Aoife O’Donovan has been a central part of the FreshGrass family since the first festival, gracing our stages every year in some iteration whether as a solo artist, with I’m With Her, with her seminal band Crooked Still, or as a FreshScores grantee. She returns in 2019, fittingly, as our first ever Artist-in-Residence, and she will be a presence all three days of the festival. She’ll perform a special set of her own music backed by The Berklee Instant Strings, be a guest vocalist in Kronos Quartet’s Music for Change: Pete Seeger @ 100, help to judge the No Depression Singer-Songwriter Award, and re-visit her brilliant live score to the D. W. Griffith film, As It Is in Life with special guest and Crooked Still bandmate Greg Liszt.
“The next Americana celebrity.”
– The Guardian
“One of the charming things about O’Donovan is that she always looks kind of happy, even when she’s singing seriously melancholy lyrics – not in a Kylie Minogue kind of way, but more as if she just likes what she’s doing right now. She goes a bit floppy playing her guitar, like a snake in the sun. And she remains in perfect control of her voice. It’s not a huge voice, but she can do a lot of things with it and she never misses; wails and sobs and moans are pitch perfect.” – No Depression
Recognized for her ethereal voice and substantive songwriting, Aoife O’Donovan is also known for her collaborations. Called “a vocalist of unerring instinct” by the New York Times, O’Donovan is one of the most sought after vocalists and songwriters of her generation and her career has allowed her to collaborate with some of the most eminent names in music across a wide variety of genres.
The most recent example is I’m With Her, the band comprised of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and O’Donovan. Their debut album See You Around, released in February 2018, has garnered praise from NPR, who instantly hailed the collection as “willfully open-hearted”, and The Guardian called their sound both “ethereal and purposeful”.
As a solo artist, O’Donovan has released two studio albums. In the Magic Hour (2016), a 10-song album full of the singer’s honeyed vocals mixed with gauzy, frictionless sounds: splashing cymbals, airy harmonies, and the leisurely baritone musings of an electric guitar. Mojo described the record as “exhilarating and exploratory,” while the New York Times named “The King of All Birds” one of the Best Songs of 2016. Aoife toured 2016 in support of the album and ended that year releasing a live album Man In A Neon Coat: Live From Cambridge with her touring band. Her debut solo album, 2013’s Fossils, is a moody collection of original songs with a country lilt. The record received critical acclaim and was featured on a number of “Best of 2013” lists including NPR Music, American Songwriter, New York Magazine, and No Depression. In 2018, Aoife contributed an original song titled “Are You There”to the film What They Had, an official selection at both Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals.
O’Donovan spent the preceding decade as the lead singer of the Boston-based string band, Crooked Still, and as a featured vocalist on The Goat Rodeo Sessions, the Grammy-winning album by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile. Throughout her career, she has also collaborated with artists such as Alison Krauss and jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas, and is currently a member of the house band on the radio variety show Live From Here.