Emily Davis and Beth Murphy Wilkinson learn not to care

The Married FM pair released their excellent debut EP earlier this month, though the sense of freedom on display in the recordings is shaped by nearly 20 years of making music.
Married FM
Married FMCourtesy the band

Emily Davis and Beth Murphy Wilkinson first hatched the idea of forming Married FM early in 2019, but the collaboration’s roots actually stretch back nearly two decades to when the two first crossed paths while running in similar circles within the Columbus music scene – Murphy Wilkinson with Times New Viking and Davis with Necropolis.

“We had those 17 years of buildup and history,” said Murphy Wilkinson, who joined Davis for an early January interview at a Clintonville coffee shop. “And I think that counts as part of the work.”

This time-strengthened bond fueled loose early writing sessions, allowing the two to tap into a similar sense of freedom they experienced singing into hairbrushes as children. “It was like playing,” Davis said. “It’s like when you’re a little kid and you’re making up songs and it’s not this big, hard, complex thing. You’re just making up songs with your friends.”

“There was zero pretense, and I think that comes with age,” Murphy Wilkinson said. “We didn’t care when we were 20, and it’s a whole other kind of not caring now.”

“Right. It was being sure that everyone knew you didn’t care back then,” Davis said, and laughed. “And now it’s legit not-care, because we’re just doing what we want to do for us.”

Released in early January, Married FM’s excellent self-titled EP is in many ways defined by this spontaneity, which exhibits itself in everything from the diverse music (tracks veer from lo-fi pop to weirdly unsettling lullabies) to the duo’s lyrics, where a song expressing romantic yearning is followed by one that opens with an LOL-worthy comic diss (“I remember when you shopped at Fashion Bug”). But perhaps nowhere is this idea more evident than on “Slay Nostalgia,” a disarmingly pretty pop nugget that could fit seamlessly on radio were it not for the pair’s repetition of the word fuck – a decision the two jokingly admonished themselves for as our interview wound down.

“I think it quickly became pretty apparent we would only encourage each other,” Murphy Wilkinson said of the anything-goes approach. “Things I thought were really kind of silly, she’d be like, ‘Hell yeah!’ And it was like, wait, this can really be a song?”

Davis said she was further drawn to the idea of collaborating after hearing Murphy Wilkinson’s 2019 debut as the Girl in Times New Viking, which she described as “raw, genuine, real-life, real-girl words.”

“It felt like [she] was alone in [her] bedroom with the door locked, sitting by a nightlight,” Davis continued, “which is similar to how I feel these recordings came out.”

The Married FM EP arrives following a stretch of relative musical inactivity for the two – a lull part driven by life circumstances but also attributable to the ongoing pandemic. Murphy Wilkinson, for one, said she was on “a natural homebody trajectory” leading up to the March 2020 arrival of the coronavirus, while Davis said she naturally became less active after having children, though she continued to play alongside husband Bo Davis in Ipps because she wanted her kids to see her pursuing her own interests outside of the home. “I want them to grow up seeing that mommy doesn’t just go to work,” Davis said. “Mommy has hobbies and friends and an entire real life.”

Due to COVID, though, Ipps has been largely inactive in recent years, with Married FM serving as Davis’ initially hesitant first step back to making music.

“It was about getting excited about making music again instead of being scared to do it,” Davis said. “As soon as you say it out loud, then you’re like, am I really excited to do this? Or am I now terrified to do this and to start putting myself out there and sharing and making myself vulnerable again?”

These worries quickly dissipated as the two traded tracks by artists who served as early inspiration for the project, including Tracy + the Plastics and Sharon Van Etten/Angel Olsen, whose collaborative “Like I Used To” doubled as a spiritual guidepost early in the process.

The two also leaned on their diverse musical backgrounds. Davis said she “basically grew up in a recording studio,” raised by a family rooted in music (her grandmother was a singer and her father a musician). Murphy Wilkinson, in contrast, said she “stumbled into music” while attending art school, joining Times New Viking alongside then-boyfriend Jared Phillips and friend Adam Elliott in part because she liked the name. 

“So, obviously I have the experience with a band, but I appreciated how you were a strong backbone for my little song ideas,” Murphy Wilkinson said to Davis. “And then your voice makes my voice sound so much better.”

“Well, your songwriting makes my songwriting sound so much better,” Davis said. “Being in a room with you made me feel like I could be more vulnerable to try things that I wouldn’t have tried with anybody else. … And I don’t think I could have made this with other people I’ve written with in the past. I have long songwriting relationships, like with my spouse, but it’s different than having two ... women in a room. We’ve had different types of shared experiences that we don’t have with partners or other guys we’ve been in bands with.”

“I don’t think I would have written a song that sounds like a lullaby in any of my other bands,” Davis continued. “And there are definitely lyrics I would not have felt comfortable bringing out, like the beginning of ‘Fashion Bug,’ which is ridiculous.”

“It made us laugh every time,” Murphy Wilkinson said.

“And that was the first song that we actually wrote,” Davis said.

“All I had was that intro,” Murphy Wilkinson said.

“And I was like, oh, look at this. Look at this. This is a song now," Davis said, the two breaking into laughter. "I remember just laughing so hard and being like, 'Okay, if it brings the two of us that much joy, then it’s perfect.'”

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