Mark Olson & Ingunn Ringvold Welcome Tower Into Their Joshua Tree Home

Musical couple Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold joined our Tower Live show on Instagram, hosted by Whitney Moore, to talk about their new album release, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. Mark was the co-founder of Minnesota-based band The Jayhawks, as well as the Original Harmony Ridgecreek Dippers, and Ingunn is a Norwegian multi-instrumentalist who has performed in over 300 shows with Mark. This is their third album together.

This Friday, the physical CDs and vinyls will be in the stores for Magdalen Accepts the Invitation, since they were a little delayed by COVID. Moore commented that the new album really conjures a summer setting and creates a relaxing feel.

Mark and Ingunn are a “real husband and wife songwriting team” and now they are a recording team too. Mark does the sound work and Ingunn does all the digital work on Pro Tools. They do their touring themselves, too, and they are learning how to hit their stride. The couple called into our show from Joshua Tree, a beautiful place, though the wi-fi signal was a little touch and go.

Ingunn said that they have been together since 2006. Ingunn, in her last year of college, went to see a show with a friend since they had started writing their own material at the time and went to live shows together. Mark, who she didn’t know yet, was playing at the show and she saw him playing the Dulcimer, which she loved immediately and still loves how it sounds. They talked at the time, kept in touch, and Ingunn was subsequently invited to play on Mark’s show.

She learned a lot of his material, and it was a “slow process” of getting to work together since Ingunn had her own albums, too, but Mark was helping produce her work, so there was some overlap.

Mark said that Ingunn was amazed by an Armenian lute. The two had an opportunity to go to Armenia with a charity organization and Ingunn was able to learn how to play it there. It’s a “whole new soundscape” that they’ve used on the new album. Something from the beginning of their relationships has been an interest in other sounds. She used to ride her scooter with a Djembe on her back. They are definitely not just a guitar duo.

The organization in Armenia is a wonderful one to donate money to, Ingunn says, since they help rebuilt schools in the wake of earthquakes. When Mark and Ingunn visited, they had to work with translators, and they discovered that the main cultural differences is that people like to hang out and chat, and “drop in” on each other, which they find “very cool”.

When they first visited, the Armenians thought they were Hare krishnas because they were playing the drums and rehearsing. But once that was cleared up, people were more willing to come up and talk to them.

They used to travel a lot together! But not so recently. Ingunn said that a lot of people have social anxiety, so when COVID hit, they were happy, but as for Ingunn and Mark, they were determined to spend the time rehearsing, but then it went on and on. They’ve “hit the wall” on being at home now that their tour has been postponed.

They have two gardens going, and two dogs, and they have upkeep on the house, so they’ve been truing to focus on that as well as record promotion. They are aware that a lot of people have it worse than them.

They have a farmers market in town and the market will bring the food to their house out in Joshua Tree, even. Ingunn said in their area, people are still wearing masks to protect themselves and others as an “act of love”. People are really “caring for one another”. At the farmer’s market, which is the main Saturday social event, everyone wears a mask. They even have material to wash your feet to keep things sanitary.

Regarding his process working with a band, like the Jayhawks, versus working together with your life partner, Mark said there has to be a specific line drawn of “we are working on music now” during which he and Ingunn seem to develop harmony and strings by “osmosis”. When you’re in a band, you go to rehearsal and develop things at a specific set time, but when you’re working at home, it happens slowly and it’s almost like your “dreaming” those elements up. It becomes part of your life in a different way.

That’s a big difference, and a “little bit of an advantage” to Mark. People often work on the computer a lot, sending tracks to each other these days, and he’s not into that so much. Mark says that about half of the time that method works for him and half of the time it doesn’t.

Moore observed that their music is “fun” for them and feels fun to the audience. She pointed out that the fact that they are a team means they get to work together even during a time when many are separated by COVID. Ingunn shared that they made a video set up on their porch as a live set. They did recording sessions in their house, too, filming. They added a little bit of reverb and Mark mixed it so that the levels were the way they wanted the levels to be.

Mark and Ingunn were supposed to be on this lovely tour, going all the way to New York, and now they are playing in front of phones, but they made a five-song live set in Joshua Tree, and put it on Youtube. It stars one of their dogs, who’s in the video stepping on Mark’s guitar peddle. Their dog is in several of the songs by her own volition, not exactly planned!

Where would they like to go once the world opens up again? Is there anywhere they haven’t played? Ingunn said she’s never been to Hawaii. They were planning on hitting the Midwest and East Coast of the USA. In Europe, they play in Norway quite a bit, as well as Ireland and the UK. This time they’d like to go to Italy, too. They are hoping to go. They think that the touring will pick up in Summer 2021, and then they’ll “start over again”. It’s an “adventure” to tour together for them. They take various vehicles, since they don’t like tour buses, so they use greyhound buses, taxis, and more, and it helps them get in shape, Mark said.

Moore asked about being a “self-contained business” and whether that’s challenging for them. Mark wants to hire a sound man, which is their dream, because they are a complicated musical duo to convey live due to changing instruments a lot. They are looking for someone on the next tour to help them out with that. Ingunn said that it’s a “mix” of ups and downs, since some people think it’s better not to work with your partner, but she commented on the “emotional strength” you get from that which you can’t get anywhere else. It enables you to do such hard work more easily, she said. 

When things get “funny” on the road, it’s great to have your partner with you, too. One time they had a musician traveling with them who was collecting the money each night and wouldn’t give it to them. After that, they collected the money, Mark recounted, and it was something they needed to work out. Being a couple traveling together in a foreign country helps them work things out together if situations arise rather than having to go it alone.

Moore observed that they seem to keep each other “calm and collected”, and asked how would they like fans to listen to this new album, ideally.

Ingunn said that they prefer vinyl format and think that it sounds better. She’d also recommend that people listen to the “whole record” at once. Mark makes a lot of iced tea and they sit and listen to it, Ingunn said. When Mark searches for music on the web, he listens to full albums, and Mark hopes that people will listen to their music that way too. Listen with a cold drink out on the porch, playing it on a stereo, like he does!

Joshua Tree, where they live, is a great place for artists, and Moore asked if those surroundings inspire them. They keep an eye on nature, with a lot of animals and plants, Ingunn confirmed. One time a bobcat came by and stared at Ingunn, and it was pretty big. They have coyotes, too. It’s an inspiring place due the nature and the people, Mark observed. It’s a “get away from it all” place. It slows you down in a good way.

The first thing that happens when people arrive from the city is they ask where they can get breakfast or a coffee, and the locals see them moving at a “thousand miles an hour” until they slow down. It’s too slow for some people. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, and that’s good for Mark and Ingunn. A lot of the artists in Joshua Tree work from home, so it’s an isolated place to work. When you do go to the post office or grocery store, you want to chat because you finally get to see someone, Ingunn said.

Moore commented that their music does have the flavor of that kind of life. Mark said that the last song on the new record is directly related to life in Joshua Tree. You develop a great love of trees since there aren’t many trees there. So they wrote a song, “Black Locust”, which is a type of tree that grows well there, and Mark had a man teach him how to plant trees in the desert. It has to be either a fruitless Mulberry Tree or a Black Locust tree to survive in the desert. He’ll tell you on social media how to do it!

Though our show cut out a few times due to technical difficulties with the internet, we had an absolute blast talking to the lovely Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold! Thanks for joining us, Mark and Ingunn!

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