Stoughton native Madeline Fendrick and husband Brian Peck opened their May 10 performance at Oregon’s Firefly Coffeehouse and Artisan Cheese with songs about embracing flaws and the beauty of life’s chaos, songs Fendrick called “healing.”
She was on the mandolin and he was strumming his guitar, as they sang “Make Your Way In,” a band original.
“Take a step out of your house, which you know so well / Big space is near your way out and make your way in / Make your way out and make your way in,” Madeline and Brian harmonized into the microphone in front of the dozens in the audience.
The couple have been making music together since 2014, and just returned from a month-long tour of Germany. They play all over the country and have recently resettled in the Midwest.
According to the Fendrick & Peck website, a performance isn’t complete without a slew of vintage instruments, like a “1920s guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo, an older fiddle or even a 1972 Telecaster.”
Their music combines genres like folk, blues, light rock and bluegrass “with a freshness and originality that centers on exquisite harmony, lyric-writing, groove and heart,” as their website describes it. The band performs covers of works that inspire them or their original songs, they said.
Fendrick & Peck has three full-length albums, including 2018 release “Make Your Way Out/Make Your Way In” and “The Sandhill Crane” (2016), which were recorded in Minneapolis, and “Lucky Penny” (2015), which they made in Nashville.
They’ve gotten high praise from around the country, according to their website. DJ Rich Warren, of Chicago’s the Midnight Special, named “The Sandhill Crane” and “Lucky Penny” the album of the week in both 2016 and 2017. And they’ve been hailed as the “future of folk music” by “DJ Queen of Washington D.C.” Mary Cliff.
‘A raw edge’
The duo both said that balancing Fendrick’s passion with Brian’s laid-back energy is what allows them to stay grounded and focused on their writing. They said their musical inspirations range from Bob Dylan to Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, to name a few.
Fendrick and Peck described their musical goal as having their lyrics breathe authenticity into the listener. Fendrick said people desire something real and with a “raw edge.”
Lately, she said the pair have become students of nature, moved by what goes on in their backyard. And recently, their personal struggles have informed their work.
“I was really down when we were making (our 2018 album),” Madeline said. “I was having a big questioning time.”
The lyrics on “Make Your Way Out/Make Your Way In” are heavily influenced by deceased German poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, Fendrick said.
Rilke’s poetry book traveled with the duo during a March tour of Germany, Fendrick said. They like his poetry’s existentialist philosophies and lyrical structure.
On the tour, Fendrick said the duo performed 26 times over a span of 31 days.
“It was incredible,” she said, sipping a Firefly coffee and gazing over at her husband.
They booked the tour through the Song & Whispers Tour Circuit, which also helped promote the shows.
The duo recalled a March 5 performance at Michaelskirche, a church in Rotenburg an der Wümme, Germany, as one of their favorites.
Fendrick said before they would perform a song inspired by a specific poem, they would call up audience members to read it in German.
Fendrick & Peck urged the audience to “fill the church’s space with sound,” she said.
Fendrick & Peck tour the East Coast twice a year and frequently play around the Midwest.
They’ve played at Stoughton Opera House, the Sons of Norway Mandt Lodge and at the monthly Oregon Area Progressives’ event at Firefly Coffeehouse and Artisan Cheese. Their May 10 performance was the first one planned without OAP, however, Madeline said.
They enjoy playing around the Midwest and both have roots in the area, as Brian grew up in Racine. Both born artists, Madeline pursued a career in theatre and Brian in music.
It wasn’t until the couple met in 2011-2012 that they started to play music together – as friends at first. Brian said the duo met through a mutual friend and started hanging out more – “simple as that.” In 2014, they founded Fendrick & Peck.
The couple lived in New York City for a time, then Nashville, Tennessee.
“We needed to get out of New York City,” Madeline said. “Our souls were getting sucked into the concrete.”
“Our songs reflect that,” she added.
Fendrick & Peck then came back to Wisconsin seeking a quieter life. The band found themselves in Stoughton for a bit, and now reside “in the woods” north of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
As they moved together, they evolved together.
“When we started performing together, Madeline covered a lot of the energy and banter and I covered the instrumental side of things,” Brian said.
But over the years, Madeline became more of an instrumentalist and Brian a vocalist. They co-write their songs more regularly as well.
“That’s one thing that’s fun about us … we’re living and breathing artists,” Madeline said. “Right now it really just feels like we are continuing to grow together and with our audience.”