Kate Mullikin describes her partnership with Brian Shelton as “musical kismet.” In other words, they were destined to play together. And indeed, the circumstances surrounding the formation of their duo Wild Iris do seem like fate played a role.
They met through mutual friends, and before sharing more than a couple of sentences, they started writing music, and it clicked right away. Shelton strummed his guitar, while Mullikin sang. Since then, music has continued to pour out of their partnership.
“We never sat down to write a song. We’d do our thing. I’d be playing guitar. She’d write some poems. She’d start singing them over while I was playing. We do that for three hours, and eventually something sticks and is really good,” Shelton says.
All that hanging out produced a gorgeous and emotive Americana EP in 2014, and now they are releasing their debut full-length at their upcoming Kuumbwa show. With the help of local producer/engineer Andy Zenczak and some local musicians, they’ve crafted a batch of songs that pull from the same folk, country and blues influences, with a Summer of Love flair. But these songs are much more dynamic, and unhinged in their execution than those on the EP, punctuated by Mullikin’s smoky, soulful voice. Zenczak’s production is warm, and Mullikin’s lyrics are contemplative while expressing a greater range of pain and joy than ever before.
“Brian and I both believe that music can be a healing force. It was for me, for sure. I’ve been going through a lot of tough times in my life. It’s been a great journey for me,” Mullikin says. “I think we really developed as a duo throughout this process. There are a few songs that are repeated from that first EP, but they’re much fuller, and they’ve gone in a much more developed direction.”
INFO: 8 p.m. Friday, April 22. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320 Cedar St #2, Santa Cruz. $15. 427-2227