The musicians of Over the Rhine talk about their connection to home through food and community.
photograph by Michael Wilson
Born: Linford, 1964 in Hartville, OH;
Karin, 1966 in San Jose, CA
Home: Martinsville, OH
Marital status: Married
Career: Met as music students at a small Quaker college in Canton, OH; began playing together and discovered a spark in their collaboration. Linford moved to Over-the-Rhine, started a band, and invited Karin to join in 1989. Their holiday concert with Cincinnati Pops is a local favorite.
How did you start making music together?
L: There was a restored barn on campus that was the student center; Karin was working and I introduced myself. Not too long after, I accompanied her for her junior vocal recital.
K: When I heard him play piano for the first time—it was a Ravel piece—there was something different about the way he played. I might have caught his eye, but he caught my ear.
Place is an important theme in your music. What about this area inspires you?
K: We see Ohio the way Flannery O’Connor saw Andalusia [her beloved farm in Georgia]. We wanted to be rooted here. It matters to us. When we come home, we feel home.
L: Maybe all of human longing is just a desire for a place that feels like home. That’s a river that flows beneath our songwriting.
What’s a favorite childhood food memory?
L: My mother was so far ahead of her time! She was a consummate forager; if it was near us and edible and in season, we ate it: dandelion greens, sassafras roots … My dad was a prolific gardener. We thought we were poor but we had no idea how well we were eating.
K: We took a step upstream when we toured with Cowboy Junkies for three years all over the world. We learned a lot about food and wine from them.
When you’re touring, how do you eat well?
L: We have a pact that we always eat one meal a day in a restaurant that serves wine; that rules out fast food. We sit down and have a civilized moment. Touring is unsustainable, and we’ve tried to make it sustainable; it’s rough out there.
K: The two most important things are eating well and sleeping well. You learn what you need to do to maintain your body and your health and sanity and relationships.
Why is food such a big part of your Nowhere Else Festival in May?
L: Todd Hudson of Wildflower Cafe is the conductor of the festival’s culinary orchestra. We curate the music that we love at the festival, and we see food and drink in the same way.
K: Music and food just go together. They always have: After dinner, you’d pick up an instrument and everybody played, you didn’t have your iPads and cell phones. We’ve gotten away from that, and hopefully we get back to it. You cook in the kitchen and you share it with people; you go to your studio and you write a song and you want to share it.
Bryn’s long career in publishing took a left turn sometime around 2010, when she discovered the joy of food writing. Since then, she’s found professional nirvana as the editor of Edible Ohio Valley, author of The Findlay Market Cookbook, and occasional instructor at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s. Find her seasonal recipes at writes4food.com.