Nestled in the landscape just south of Nashville, Tennessee is the bucolic campus of Lipscomb University. That school served as the matchmaker for the three talented artists who make up The Arcadian Wild and has served as a bit of a refining fire for them, honing and sharpening their skills as exceptional folk musicians. The lineup includes Sarah Wood on vocals and banjo, Lincoln Mick on mandolin, and Isaac Horn on guitar. Although the band are quick to explain that at different points they all play each instrument. When I got a chance to digitally “sit down” with The Arcadian Wild, I was blown away by their genuine love for music and building community. If you are a fan of pop folk music, you will want to join their tribe, too.
So these three individuals come together to make a harmonic, delightful sound. Sarah hails from Pueblo, Colorado, coming up through a musical family, making music in church. With a base in piano, then moving to guitar and ukelele, it was during her high school years that Sarah began tackling songwriting. She allowed that foundation to influence her music career entering Lipscomb, a place she credits for being formational in her own spiritual and career development. It’s also where she met her bandmates.
Lincoln grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He also started playing early, beginning with guitar at 13 years old. He switched to mandolin a few years later. Now he plays both in the band, switching as needed based on what song they are playing. Similarly versatile, Isaac also plays a few different instruments. Although his main instrument now is guitar, Isaac also began with piano at the ripe age of seven. From Jonesboro, Arkansas, Isaac followed in the footsteps of a youth intern from his church – a guy by the name of Lincoln Mick. So with a basis in playing music for many years and the familiar harmonies of church music, The Arcadian Wild set to writing their own compositions.
The story of the band formation is a bit convoluted, taking on a few different iterations before its current form, but let’s just say the Charlie Peacock-led department of music at Lipscomb combined with some powerful folk music influences helped to shape the sound we currently get to hear today. As they went around talking about their musical influences, I got the distinct sense we could spend entire days just talking about music we love. In short, these new friends were my kindred spirits. We talked about The Tallest Man on Earth as a model for Isaac’s guitar work, Sufjan Stevens, Regina Spektor, and the Beach Boys influencing Sarah’s songwriting, and Relient K, Switchfoot, the Avett Brothers, and Chris Thile influencing Lincoln’s affinity for pop styling within other broader genres. With these being the primary influences, it’s no wonder their sound is so rich and layered today.
I was not at all surprised to hear it was in the Lipscomb choir that these three finally met. That harmony base is the key to their sound. They actually write with that harmony in mind. Although they put out a full album in 2015, their current project is evolving right now. They are in the process of learning how to write together. They explained a key concept about their writing – that they are learning how to write FOR the band. That is to say they now are writing to develop one another’s strengths in the sound. This bodes well for us, the fans, as we get to experience the band growing into its own identity.
I asked about their new fantastic single “Envy Green.” Sarah Wood explained that it was a fusion of college courses in her mind and heart. A literature class had her reading Marcel Prust’s reflections on envy, while a Bible class had her thinking about creation. When she put those together with her own empathetic perspective toward Eve in the Garden of Eden, out came a thoughtful reflection on how envy is complex and motivates us in strange ways. The melody was influenced by “Three Little Words” by Ella Fitzgerald. It’s an amazing blend of influences that produces a thoughtful, moving piece.
When I tried to pin down a genre for this beautiful, inspiring band, Lincoln replied with a wonderful sentiment, “we kind of sound like us.” That was it! As we punched around with some possible genres to call it, we decided that “pop chamber folk” was probably too much of a mouthful, but maybe just calling it “folk” was enough. But as we peeled away the layers of the onion, really the key to the sound is the blend of classical training, choral harmonies, and a desire for accessible lyrics all serve to make the band who they are.
The key to these harmonies, as Isaac explained, was that they make a conscious effort to adjust to each other. When talking about their songwriting process, Isaac talked about the need for writing for each other. In a similar vein, when singing, the two harmony vocals have to blend with the lead. The Arcadian Wild do this with expert precision. As for the unique runs and intricate developments, Lincoln explained that they intentionally like to create more interesting textures. Sometimes they write lines that are dissonant on purpose. He explained, “introducing tension to make the resolution that much better…” or, as he later joked, just never resolving the tension at all.
One thing I really enjoyed getting to know this promising young band is that they really are a “band.” They work together. They were kind in the way that they shared answering the questions, too. When it came to identity and vision, Sarah really seemed to have the heart of their mission. She spoke about wanting to cultivate “a beautiful community, like Lipscomb” and she explained their desire to “really love people” through music that is “welcoming, but real and challenging.” More than anything, the band explained, they want their music to “construct a place for people to escape to… like a refuge.”
If this is your first time hearing about this band, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know them. You’ll only fall deeper in love with who they are and what they’re doing. Consider supporting them by listening to their tracks on Spotify and sharing with your friends. Also, if you could sign up for their mailing list on their website, that would really help them put together tours and come play music for you. As for now, though, enjoy following their socials as they roll out more music for us to enjoy.