molly sullivan
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molly sullivan

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Pop Folk




"INTERVIEW: Molly Sullivan Explains The World (and also why you should go see her play tomorrow night)!"

Molly Sullivan makes music that makes you feel good. I'm not saying it's feel good music necessarily, because that sounds too much like a Tide commercial, but rather that Sullivan makes music that delightfully plays with melody and space. Sullivan largely flies alone, creating all of her myriad sounds via effects pedals and a copious amount of looping, both of her instrumentation and her rather dulcet voice. She's playing here tomorrow evening with someone named Johnny Sands, who I'm told could be the ghost of an actor who died in the U.K. While I can't confirm the veracity of that previous statement, I can live in hope that it's accurate. The show is at Haymarket Whiskey, and is well worth your time. Molly was kind enough to type words back and forth at us, and you can read all about that below.

Never Nervous: First off, I have to say that your music is really, really lovely. How do you write?

Molly Sullivan: Hmm.. How do I write? I am neither a trained musician nor a trained writer, so I go mostly off my gut and grind hard when I feel most emotionally volatile or damaged. I'm not the practiced, consistent writer that I sometimes wish to be, but at least the stuff is real.

NN: Does the music come first or the words? If it's the words, how do you craft a song around that?

MS: Words first vs. lyrics first is something you can never predict. The sound recorder on my phone has been an incredibly useful tool if I happen to be out and pick up a little melody or lyrical line (or both). You can revisit these little seeds and create an entire theme or soundscape around them. Sometimes, a poem is born and the melody just finds itself there.

NN: Why solo? Why not with a band?

MS: Playing solo has, for the moment, allowed me flexibility and autonomy with where and when I play, as well as giving me freedom from producing or performing music that I feel has to meet collaborators' aesthetics. Does that make sense? Like.. I'm playing for me and me alone, for now, and am growing in comfort with my gear and performance. I need to be self-sufficient and confident without relying on the skills or sounds of others.

NN: What kind of gear do you use? The video you sent shows a lot of sampling, what do you use to do that? For that matter, what kind of challenges come along with live sampling?

MS: As of now, the set up involves two mics- one directly into the PA and one into a little personal mixer which I also plug my guitar into. The mixer's line out is channeled through Boss Tuner, Metalzone distortion, and Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb/Mooer Shimverb Reverb Pedals, and then funneled into a Digitech Jamman Stereo Loop Station.

In the few interim years of playing primarily as a solo artist, I played with several bands and grew debilitated by not having as full of a sound with the solo material. With certain songs, I play and sing over some pre-recorded backing tracks to create the ethereal and fuller sounding sonic space that I think those specific songs beg for. Others are either looped live on the spot or are a combination of the two. I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable relying entirely on looping, though, and have a few straight forward songs that showcase the raw, emotionally vulnerable, and perhaps strikingly feminine side of my songwriting.

NN: Tell us about being voted Cincinnati's best singer songwriter. Was there cake at the awards ceremony? Did they even spring for an awards ceremony?

MS: So, each year, CityBeat Cincinnati puts on a big (super-fun-shit-show) awards ceremony for the local art scene. It began with celebrating theater and I believe visual/video art as well as music, but for now it's pretty much dedicated to music. There are several categories and nominations are accepted from a committee of 40-50 Cincinnatians, with most categories open to public vote and the remaining few "Critical Achievement Awards" relying on a panel vote.

The singer/songwriter category was up for public vote and I was extremely happy and proud to have won this year. It was a super warm and precious moment.

NN: I'm a musician, and I know a lot of musicians, and I don't know anyone that likes to describe their own music. How do you?

MS: Yeah. Describing your own music can be tuff. I range anywhere on the spectrum from pop to folk to weird minimal droney stuff. Lately, I've been describing it as, "lo-fi pop freckled with folk and experimental/minimal influences."

NN: Why should people come out to see you play?

MS: I never play the same show twice. There's always some improvisation, and not just with stage banter. There's always some weird morsel of the performance that people can take away from and be able to say that it was a completely raw human experience. My music may not literally have you dancing on your feet, but if you let it, just might make your heart palpitate in a way that is equally as satisfying and enchanting. (Did I just jerk myself off, for real?)

NN: What is your favorite song that you've ever written and why?

MS: Oh, lawdy. It depends on the day. It depends on the space (mentally and physically). It depends on the bodies around me. I have a few that are particularly special to me, but there is really not one single favorite piece. Currently, however, I am really proud of how "Into the Vessel" has turned out.

NN: Relative to that, what is the best show you've ever played and why? What about best show you've been in attendance to?

MS: The best show I've ever played? Probably these last two in NYC. Completely bombed. It wasn't that my performance was shitty, just that my gear was crapping out and I had no way of diagnosing it. When it was all working, it was just shy of spiritual, but then something would short-out in the middle of a song and the mood (I felt) would be completely ruined. It was awesome because even though I wanted to curl up and die when this was happening, I survived, and more importantly, the crowd was super supportive and was intently focused on letting the mishaps go to appreciate the good things that were going.

St. Vincent. Two years ago. Mind blown.

NN: Supposing you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why

MS: SYD. Y U gotta ask such a heavy question?!?! I suppose sprinkle compassion-fairie-dust on everyone.

NN: What are your desert island picks for music, and why?

MS: Broken Social Scene, Joanna Newsom, WHY?, St. Vincent, Liz Phair, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Erik Satie, and perhaps Arvo Part's Te Deum. And probably a fun lil Hip Hop/ R&B mixtape of Miguel, Sevyn Streeter, D'Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, and a random assortment of things produced by Timbaland. There's a little bit of everything and I have not explored the complete collections of any of them, so there'd be discovery in store! - Never Nervous - Syd Bishop

"More Great New Artists to Watch in 2014 ADM, Little Lights, Molly Sullivan and Injecting Strangers join CEA New Artist nominees at Best New Bands showcase"

Molly Sullivan

Local music fans who go to a lot of shows are likely familiar with singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan.

She was a member of No No Knots and has also sung back-up in Brian Olive’s band and with Athens, Ohio Indie Chamber Folk crew The Ridges.
But Sullivan is more than just a great singer; she’s also a fascinating songwriter and performer. She has been doing solo work for the past several years, but in 2013 she resurfaced on the local club front and seemed to have found her voice with a compelling, experimental style reminiscent of tUnE-yArDs and Cheyenne Mize. Live, Sullivan performs to sparse backing tracks, over which she loops her hazy yet passionate vocals to create a magnetic, uniquely layered sound.

So far Sullivan has only released a handful of demo recordings, but you can also find some great clips of her riveting live performances online (including a video shot at last year’s MidPoint Music Festival and produced by The Queen City Project). To sample some of Sullivan’s recorded works, visit and - CityBeat Cincinnati

"Brick, Melody and Mortar: The Rise and Enthrall of Molly Sullivan"

It was sometime back in September that I stumbled upon the story of Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry, and her piece in The Guardian about the unfortunate realities she faced as a female musician. Only days later, I heard the stories of classical composers wearing their own diadems of misogyny. All these forces were crumbling away at what I once believed to be the most progressive industry we had at our hands.

With such revelations came a personal desire for truth at a closer proximity. I honed in my lens and turned it on the state of our own music scene, and the circumstances of female musicians in the Queen City.

I may have stumbled a bit the first time I saw Molly Sullivan perform. It could have been the champagne. It could have been the wine. It could have been the sheer, uprooting shock of such a sneakily sultry voice filling all the quiet corners of a room.

It was 2011 and the setting was a birthday party at the neo-historic Marburg Hotel, and local heroes Shadowraptr had just finished their set in the basement — a lush and operatic performance of their usual brand of psychedelic Prog-Rock, with Jazz sensibility. They didn’t disappoint with an expectedly raucous presentation, and we didn’t back down as an ever energetic crowd. It was in a quiet aftermath, among friends and fellows just as imbibed as our beer-soaked shirts, that I wove my way through a hallway maze and sauntered into a living room with an organ against its back wall. At its helm sat Molly Sullivan.

As she would come to tell me nearly three years later, “Going back to when I first started playing out as a singer songwriter, I always felt this extreme pressure and insecurity of being a female musician…whose music was tending to be more on the delicate side of things, an emotionally driven side of things. It required a little stillness from the crowd.”

But back looking back on that night in March 2011, stillness was inevitable. Warm from wine and an approaching spring, the handful of us that sat in the living room did so with an active passivity. But even as heads lolled against neighbors’ shoulders or against the walls at our backs, there was an intensity in every pair of eyes that I glanced into; all were watching, focused, as Molly struck a chord and then another, taking us through the coziest part of the evening with two or three ballads of life, lovelorn.

It was an intimacy that couldn’t have escaped those of us even if it had tried, and only a brief, drunken sampling of where Sullivan had started her story, rising to the ranks of the recognized, respected and regaled. Before that, she was front woman for the electronically infused No No Knots and a few months after that, she would play out as a solo artist with a backing band, making a stop at The Heights Music Festival and a New Year’s Eve show at the Southgate House Revival in 2012, before a brief hiatus kept her choruses hushed.

Sullivan admits that a lot of the anxious cogs of her earlier years were weighed on heavily by being a female musician in a primarily male-dominated scene.

“I feel like it’s a lot easier for men as artists,” Sullivan Says, “generally, because you have the potential to be the heartthrob, and also it’s not necessarily a sissying thing to go to for a guy.

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So I feel like there’s more of an audience inherently built in.”

In the later months of 2013, however, she re-emerged, armed with a loop-accentuated sound and a solo confidence that she speaks fondly of. Crafting songs, sonically clad with vocal layering and solid to the string guitar work, Sullivan took her one-woman symphony on the Cincinnati circuit, to high acclaim — winning the solo artist bracket of FB’s local “Last Band Standing 2013” battle of the bands, and earning herself a spot on one of the participating MidPoint Music Festival stages.

Sullivan had dedicated time to playing earlier shows in spots she would normally not perform, in venues and around crowds she would normally not consider being her primary audience. She says she found new courage in taking these risks. Though initially unsure about even participating in the event at FB’s, Sullivan came to find her hesitation was unnecessary.
“I made some assumption about the clientele there – it’s kind of known to be like a bro bar,” Sullivan explains. “I was thinking, ‘They’re not gonna get my art.’ That ended up not being true.”

When asked about the progression of her performance presentation, Sullivan says, “I think I’ve actually come to learn — just by doing it when I’m in a bar and everybody is silent — just like recognizing that there’s something captivating about the simplicity and the emotion of being present with your songs. It’s a really empowering thing when people are dedicated to listening and joining you in that experience.”

Sullivan also recognized the power of community, and the part that earnest encouragement from within the Cincinnati scene played in her career as a musician. One pillar in her support group is claimed by The Daughters of The Midwest, an ensemble stage set of premier, female musicians dominating the Cincinnati area.

“I’ve definitely kind of geared my energy towards being supportive of other female musicians,” Sullivan says, “supporting Kelly (Fine), Mia (Carruthers), Maya (Banatwala). And now that I’m back out there again, because of the support that I’ve been shown.”

“I think it’s a really powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other,” she continues. “And as soon as I got back into it, it made it a lot easier to go with the flow and be excited for people wholeheartedly.”

And looking outside of the just the female musician community, Sullivan vehemently recognizes the support of Cincinnati as a whole. Sullivan expresses an appreciation for her time playing with The No No Knots, as well as the support she received from the members of Cincinnati’s Marburg Collective. As she explains, "There’s mostly positive reinforcement floating around. There’s kind of this really solid to the earth community here that exists that wants to support."

She admits that what hides outside of Cincinnati is what scares her most. We traded stories and conversations about recent revelations of ignorance and misogynistic skeletons in some of contemporary music’s most renowned scenes, tales of classical composers saying woman have no place in conducting pieces.

Sullivan acknowledges being weary of “the whole, big wide world,” with such possibilities floating around in clouds of reality.

“Cincinnati scares me in its own ways,” she says. “Almost what scares me more is beyond what’s Cincinnati, just the competitiveness that can be fruitful if you’re successful in the game. And I think part of me has been afraid of success, because with that success, you know what’s gonna come: it’s gonna be that banter online, all those anonymous people hemorrhaging bullshit…Why bother?”

Even with such uncertainty for outside markets, Sullivan exhibits an insight and strength that propels her forward, even more so because of her acknowledgements of the bad that can come with the good. She says she’s learning to navigate her way around “the hemorrhaging bullshit.” Her awareness of everything that can dampen an otherwise well lit stage is what makes her voice so definitive on the conversation about the regressive mentality of misogyny that can still exist in our present day music-scape.

There exists within Molly Sullivan a partnership between community appreciation and individualistic impetus. She acknowledges the power of community backing, saying it’s a “powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other.” And she recognizes the groundwork that’s been laid out in years past.

“We’ve seen the rise of a few female fronted bands come through,” Sullivan says, “and people are more willing to be excited for that and support it.” (She cites the Seedy Seeds and Wussy as pioneers for female musicianship.) Sullivan is aware of where we’ve been and where we are. But what’s more, she’s ready to take us to where we need to be. And she’s ready to do that with a self-made spirit.

“I’m getting to a point where I don’t give a fuck really,” Sullivan says.

It was with a new impetus that she’s approached her musicianship. “I’ve grown stronger as a female musician,” she says. “Now I’m just kind of like, well, if you don’t want to listen to it then fuck you, you don’t have to be here. It took me a long time to get to that point, and I still kind of have some insecurity about it. But most of the time I’m just like, ‘Molly, grow a pair, get over it.’ ”

Sullivan also explains the intentionality behind her current solo-set performances. Much in the same vein of playing in new venues, under possibly uncomfortable lights, she exhibits a drive to explore her boundaries, and expand past her limitations.

“I’ve chosen to do these things by myself,” she says. “If I’m going to play with a band later, I need to be OK playing solo first. It’s been really empowering, doing all of that.” She proves herself to be relentless and, though hurt, unscarred by the outside forces of misinterpretation and misogynistic pressures.

It’s with a knowing, weathered paddle that she navigates these future streams. And it seems she couldn’t be more pleased with the direction she’s headed.

“So far, it’s been really lovely being back.” She takes a moment, at the end of our conversation, to reflect out loud. “Would you look at that? I did that. And I don’t need anybody else. I’m all about collaboration, but it’s really good to know that I don’t need anybody. I’m capable.” - CityBeat Cincinnati - Zohair Hussein

"MidPoint Music Festival Preview 2013: Molly Sullivan - See more at:"

Always an amazing performer and one of the most incredible vocalists in Cincinnati, I’ve watched Molly Sullivan grow from a coffee shop acoustic act to the dynamic frontwoman of an electropop group (RIP No No Knots) to the artist she is today.

After a long hiatus following the end of No No Knots, Sullivan’s lyrics are as gorgeous, understated, and heartbreaking as they’ve always been, but her sound has matured over the years into her own. Though her music has become less hook-driven, at its core, Sullivan still crafts pop music, hinting subtly at influences of R&B and shoegaze. Sullivan’s music has been stripped away of the smoke and mirrors of heavy synth loops and driving beats to reveal dark, warm, ambient and electronic soundscapes. Her vocals, meanwhile, are more subdued as she leans less on her distinct powerhouse belting, but are still just as chilling.

If you’re into songwriters like Mirah and Julie Doiron, Molly Sullivan is definitely an MPMF artist not to be missed. - Each Note Secure - Caitlin Behle

"Molly Sullivan: Winter '13"

Singer-songwriter Molly Sullivan was recently nominated for a CEA by the local music community, so I thought that listening to her latest release would be a great way to kick-off 2014.

Playing the role of the musical ingenue of Cincinnati, Sullivan possesses a strong, feminine allure, not in the sense of a sex-symbol guitar-strumming vamp, but rather in the sense of a formidable axe-wielding female archetype.

Sullivan began her musical career as the lead singer of The No No Knots, a dance-driven pop/punk band with ties to both The Marburg Collective and The Happy Maladies. When she made the bold decision to break out on her own, the folks at Marburg gave her both a venue and the support vital to help make it happen.

Since then, Sullivan has gone on to gather quite a bit of attention from fellow musicians, bloggers and critics around town and also earned a spot on the MidPoint Music Festival stage in 2013.

Winter '13, Sullivan's 2nd solo release is, quite literally, a hand-crafted work of art in which the packaging is hand-painted and each disc has the title and artist inscribed on it in ballpoint pen. This gives the album a deeply intimate 'I made this just for you' feel to it.

Winter '13, in spite of its title, is a modern-day mix tape full of warmth and affection. I suspect that because of it's hand-made feel, Sullivan freed herself from the pressure and constraints of in-studio recording and granted herself permission to make the album that she truly had in mind, which was a deeply personal exploration - a journal in song.

The coziness of the album is reflected in songs that, for the most part, were recorded in a stripped-down, one-track, warts-and-all approach that embraces the sound of the room, allows it to remain present and brings you right into the space with her. I am particularly drawn to "so it goes (love and war)" a staccato quick-step waltz in which you can hear not only breaths, footsteps and creaks of a chair, but even the smile on Molly's face.

Her voice has a range of sound, dynamics, and presence that can go from St. Vincent to Kate Nash in the blink of an eye and leave you stupefied. In "they're all waiting for you" Sullivan touts her inner-strength by pushing the instrumentation into a supporting role and allows her ethereal vocals to take the forefront in this spectral hymn.

Sullivan's dark sense of humor is also evident in the song "​be mine, jim jones" in which she sings a ballad of the megalomaniacal, Kool-Aid pushing mass-murderer of Guyana.

The track, "i burn it at both ends," all but closes out this musical diary, by mixing artful piano and plinking banjo with vocals that are highly-distorted just to the point of feedback, reminiscent of Kim Deal's "Mad Lucas" and similar works from The Breeders.

The last and shortest track on the album "the bows" is, oddly, one of my favorites. It is looping metaphysical mantra with an Indian raga edge to it. I'd like to hear Sullivan expand on this, particularly in live performance.

Speaking of which, it would not behoove anyone to underestimate Molly Sullivan as simply a pretty girl with a pretty voice who might do well to play in a coffee shop somewhere. Sullivan is a serious and accomplished songwriter with a mass of talent and ability. She does not write music to make you comfortable while you sip your mocha-soy half-caf latte. She will challenge you emotionally, intellectually and turn everything you think you know about the female singer-songwriters upside-down.

The hand-crafted Winter '13 by Molly Sullivan is available at Rock, Paper Scissors on Main St. - WXVU Cincinnati - Jim Nolan


Still working on that hot first release.



"Always an amazing performer and one of the most incredible vocalists in Cincinnati... Molly Sullivan [has grown] from a coffee shop acoustic act to the dynamic frontwoman of an electropop group, to the artist she is today.

After a long hiatus, Sullivans lyrics are as gorgeous, understated, and heartbreaking as they've always been, but her sound has matured over the years into her own. Though her music has become less hook-driven, at its core, Sullivan still crafts pop music, hinting subtly at influences of R&B and shoegaze. Sullivans music has been stripped away of the smoke and mirrors of heavy synth loops and driving beats to reveal dark, warm, ambient and electronic soundscapes. Her vocals, meanwhile, are more subdued as she leans less on her distinct powerhouse belting, but are still just as chilling."

- Caitlin Behle, Each Note Secure 2013

Band Members