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Mipso seeks fresh ways of creating on sixth studio record

Mipso performed in the Lincoln Theatre on Sunday, Set. 24, 2023.

An hour before doors opened for Mipso’s last show in North Carolina, the members of the folk-Americana quartet were on the floor of Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre, surrounded by a small group of fans. 

They answered questions about their music and touring life, sang requested songs and had one-on-one conversations with members of the crowd — many of whom had been fans for much of the band’s decade together — in a stripped-down acoustic show.

Jacob Sharp, Wood Robinson, Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough pose for a portrait at State of Beer in Raleigh N.C. on Sunday, Sept. 24 2023.

Following the release of their sixth studio album, “Book of Fools,” Mipso is embarking on a national tour, which included a four-venue tour of North Carolina, where all of the members — and the band itself — grew up.

Formed at UNC in the early 2010s, Mipso’s roots are in the Triangle. Some of their first shows were at Cat’s Cradle and Local 506, and their first fans were their peers.

“Our band was a product of student bands and student music appreciation in Chapel Hill,” Jacob Sharp, who sings and plays the mandolin, said.

Over time, the band has gained a clearer sense of their creative process as individuals, which has in turn influenced their process as a group.

For their new album, Mipso sought out a writing process that eliminated their preconceived ideas about their own ways of creating. They leaned more heavily on co-writing, collaboration and chasing new ideas than they had in the past. 

Libby Rodenbough plays the fiddle during Mipso's concert at the Lincoln Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

"Early on, most of our songs were pretty well-scripted," Wood Robinson, bassist and vocalist, said. "It was like a roadmap that we knew very, very well. And as we got further down the recording path, we found a lot of joy and importance in improvisation."

On “Book of Fools,” Robinson integrates the electric bass guitar, Libby Rodenbough strays from the fiddle and Joseph Terrell occasionally swaps out his acoustic guitar for an electric.

Joseph Terrell plays the guitar during Mipso's concert at the Lincoln Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

It’s taken time to get to this point, but to Terrell, Mipso is a process.

“If we’re being honest about ourselves and our way of collaborating, then the band is how we make an album,” he said. “In some ways, by following the same process every record, we’ve made completely different sounding records, because we’re different people every time we get together.”

The co-writing sessions for this particular album were intentionally planned because the group is spread out geographically — Robinson lives in Utah, Sharp in California and Rodenbough and Terrell in North Carolina.

“It was as much about writing the next batch of music as much as it was about re-engaging with each other as friends,” Sharp said.

Over the course of 10 years, there is something about Mipso that listeners keep coming back to.

It could be that fans return because of the energy they bring to their shows. 

The engagement on stage between the four friends is infectious. Rodenbough and Terrell attentively watch each other, seamlessly blending fiddle and guitar. Sharp and Terrell laugh together as they play, with Robinson’s bass keeping the beat.

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Wood Robinson plays the double bass during Mipso's concert at the Lincoln Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

The audience returns the energy — loud cheering, stomping to the beat and carefully following the cues of well-known songs.

Although "Book of Fools" signifies a new era for Mipso, the band huddled around a singular microphone halfway through their Lincoln Theatre show to sing a selection of their classics.

It hasn’t always been easy to sing their early songs, Rodenbough said, but over time, she’s grown to look back fondly on the music she wrote in college.

“Some of the older songs I find now, it’s been enough time, that I can sort of feel like I’m in dialogue with my younger self,” she said.

Fans might also keep returning because of how the band interacts with their listeners, who watched them grow up, both as musicians and as people.

“We see ourselves as more like a band that learned how to be a band in front of people,” Terrell said.

Whatever the reason, fans come back to Mipso year after year, album after album, with the group selling out Cat’s Cradle in 2012 and 2023.

Their music has been a sense of comfort for fans like Molly Weybright, who said she has been listening to Mipso for nearly a decade and was among the crowd at the Lincoln Theatre.

“There’s something about Mipso that feels like home,” she said.


@dthlifestyle |

Eliza Benbow

Eliza Benbow is the 2023-24 lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer university editor. Eliza is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and creative writing, with a minor in Hispanic studies.