Ladybird's roots first took hold on a front porch in the Western heart of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now flourishing and spreading towards audiences all across America, Ladybird brings their unique and eclectic folk sound to the ears of many.
Brought together by their mutual love of the traditional American songbook, Ladybird draws on their multi-dimensional background, including European classicism, Swedish folk, and jazz to create a sound that echoes like a wind through the Appalachian pines. Their original material is informed by these textures and brought to life by their instrumental abilities, but thrice as nice are their voices; “Emoting deep from the back of their throats, each artist nuanced not only with the character of her instrument but also with the individuality of her vocals,” (Tri-State Indie).
It is their diverse background that lends new treatments to old time songs. “Hey There, Ladybird!” consists of three traditional songs (High On a Mountain, Rain and Snow, Red Rocking Chair) and one original. The three traditional songs are common in the repertoire, but Ladybird’s renditions are indeed uncommon. Sarah says, “the best advice we ever got was from Ry Cooder; he said ‘why play a song the way it’s been played before? Doesn’t matter if it’s better or worse, at least it’s different.’” Whilst playing their traditional instruments (guitar, tenor guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and resonator guitar) the girls, with producer Michael Southerton (Song Dogs) began to experiment with harmony and texture. The result is an EP dipped in sepia and soaked in a Southern honey, radiating with a dark beauty and warmth.
The pursuit of American sound has been a varied path for all of the girls, both geographically and spiritually. Anna Cecilia Ferneborg’s young musical life began in a rural town in Sweden, as the daughter of two fiddle players. After coming to the United States, she began her career as a jazz vocalist, incorporating her Swedish folk music roots into modern jazz compositions and arrangements. In addition to performing original music with her jazz group and Ladybird, she has toured extensively with her swing and blues band, Anna Cecilia & the Big Time.
In contrast, Sarah Williams Larsen comes from a strictly classical background, with her forays into jazz and fiddle music being much more recent. “I was the kid in the frozen wilds of Wisconsin who was practicing violin for hours, and ended up in conservatory studying that and music history.
My mother was a classical pianist, as was my sister, and both were my collaborative partners.
After college, I took some time off from playing, and came back to it by playing bluegrass and jazz. Songwriting has followed suit.” Along the way, Ms. Larsen added several new instruments to her repertoire, including mandolin, guitar, and banjo. As the resident “big sister” of the trio, Sarah’s quest for new, “old-time” styled songs has brought the girls to explore deeply into their favorite traditional material, discovering new tones and timbres for the Ladybird sound. When Ms. Larsen isn’t spending time in the nest with Ladybird, she is on the town performing as her alter-ego, “Hurricane Hoss”, everyone’s favorite gypsy/cowgirl/songwriter, or as Philadelphia’s most respected and hardworking side-woman. Additionally, Ms. Larsen is well-versed in the field of instrument repair and appraisal, with a vast knowledge and understanding of collectible instruments.
The last Ladybird, Laura Kay, is the band’s Johnny-come-lately. When she was thirteen years old, she picked up her first guitar, her father’s cherry burst jazz guitar, a Guild Starfire II model. She soon fell into a deep love with music, as it became a cornerstone of her being, but playing for audiences didn’t come until college. This self-taught instrumentalist quickly applied her fingerstylings to the resonator guitar and banjo through playing with the girls of Ladybird. “I am a stubborn old hen who likes things her own way, so everything I do is self-taught, fingerstylings and all. Despite my love of learning from others, I don't like to conform to how I "should" be playing an instrument. I enjoy the rush of discovering an instrument all on my own, and what I might find may be a new and different way to play. ” Her inquisitive nature extends to world music, independently practicing and performing on the Andean charango as well as the Chinese guzheng.