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Folk singer Martha Scanlan on Centerstage Minnesota

A woman leans against a wooden beam with plains and far away hill in the distance.
Yogesh Simpson
Folk singer Martha Scanlan, originally from St. Paul, recently released an album titled "Last Stars First Light."

A sense of immediacy and spontaneity shines out throughout the 14 songs on Scanlan's 'Last Stars First Light.'

Folk singer Martha Scanlan joined Centerstage Minnesota Friday, March 10, to talk about her latest album, Last Stars First Light.

A white mountain ridgeline set on a pink background
Martha Scanlon's 2023 album "Last Stars First Light."

The album was made with her longtime friend and collaborator Jon Neufeld. The two would send ideas back and forth from their respective homes in Portland and western Montana, sometimes recording live over tracks just received. That sense of immediacy and spontaneity shines out throughout the album's 14 songs.

"He produces records and stuff and had a pretty diverse amount of instruments in his home studio, and I also have a little studio out back," Scanlan said. "Oftentimes it was, you know, really early in the morning, which is how the record got its name, Last Starts First Light, because it was quiet. And I actually love that time of day. ... It just is such a, kind of, otherworldly place."

Scanlan said she and Neufeld took an improvisational approach to the album.

"There's an old fiddler in Tennessee named Ralph Blizzard, and his band used to say that he never plays a song the same way once," Scanlan said. "And I think of John in the same light. The record was interesting. Usually, our process in the studio is we don't record for more than three days. We take the first or second take and everything is very immediate, and we like it to be that way.

"So in this process, this was after things had shut down. So during COVID we couldn't be together and we started working on this project. ... We started kind of playing this game where he would send me things and I would wait until I was listening to it and hitting record to start playing, or vice versa."

Scanlan, who grew up in St. Paul, joined Malachy Koons on Centerstage Minnesota to talk about the album, and her creative process. Listen to the conversation above.

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Malachy started his radio career at a college radio station, where he played weird music in the middle of the night to possibly no one. On a good night maybe his parents were listening. Nonetheless, he was hooked on public radio and is still doing it today. He joined Northern Community Radio in 2022, where he gets to share his passion for local music as Producer of Centerstage Minnesota, an all Minnesota music show airing Fridays at 2pm.