New Seasons CD features more vocal work along with richly layered arrangements

SEASONSThe Central PA based band Seasons has produced their six CD, a self titled work called Seasons. The recording is a departure from their previous CDs which were almost exclusively instrumentals. On Seasons the group features the impressive songwriting skills of Mary-Kate and Peter Lee while exploring a widening variety of folk styles. With nice solo work and crisp arrangements it’s clear that the Lee siblings are growing up and really coming into their own as musicians!

Seasons is comprised of the siblings Mary-Kate Spring, Peter Winter, Mary-Teresa Summer, Mary-Grace Autumn, and Mary-Clare Chun Lee. The Lee siblings seek to not only pay homage to the rich tradition of Celtic and American folk music, but also to treat it as a living, breathing entity.

I had a chance to speak to Mary-Kate and Peter Lee recently to ask them a few things about the group’s newest CD.


FOLKMAMA: I’ve always been fascinated by family bands, having grown up performing in a family band myself. You’ve matured into quite an accomplished harp player, Mary Kate and I’m wondering what your growing up years were like and when you first started playing together in a band.

MARY- KATE: Almost as soon as I starting playing the harp I started performing. That was in Middle School. Soon after we started playing together as a group. It started out with us doing a lot of songs that were in the folk tradition, but also things from the 20s and 30s that we’d go and play at retirement homes. We’d also do a lot of covers of people like Billy Joel, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel because those were the records that were in our house.

We listened to a ton of records as kids. For us it was a completely normal thing, but other people weren’t listening to them quite as much. I was always very into Judy Collins –without knowing it we were listening to a lot of Child Ballads, plus Scottish and early American ballads, so we had a very strong ballad tradition which I think came out as we started to write our own music.

FOLKMAMA: Your newest CD Seasons seems like a significant departure from your previous recordings which featured predominately Celtic instrumentals or in the case of your Christmas CD’s, of course, seasonal songs. This CD is almost all vocals and the bulk of the tracks were composed by members of the band. I’m curious how your group approaches songwriting?

PETER: The songwriting was very integrated on this album. Mary Kate and I have really built up a good back and forth of writing together. There are some songs where she had a lyric and I had music and they fit together. And there were some where she had a finished song and we expanded it with the band. And then there were some that we literally wrote together with a guitar. The cool thing about our songwriting relationship is that we’ve have success with many different methods of collaboration.

FOLKMAMA: So, as you were working on this new CD, what were you thinking of conceptually? What did you want this CD to “be” for your group?

MARY-KATE: It’s kind of like the “catch up” album demonstrating we are now as a band. We’ve been building this collection of songs probably over the last ten years.

PETER: I agree.  I think the cool thing about this album for people who have been going to our shows is that only two songs on this album are surprises. So one of the amazedly gratifying things about this album is that we can play a show now and someone comes to the CD table and I can hand them an album that I think really encapsulates our live show.

FOLKMAMA: What other styles beyond Celtic do you pull into the songs on the CD?

PETER: I think that Celtic music will always be that envelop that we try to operate under, but we listen to a lot of music and are inspired by artists who work within the folk tradition but also what to write their own music. On this CD you can hear how artists like Abigail Washburn (who is an amazing Old Time musician and a fantastic songwriter as well), Anais Mitchell (who has an awesome literary voice), and the Punch Brother and Väsen (who have really exciting visceral driving sounds) have influenced us. I really like the idea of expanding folk traditions. We are using and “older voice” when we write, but we are also trying to move the tradition forward to do new things.

FOLKMAMA: This CD features some guest musicians. What did you have in mind when you invited them?

PETER: The vast majority of these songs are just us, but in the studio you have this amazing opportunity to expand your vision and create a “dream” version of a song. For example we asked this local Indi Pop group The Match Twins to sing on the CD because they are really good with harmony vocals. In some cases it’s like a bigger, bolder version of us, but at the same time we think we’ve been able to be faithful to our sound.

FOLKMAMA: You have a lot of instruments on your CD and the arrangements are quite nice. How do you go about arranging your songs?

MARY –KATE: As you can imagine with a bunch of siblings there sometimes is a lot of bickering! It’s definitely a process that we have to carve out big blocks of time for. Sometimes people will come up with their own parts. I’ve been impressed with Grace and Clare in particular. Initially when they started in the group Peter and I would have to tell them what to do, but now they really generate a lot of ideas.

PETER: I’ve played in a lot of different bands and I think that it’s really important that everyone in the band respects one another, but that you don’t have a fear of conflict. Probably one of my favorite things about Seasons is that we all love each other, but aren’t afraid to butt heads over things. I think that this willingness to challenge each other has often generated the best ideas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: