How Keith Urban Discovered Larkin Poe

When the Megan and Rebecca Lovell were in Chicago opening for Bob Seger a couple weeks ago, we sat down backstage and talked about all the tours they’ve been on. But I was especially interested in how they ended up opening for Keith Urban.

“It was this very meandering connection between us and Keith Urban,” Rebecca told me. “And it all has to do with Australia, and how Russell Crowe has been sharing our music nonstop for the past two years.

“Somehow, he got our phone number. So we get this text from Russell Crowe around Thanksgiving of last year. He said he’d been on and bought a bunch of CDs. He said he loved to support music he loved. Then he said, ‘But just so you know, I gave some of the CDs to Nicole and Keith. And just figured I should let you know.’”

Two weeks later, the Lovells said, they got the call from Urban’s team asking the duo to a featured artist on his New Year’s eve gig. They said yes, obviously.

“So we get up in the middle of his show and do a couple songs. That was on New Year’s,” Megan explained. “After that, starting in June, we did three months like that with him, thinking that would be it. Then he asked us to finish out the tour, so we were on the road with him for six months altogether.” That turned out to be perfect timing for Larkin Poe, as they were on the verge of releasing their Venom & Faith album.

The duo took breaks from the Urban tour to do their own shows, and the gigs they’d booked to play at fests like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, but for most of 2018, they were Urban’s guests. And it was like getting an education in how to engage an arena-sized audience.

“I love the lengths that Keith goes to to put on his show. It’s brilliant. That was very inspiring for us. Getting to watch him and the way he interacts with the audience shows you that he cares so deeply about the people who come to his shows,” Rebecca said. “To watch that interaction and be onstage learning from him how to do that, and then come on stage with Bob Seger with all that practice we’d had from the summer made us feel really ready.”

Growing up about an hour outside of Atlanta, Rebecca and Megan and their two siblings were all home schooled. “But music was the thing we did to go out and make friends,” Rebecca said of the lessons they took outside their home from the time they were about three years old. They learned first how to play classical music, and their first instrument was the violin. “My poor mother, having to listen to us practice,” she laughed. “She’s quite a saint.”

Their music now has been described as everything from roots rock and Americana to bluesy bluegrass and folk funk. And besides playing a staggering list of the instruments they have known their whole lives — guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel, dobro, fiddle — the sisters craft songs that feature the words as prominently as the music backing them.

In fact, it was their father’s love of all music, but mostly the country of the late 90s, that first showed the girls how powerful lyrics could be.

“I remember as a child watching him weep over the lyric of a song,” she said. “Probably ‘The Dance.’” (That Garth Brooks song was released in 1990, the year between Megan and Rebecca’s birthdays.)

“My dad was moved to tears thinking about the implications of a song. That’s when my obsession with the power of a lyric really took root.

“And now, we’re making music that is left of center, and there isn’t necessarily a natural home for the music. But there is still a demand for it, which you can see with the reaction of social media. People want to hear us,” Rebecca added, “so we are happy to perpetuate this kind of roots music.”

The Nashville-based sisters will be on the road with Seger through the end of January, while they continue their own tour here and abroad. Their next headlining show is on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.