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Wednesday September 28th

A Family Tale: UNC alum creates documentary about brother's musical career

Jacob Sharp holds his mandolin. 
Photo Courtesy of Rusty Williams.
Buy Photos Jacob Sharp holds his mandolin. Photo Courtesy of Rusty Williams.

When Visit NC asked local producer and filmmaker Taylor Sharp to create a short documentary about his most enriching North Carolina experience, he had no hesitation about what story he wanted to bring to life. 

In five minutes, the documentary “Jacob’s First Mandolin” captures the start and success of the musical career of Jacob Sharp, Taylor Sharp’s older brother and member of the band Mipso. 

The idea for the film was sparked from a family memory of a fishing bet between Jacob Sharp and his father, Will Sharp. The bet ended with a mandolin in Jacob’s hands. 

“This is definitely a family tale that we’ve held onto for a while, but it really felt like it was time to let more people hear it specifically because it has such a tie to the origin story of Mipso, which is a band that a lot of people have seen Jacob play in with that mandolin,” Taylor Sharp said. 

Mipso played its first show in 2010, after a group of four UNC students — including Jacob on the mandolin — came together to create a folk band for a philanthropy event. The event, organized by Taylor Sharp, aimed to commemorate the life of the brothers' late mother Amy. 

The event not only marked the start-up of Taylor Sharp’s nonprofit, Casting For Hope — which assists women living with ovarian and gynecological cancers — but it also helped Mipso find their sound and passion of moving people through music. 

Jacob Sharp said the group had no idea it would play more than a few concerts. However, after a reporter from the Daily Tar Heel called asking for the band’s name, which was nonexistent at the time, they landed on Mipso in a matter of minutes. 

“As far as we’re aware it’s totally made up,” Jacob Sharp said. “It just means whatever meaning we’ve given it.” 

Today, Mipso has played over 1,200 concerts and put out six albums, Jacob Sharp said. 

The film consists of interviews between father and son as well as a revisit to the past, many of the scenes taking place on the same pier as the notorious fishing bet.

Beyond the story, the film also includes an original soundtrack by Jacob Sharp himself, which he said adds to the aesthetic and connection of the documentary to the audience. 

“After we filmed everything, we went into the studio with Jacob and communicated to him what we wanted the sound of his mandolin to portray,” Taylor Sharp said. “That could be the melody of childhood and the warmness of arriving to the beach or the excitement and anticipation when you’re reeling in the line and you’re waiting to see if there are fish on it.”

The Sharp brothers grew up in Morganton, in western North Carolina, and they were surrounded by folk music, a supportive family and a creative atmosphere, Jacob said. 

This childhood reminiscence brought about another pertinent theme in the documentary: the relationship between parents and children and how to support a child in their interests and passions. 

“Kids have a lot of wishes and desires and things they talk about as they grow up and one of the challenges at least for us as a parent was to sort out which one was real and which one was just the conversation of the moment,” Will Sharp said in the documentary. 

Both Taylor and Jacob Sharp attended UNC and credited the school for their success as both producers and musicians. 

While in school, Taylor Sharp met Holland Gallagher, and the two later co-founded Blue Cup Productions in 2018.  The production company has since created multiple films and documentaries, including "Jacob's First Mandolin."

Gallagher said he and Taylor's willingness to try something new and collaborate was important to him.

The “Firsts That Last” film series competition, hosted by Visit NC, includes twelve documentaries about North Carolina experiences created from the artistic vision of various producers. The winner will receive $30,000 in recognition of their work. 

Will Sharp said if Blue Cup Productions were to win, $2,000 of the proceeds will go toward Casting For Hope. 

People can vote for “Jacob’s First Mandolin” in the competition on Visit NC's website.

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