Back to his roots; Violinist coming home with Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra

Marty O'Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra

Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra

Last week, Chris Lynch was sitting in an old pub looking over the rainy landscape of rolling hills and lake country in England, but the Austin native was thinking about coming home.

Lynch, a 2000 Austin high school graduate, is set to perform with his band Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra at 7 p.m. Aug. 22. The band will share the stage with Bissen Jacobsen Kroc , the Austin High School Jazz Band and Alex Rossi & Root City in the Saturday night Marcusen Park show during the Austin ArtWorks Festival, which has been renamed the Dick Schindler Celebration Concert.

For about two and half years, Lynch has been playing violin for Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra. Along with Lynch and O’Reilly, the band also features Jeff Kissell on upright bass and Matt Goff on drums.

Now, Lynch is excited to come home and share his band’s music.

“I get to come home and visit my roots again and see my mom and dad and friends and family, so super excited about that,” Lynch said.

The band recently quit their day jobs to focus on music. Since July 1, the group has toured England, Whales, Scotland and Ireland. After finishing the stint of about 40 shows oversees, the group will return to Minnesota to play The Icehouse in Minneapolis on Aug. 21 and then ArtWorks.

Lynch met O’Reilly a few years ago and described him as someone with deep roots to delta blues who’s taken inspiration from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Tom Waits.

“He has this kind of traditional American roots music background and he’s an incredible guitarist, and he’s got a really hug powerful voice,” Lynch said of O’Reilly.

Lynch’s compared his own style on the violin to indie artist Andrew Bird.

Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra blends elements of Americana, blues and gypsy jazz. Often, the group will cover a song and add a unique groove or trance-like element to it.

“It certainly has a weird element to it,” he said.

 Roots in Austin

Lynch’s love for the violin has deep ties to his upbringing in Austin.

He grew up studying under Philip Burkhart, Sue Radloff and Deborah Linnes, and Lynch thanked all of them for pushing him and fanning his passion for the instrument.

“Those three teachers really kind of helped motivate me and propel me, point me in the right direction,” Lynch said.

In high school, Lynch also studied under Mary West in Minneapolis.

Lynch remembers being the one who was never quite satisfied with the sheet music in school. He was the one who wanted to improvise and see how they could stretch the limits.

“I was always the guy bringing blues music to chamber orchestra and different experimental jazz and things for us to try,” Lynch said. “And Philip Burkhart, the conductor, was always totally down and really supportive of my ideas.”

He played in a string quartet in high school, and they even wrote a few pieces. He even remembers trying to tun his violin differently, just like a guitar’s unique acoustic tuning. He’ll often now tune his violin to match whatever O’Reilly is playing on his guitar.

Lynch remembers some shows when the orchestra played classical pieces and Lynch and others were young, fearless and able to do their own thing.

“I think to be fearless in music is kind of what it’s all about,” Lynch said.

Lynch has several friends and fellow AHS grads who grew up in Austin and now have careers in music or art. Shannon Frid-Rubin graduated a few years ahead of Lynch from AHS and has played violin in the last two Austin ArtWorks concerts with Cloud Cult. Lynch’s friend Micah Ofstedahl is now an artist on the West Coast who has displayed work at ArtWorks.

When asked about the breadth of creative people hailing from Austin, Lynch said it may be the Midwest climate.

“What is it? Possibly the cold winters,” Lynch said.

Now living in California, Lynch said it’s easy to get distracted with the warm weather. But in Minnesota, there’s fewer distractions in frigid winters, even though Lynch grew up playing hockey.

Burkhart once told Lynch to lock himself in the bathroom and practice there, and Lynch says the bathroom proved to be a great practice space.

“I would totally do that in the cold winters,” he said.

Growing up, Lynch listened to a lot of classic rock, classical, the blues and other music, and he said he took inspiration from groups like Radiohead, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Turtle Island String Quartet, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Beck, Led Zeppelin and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Right now, he’s listening to a lot of Andrew Bird for violin and The Wood Brothers.

Lynch’s parents lived in Austin for many years until recently moving to Prior Lake. His dad, Patrick, was a rehabilitation counselor and his mom, Maureen, worked for Cedar Valley Services.

“Their Austin roots span back a long time and go deep and they spent a lot of time in the community,” Lynch said. “They’re definitely going to come down for the show.”

 Musical styles

This won’t be Lynch’s first time returning to Austin in a band. He played with Byron Space Circus in 2009 at the Paramount Theatre.

“That was a big show and that was super fun,” he said.

Lynch has played in symphonies, orchestras, indie bands, psych rock bands and more, but he feels like the Americana blend that is Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra is tapping into his full potential. Space in the music for his style to breath.

“I’m just really excited to play and share that,” he said.

Lynch runs his violin through effects for a non-traditional feel with reverbs, delays and other effects to “try to make the violin as massive of a sound as this one little stringed instrument can do.”

“We’re definitely an electric band as much,” Lynch said. “As we’re playing acoustic instruments, we’re heading into kind of a dirty rock ‘n’ roll kind of vibe.”

Referred to as a jam band, Lynch said that isn’t necessarily true. However, he loves that the music and the group’s live shows leave some parts wide open for interpretation and improvisation.

 Strong signs

Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra’s debut album “Pray for Rain” was released last year. The band’s second recording, the EP “Preach ‘Em Now,” just came out and should be available during the ArtWorks show, though it’s not due for wider release in the U.S. until October.

“I’m excited to share them when I get back to Minnesota,” Lynch said. “It’s recorded a little differently than our other album, but we’re proud of both of them.”

Lynch described “Preach ‘Em Now” as a bit weirder but a little more rock ‘n’ roll.

The group is touring the U.K. through Aug. 15 before heading to Minnesota. Despite the grueling schedule, the group sees positive things happening.

The group plans to continue touring in areas they’ve played before on the West Coast, and they may also tour in Colorado and the East Coast. They plan to continue touring in the United Kingdom, but Lynch would also like to see more of Europe on the road.

Either way, Lynch sees their fan base steadily growing, and they were featured on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” recently.

“There’s a lot of little signs of things that are really telling us we’re doing the right thing,” he said.

But before getting back to work after returning home to California in late August, Lynch plans to immediately go to the beach and eat a burrito — something he said he’s missed on the road.

But first, O’Reilly is looking forward to coming home.

“Just happy to have this opportunity to come home and show what we’re doing, which is really taking off on the West Coast,” Lynch said.

 

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