In the early 20th century, Isaac Garfield Greer was one of the leading performers and researchers of American folk music. Today, many of his recordings are meticulously archived at the Smithsonian.
His great-great-granddaughter is Meg Baird, co-founder of Espers — the little Philly indie band with quite a big national following. Underneath Espers’ British-infused psychedelic soundscapes, there is the unmistakable influence of I.G. Greer and the American folk tradition.
And with Espers currently on hiatus, that tradition is rising to the surface of Meg Baird’s music. Her first solo album, “Dear Companion,” almost entirely featured traditional folk music.
Her latest, “Seasons on Earth,” was officially released this week. The new tracks are still influenced by the strictures of traditional folk melodies, but this time nearly all of them are Baird originals. “I don’t know if I would say I’m more confident as a songwriter,” she explains while on break from her day job at the Wagner Free Institute of Science. “Just maybe willing to be more exposed about it. I’m not hiding it anymore.”
Baird moved to Philly over a decade ago after studying English literature at Rutgers University. The passionate tones of Byron, Shelley and Keats can also certainly be found in Baird’s romantic lyrics.
“I don’t really have an academic kind of mind or approach, I don’t think,” she says. “But it does get stuck in there after four years of study. It’s under your skin somewhere.”