Faun Fables give new meaning to the term "family road trip" | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Faun Fables give new meaning to the term "family road trip"

The storytelling folk duo is raising two daughters on tour

On the road again: Faun Fables' Nils Frykdahl and Dawn McCarthy
On the road again: Faun Fables' Nils Frykdahl and Dawn McCarthy

Some women have to put up a fight to breastfeed their children in open places like amusement parks, malls or public-transit vehicles. Dawn McCarthy once breastfed onstage at an outdoor musical festival … while yodeling. 

"What can you do, you know? I was just making it work," McCarthy says.

McCarthy is half of Faun Fables, a melodic folk duo that blends theatrical storytelling and songwriting to create whimsical yet eerie tunes, all while raising two daughters, 4-year-old Edda and 2-year-old Ura, on the road.

"It's just a great marrying of all worlds," McCarthy says. "I know some women feel like it drains them to have two kids out on the road. 

"I think I'm a glutton for punishment," she adds with a laugh.

McCarthy grew up surrounded by a musically inclined family. She spent her 20s gigging with bands, performing in vaudeville-like shows in New York City and playing solo shows around Europe. She met Nils Frykdahl in the 1990s, and he's since been her "partner in crime," both artistically and romantically.

"He was very different from me, and I liked the difference," she says. "He had this theatrical element and was a very transformational performer. We were drawn to each other like an opposites kind of thing. He wanted to learn what I was doing, and I wanted more of what he was exploring."

The California couple has been collaborating for about 14 years, making music, or "songtelling," as McCarthy calls it.

Readings, props and characters add "theatricality" to Faun Fables' show, McCarthy says, but it's "still about the music and the singing." Faun Fables' six albums showcase a vision rooted in vocals, with dramatic percussion, piano and plucked guitar strings moving each story along. 

Having their two daughters along for the ride feels just like home for McCarthy.

"Because I don't have them in any daycare or preschool back at home, and I'm used to being with them pretty much all the time, having them on tour feels really natural," she says.

Choosing to include the little ones in Faun Fables' musical adventure has provided McCarthy with the opportunity to watch them grow up while she grows as an artist.

"There's this window of time before they're going to school and turning toward the world more," she says. "I work from that basic platform: that it's really a priority to be with them, but I try to slip in as much of my art as I can with them."

McCarthy says motherhood has affected her inspiration. Having not written much material for three years, she says she is "just starting to open up now," and much of her future work will take inspiration from her children.

"I feel like having kids has definitely just made me sensitive about things that I didn't feel that strong about before," she explains. "My heart is bigger, maybe a little more fragile but also stronger, too. It's feeling a little more of this universal mother thing, just feeling a care for things."

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