Classically-Trained Harpist From Shelby Prefers To Play Rock

Feb 1, 2017

When you think of the harp, you probably think of classical music.  Not experimental improvisation.  But that is exactly the approach harpist and Shelby-native Mary Lattimore takes.  She runs her harp through effects and loopers to get a layered sound which can fill a room. Lattimore is performing in Charlotte on Thursday. 

We reached her at her Philadelphia home to talk about how she went from being classically trained to playing experimental rock.

"I never really listened to classical music for fun," Lattimore says.  "Mostly, I listen to rock music and the Cure, my favorite band."  Lattimore moved to Philadelphia in 2005 and made friends in the local rock scene.  Soon she was curious what her harp would sound like hooked up to the same effects her fellow musicians were using. 

Though there are no words to her songs, Lattimore says she tries to convey a message or paint a picture with her music.   The song "Otis Walks Into the Woods" is a haunting dirge.  It's about her family's blind dog that walked into the woods one day when it was time for the dog to pass away. "I like to write little odes and little poems for things like that," Lattimore says.

Playing the harp has given Lattimore a lot of opportunities in rock music.  "I was always a huge Sonic Youth fan," Lattimore says.  "I was in Thurston Moore's band for a couple of years, which was amazing."  Lattimore has also played with Yo La Tengo and has toured with Julianna Barwick, whom she cites as a major influence.

Lattimore plays on Thursday at Neighborhood Theater.  She'll be back in Charlotte in April performing at the McColl Center.