of information came from an old match.com profile.
“You shot me down,” the man recalled.
“I’m sorry,” McGinn replied, stretching out the word sorry to convey genuine compassion. He shrugged his shoulders as he said it was no big deal, and after a round of introductions the two women encouraged him to find a date and come to their July 9 show at Barber Park that culminates the Levitt AMP Greensboro Music Series, a free concert series in Greensboro funded by the Levitt Foundation.
The interruption prompted McGinn to make a synaptic connection with the subject of her boyfriend, whom she met on match.com.
“He’s six hours away from getting his pyrotechnician license,” she exulted. “The sparks that you see in the [music] video — all that is, is steel wool stuffed in a whisk with a piece of paper used as a fuse.”
McGinn was referring to a scene in the “Wild and Kind” video where Andrea Crouse, owner of the eco-friendly apparel maker Gaia Conceptions, is throwing sparks over the goldfish pond at her shop.
Crouse became the muse of “Wild and Kind.”
“The song is from the voice of Mother Nature, who is making an observation on how politicians work and how religion works,” McGinn said. “Andrea totally fit because she’s this wild, lovely, beautiful woman, but she’s making eco-friendly products. The song is asking us to do both without cutting a canal through a country.”
“We’re pitting economy against environment when we shouldn’t,” she said. “They’re intrinsically the same.”