I caught Margo on Zoom while she was gigging in Bozeman, Montana.

How did you and Sera Cahoone (see Sera interview here) decide to work together and have her produce your records?

I was getting a batch of songs together for what would be my debut full-length album, Pohorylle. I'd made a lot of EPs through the years, but it was always, "I have a grand and two days off of touring." I was tackling what to do about having a producer, or not having a producer, and how to approach this. It takes out some of the guesswork when you don't have a label budgeting $50,000 for a record.

Does anyone?

Let me believe, Larry.


Let a gal dream, right? I watched a video of Sera that I found on YouTube, and the way she performed really spoke to me. It resonated immediately. I checked out her album that she co-produced and played drums on, 2017's From Where I Started. I could feel how intentional the percussion was. In the world of singer-songwritership, percussion makes or breaks the record. Most songwriters that I know of are not drummers, so pairing with someone who has a different angle is helpful. I'm all about complementary situations. In the studio, too, I love it when people that have different strengths end up complementing each other.

We need someone there that can pick up the slack.

I can't believe how much trust I put in Sera. I am surprised at how I just trusted the process. She had the vision, and we both committed to trusting each other and getting to the end goal. It works out because Sera and I both have similar tastes; a good palette to start from.

Did both records start by meeting up and working on the songs in person?

I had solo acoustic demos that I sent to Sera, but then we got together with the trio: Drums, bass, and guitar. It was about finding the grooves for the tracks and tying up arrangements. With this style of kind of adhering to some tradition of country song structures, it definitely helps with arranging. I don't have the most abstract song structures. I like the traditional structure and then taking liberty with lyric choices and such.

I assume working with John Morgan Askew was through Sera.

Yeah, it was Sera's suggestion. She had worked with him for From Where I Started, and he was still working out of his basement at the time. Bocce [Recording Studio] wasn't even built out yet. From that time, 2017 to 2019, John had moved into Bocce, and we were one of the early records to record in there – for that era of the studio.

It's a cool old-school studio building, isn't it?

I love it, yeah. You're in this neighborhood, and then you zip into the studio. It's not even in town. John's done a lot with the yard area and the fire pit. I wanted to get out of Enterprise, Oregon, because I was living out there at the time.

What's been the appeal for you of living rural after growing up in the Bay Area?

I grew up in the suburbs, in picture-perfect, idyllic suburbia. I moved to the rural South for college, and I was chasing music. I wanted to learn more about the tradition of songwriting. I felt more inspired the more I immersed myself in rural places. I followed my husband, Forrest Van Tuyl, out to Enterprise, and that was a wild decision that I certainly didn't foresee myself making at the age of 25. But we're both songwriters, and his songwriting was good enough for me! [laughter]

Do you find that being there gives you more time to work on writing, or a different inspiration outside of a city?

Yeah, the inspiration abounds. Do you know the songwriter Greg Brown?

Oh, of course.

He uses so much beautiful imagery of the outdoors. Pines and rivers – he's all about the natural world. Those kind of lyrics feel so enriched to me. Being immersed in that helps. And the simplicity: I have a town, and there's this church and a post office. It's elemental. That helps with my songwriting by having the lay of the land be very simplified. There's space. And the characters! I don't know what'll happen down the road, but we are very happy where we are. Right now, it's affordable for us, too.

Do you two have a home studio or anything that you both utilize?

We do. We've been building out a home recording setup. We have a [Focusrite] Scarlett interface and Forrest has a tape recorder. But then we just use [Apple] Logic or something. We're not too fancy, but my husband is more into the recording part. We've got great monitors, so we can listen to mixes and that's so nice. My husband and I both toured a lot, and we were living out of cars. We never had a music studio space in our house. It's been so nice to have that.

Your records feel natural and inviting, and they showcase the songs.

I'm very proud of them. I'm proud of Sera. I think it's great that you're talking to Sera. It's happened over time, but she's at this point in her career where she's heard so many bad records and she's heard what's good. She's got the Rick Rubin approach of trusting her intuition. She's not at the board per se, but she does have this awesome intuition and that's not something everyone has. I admire that about her, for sure.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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