The Arcadian Wild Performs Live at The Ark

The Arcadian Wild find uplift and grace amid warm harmonies on “Welcome,” the Music City string band’s latest effort, which blends elegance and heart-swelling dynamics with endearing revelations. Equal parts meditation and jubilation, “Welcome” offers connection and understanding in an era when such notions are at a premium.

See them live in Ann Arbor on April 30 at The Ark.

Lincoln Mick formed The Arcadian Wild with Isaac Horn in 2013, adroitly segueing from guitar to mandolin, developing a sound that emotionally draws from the realms of folk, bluegrass, and pop.

“When the band originally started, I was still playing guitar at that time, and about a year after it started is when Isaac joined. He obviously plays the guitar– and he was a lot better than I was,” Mick said in a recent interview. “We figured we didn’t need two people doing the same thing, or at least a second person doing the same job poorly. So I picked up mandolin out of necessity just to give the band another dimension, and I’ve been stumbling my way through it since 2014. Now it’s my primary instrument.”

In 2015, the band released its self-titled debut followed by a series of singles, an EP, and then 2019’s “Finch in the Pantry,” a streamlined and charged album that capitalized on a leaner though more calculated approach that balanced tradition with innovation.

“With “Finch in the Pantry,” we maybe sort of had a bit of a chip on our shoulder,” Mick said. “Isaac and I didn’t actually grow up really listening to a lot of music that’s similar to the music that we make now. We didn’t listen to a lot of folk and traditional bluegrass or old-time stuff. We were listening to a lot of alt-rock and pop punk, which is really funny. All that to say, neither of us are big improvisers, and so I think we felt like we had our work cut for us in that, ‘Okay, since we can’t do that aspect of this little musical universe, let’s just make convoluted, thoroughly arranged music that can make an impression on people.’ We really love that record and we’re really proud of it. It’s connected with people over the last few years and we’re really grateful for that. We still play all of those songs very joyfully whenever we perform and we’re on the road.”

The mini-epic 2021 EP “Principium” evolved those arrangements through precision timing and bracing rhythms for an interpretation of the Garden of Eden in four parts with accompanying cinematic videos. Conceived a few years prior, the EP came to life during the pandemic.

“We knew we weren’t going much of anywhere, so we figured we’d dig that back up. I think it was good because I think we had a higher level of facility and a higher level of clarity about what we wanted things to sound like,” said Lincoln of the decision to revisit the songs that would come to make up “Principium.” “I think that time on the back burner served that piece really, really well. I don’t know that when we “finished” it in like 2017, I don’t know that we were ready for it yet. I think with the help of good talented friends, I think we were able to take a good, honest crack at it when we dug it back up in 2020. That was definitely a pivotal moment in the trajectory of the sound that we’re shooting for and our arranging process and the music that we started to make moving forward.”

Now comes “Welcome,” which was recorded in Nashville with producer Logan Matheny (Big Light Studio). It’s The Arcadian Wild having grown more seasoned, tested and aware than ever before.

“With ‘Welcome,’ I think we’ve dialed back the desire to aim to impress anyone. With this record, our goal was to just write songs that were as beautiful as we could possibly make them and told the truth as best as we understood it at this moment. If those two things are in place, it’s harder to fail,” said Mick. “Let’s just find nice melodies and craft a lyric that’s meaningful and impactful and nourishing in some way, and let’s just trust that good things are going to emerge if we’re obedient to the process.

As The Arcadian Wild carries “Welcome” to the masses, the core of Mick, Horn and Bailey Warren (fiddle) will be joined by upright bassist Eli Broxham.

“I think when we’re performing, if you’ve listened to our music, you know, everything is pretty thoroughly arranged and there’s a correct part to play more often than not. Here and there, there are opportunities to improvise and do things that are a little outside of that box, and I think we’re trying to be brave and get more comfortable doing that,” Mick said. “Our bass player Eli, who’s on tour with us this season, he’s amazing, and he’s one of those guys who can play the upright bass like a fiddle. It’s really amusing because the bass is the most improvisatory instrument in our ensemble right now.

 “He’s been really great, gently and sweetly encouraging us to trust ourselves and take risks and not be afraid to fall down while we’re onstage and performing,” Mick said. “Whenever you step out to do a little improvising in a show, that moment happens, and then it’s gone. And then there’s so much song left! It’s like, ‘It’s okay. Just continue moving forward, everyone else is. Time has not stopped. You don’t have to wallow in your failure. There’s so much good work left to do and you’re ready to do it and it’s gonna be okay.’”

And that’s the arc of “Welcome” – that we can succeed and thrive together.

“I think we’re all a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and I think we all would do well to listen to people who think differently (than) we do and who come from different places and have a perspective with different angles,” Mick said. “I think we’re richer for experiencing that and definitely not poorer. It’s more important to come to the table than ever.”

On album closer, the encore-ready “The End,” Mick sings “We could never gather if we never parted, we who dance are also doomed to mourn… Our sorrow keeps us tethered to our joy.”

“That’s why we keep gathering together. These good experiences wouldn’t be as rich if they just went on forever,” he said. “A concert is a cool experience because it has a beginning and an end, just like a meal. We can’t all sit down to family dinner for a week straight. We sit down and we eat and we talk for an hour or two, and then we wind down and we go to bed. It means something because there’s all of these experiences that come before it that invigorate our hunger, and then we eat and then we’re satiated and we continue on our journey, and hopefully, we get another touch point like that. It’s a paradoxical experience like, ‘Oh, man, I don’t want this moment to end…’ But it has to. And it’s also good that it’s ending because then it will have meant something and it’ll make the next time sweeter, too, because we’ll have been longing for it in the in-between time.”

The Arcadian Wild. The Ark, 316 S. Main St, Ann Arbor. April 30. 8pm. $20.

Aaron Irons
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