In the 30 years since their debut, Over the Rhine have established themselves as thoughtful songwriters, delivering honest, heartfelt lyrics over pastoral soundscapes. Their latest release is largely a meditation on grief—but as with the majority of their musical catalogue, there exists a whisper of hope.
The husband and wife duo, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, have deep Ohio roots,. The couple met in 1989 at Malone College (now Malone University) and named Over the Rhine after a historic district in Cincinnati. What began as a four-piece eventually became a concentrated core of Bergquist and Detweiler. They independently released their first two records in the early 1990s, picked up recognition in the mid-’90s and garnered near-universal acclaim with Films For Radio (2001) and Ohio (’03). In March, Over the Rhine released Love & Revelation, their 15th studio album.
The couple resides in rural Clinton County, an hour from Cincinnati, where they host a yearly arts festival over Memorial Day Weekend called Nowhere Else. Springs caught up with Detweiler at his home to talk Over the Rhine’s history and their upcoming Colorado Springs performance.
Springs: This is Over the Rhine’s 30th anniversary. Tell us a little about the band in 1989?
Linford Detweiler: For a minute, we were an ’80s band. Karin and I met at a small Quaker college in Ohio, and we started playing music together in an old, restored barn on campus. I believe in chemistry when musicians play together … people commented how the room “changed” when we performed … and how they felt it in their skin.
What are you and Karin listening to now?
We often go back to our touchstones: Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen—but we’ve been listening to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and older jazz musicians. Also, Anna Tivel; she’s out of Portland and released a new record [in April].
You’re currently touring Love & Revelation but just hosted your fourth Nowhere Else. How did that festival begin?
Traveling around for years, we’ve met wonderful, creative people. Karin had this recurring vision of sharing these incredible artists with our community back in Ohio—and began dreaming how to bring them home to our friends and neighbors.
In reading about Love & Revelation, it’s being described thematically as loss and grief. Can you talk about that?
We set out to write a protest album. [However], as the songs began to emerge, there was this weight of grieving. We’d been experiencing the loss of loved ones, friends with illnesses and cancer diagnoses.
Our music is often described as “life giving” and “nourishing,” and our festival has been referred to as a “weekend of healing.” We are encouraged when people connect with our music on a deeper level. Music is restorative. When I play, I can feel my body change—I relax, and a sense of “all will be well” comes over me.
It seems community is important to you and Karin.
Often when Karin addresses a crowd in closing, she tells them, “Thank you. Without you, we would be homeless.” We depend on community for a living—and we have tremendous gratitude for those who support us. … An extended musical family has coalesced around our songs over the years.
Have you ever played Colorado Springs before?
Yes, but 20 years ago, in the ’90s. We often play Denver and Boulder—and we are again—but it’s been a while since we’ve made it to Colorado Springs.
You’re performing at Ivywild, an old elementary school that’s now home to coffee roasters, a brewery, cocktail bar and whiskey house. Do you and Karin have preferred libations?
Coffee. We love coffee. We’ve also become versed in wine throughout years of sharing bottles with others … and Karin makes the best Old Fashioned and martini, but it sounds like we’re going to enjoy some good drinks in Colorado Springs!
Along the same lines, you’re converting a barn on your property into a performing arts center. Can you tell us about that?
The barn was built 140 years ago, in the 1870s. We first performed in a restored barn … and now we’re coming full circle, I suppose.
Cincinnati has been through a rebirth of sorts. Can you talk about your observations on the changes?
When we first discovered the OTR [neighborhood], we couldn’t believe what we were seeing: hundreds of beautiful, historic buildings … abandoned. We felt it was waiting patiently in the wings. After a few false starts, young artists began moving there, putting down roots, and preserving the incredible district.
Does making something new out of old connect with Over the Rhine’s music?
I hope so.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about being in Colorado?
It’s always great to see mountains. Colorado is an absolutely beautiful place.
Catch Over the Rhine in Colorado
Your easiest access to see Over the Rhine live is in the intimate Ivywild School, but you have other options as the duo plays several shows along the Front Range. Here’s the schedule.
July 5, Colorado Springs, Ivywild School
July 6, Denver, The Soiled Dove Underground
July 7, Boulder, eTown Hall
For more on the band: overtherhine.com