Interpretive singing from Molly O’Brien | SummitDaily.com
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Interpretive singing from Molly O’Brien

Kimberly Nicoletti

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Some people are such talented singers, it’s the only thing they need to make a name for themselves. That’s the case with Mollie O’Brien.

“Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald never got asked why they didn’t write or play an instrument,” O’Brien said. “It’s only in our era of the sensitive singer-songwriter that it becomes a question. I concentrate pretty darn hard on singing. That’s my instrument. I’m putting my own stamp on the music. Someone else may have written the song, but no one will sing it the way I sing it. I’m an interpretive singer, like Frank and Ella.”

Though she’s often associated with folk and bluegrass music because of her frequent collaborations with her brother Tim O’Brien, she doesn’t limit herself to one or two genres.

“I don’t think of myself as a blues singer or a folk singer or a bluegrass singer,” she said. “I think of myself as an interpreter.”

She compares it to acting, of which she’s done plenty. Just as an actor learns the lines and blocking then steps out of the envelope, Mollie O’Brien learns songs backwards and forwards, then tries them in different keys to see how far she can stretch them.

She pushes the limit on her latest album, “Things I Gave Away,” which draws from songwriters as diverse as blues giant Percy Mayfield, folk legend Judy Roderick, jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln, the Subdudes’ John Magnie and the Beatles. Plus, she throws in a few songwriters who aren’t well known.

Mollie O’Brien’s musical journey began in Wheeling, W.Va., where she and her brother Tim grew up in a large Irish-Catholic family. Being the babies of the family, the only left-handers, red heads and serious singers, they bonded and began singing as a duo anywhere they could.

Mollie O’Brien’s biggest musical influence was rhythm-and-blues, specifically, the sounds of Motown. But as she continued her career, the New York City jazz scene rubbed off on her, as well as bluegrass and the blues.

Now, as a wife and mother of two girls, she tours nationwide, priding herself on never singing the same song the same way twice.

She performs a free concert at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Burning Stones Plaza at Copper Mountain.


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