Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019

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Pony Up

By Savannah Evanoff

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and Tina Collins and Quetzal Jordan are firing up the charcoal grill for an excuse to eat outside.

When it comes to grilling, anything is on the table—veggies, the remnants of their fridge, even Peeps (the marshmallow duck candy, Jordan clarified with a chuckle).

Jordan approached naming their folk band, Tina & Her Pony, back in 2010 with the same outdoorsy spirit and a hint of humor.

While listening to their first record, they closed their eyes, entered a dreamy state and an image appeared—Ponies.

“I thought if (the name) created a story, it would be more memorable, so I added ‘& Her Pony,’ so people would get a visual automatically and a sense of who we are,” Jordan said. “We’re pretty playful people and pretty small, muscular and nature-y. We love running in fields of grass.”

“If you listen to the music, it totally makes you feel that way, too,” Jordan continued.

Keeping that in mind, it’s no surprise their music summons nature-filled visions.

The couple first developed their indie Appalachian folk sound in Taos, New Mexico, a city with only 7,000 people and plenty of square footage for more.

“It was a really rich time for us when we were there, because the landscape was just so wide open,” Collins said. “You get a lot of space to yourself, even if you’re in the community a lot, because of the structure of the land—a lot of epic sunsets and gorgeous nature, which we’re both really, really inspired by nature. We both wrote a lot of songs during that time.”

They met while Collins was in a five-piece feminist bluegrass band, Over Under Yonder, with Jordan’s sister.

“I, on a whim, invited her to come on tour with us,” Collins said. “The timing happened to work out. [Jordan] is a great improvisationalist on the cello. It was really on that tour we discovered that we had a synergy on our own.”

When the tour dissolved, Tina & Her Pony was born. Collins (tenor banjo, tenor ukulele, guitar and vocals) and Jordan (cello, guitar and vocals) are now married and live together in Asheville, North Carolina.

“We’re equal but opposites,” Jordan said. “We have similar tastes in music, but the way our aesthetic comes out is very different. [Collins] has a traditional, salt-of-the-earth way of songwriting, and I really love more nuanced works. I’m a huge fan of Radiohead, orchestral music and world music and only got introduced to old-time Americana roots mountain music when I moved to Asheville when I was 18.”

The two are both classically trained musicians, though Collins dropped out of conservatory for vocal performance. After all, she wanted to be a folk singer, not an opera singer. But their studies still influence their music.

“It has that simplicity that folk music has, but also when it comes to the production and layering of what we do—as far as harmonies and other instrumentation goes—it lends itself to be very rich,” Jordan said, “a little bit more complicated and less straightforward than you might assume.”

Much of Jordan’s songwriting is inspired by dreams—recently one of Collins’ dreams.

“It was a really neat dream where she was walking down the street of her old suburban neighborhood where she grew up in Ohio, but everything was covered in vines,” Jordan said. “We were musing on the idea of never being able to return home in that way ever again, because time goes on. Even if you go back, there’s always something that changes, but there’s a part of it that stays the same in your mind.”

Jordan explores a myriad of nostalgic topics, such as young love in the song “Right Time.”

“When you’re young, it feels so important and pertinent for you to hang on to the love you have as a teenager,” Jordan said. “Most of the time, if you fall in love as a teenager, it isn’t the right time to do that.”

While the music is imaginative, it has an even deeper purpose. Jordan is half Guatemalan, half Canadian and identifies as a non-binary person.

“Being a gender queer in the public eye and also a mixed-race person and in a mixed-race relationship, and being from the South, I think it’s really important to show up for younger generations and for people who are experiencing something similar,” Jordan said, “so they understand they’re not alone and there’s a beauty that can be extracted from their daily experiences and put into something that can be really healing and connecting. That’s my greatest hope for my music.”

Personally, Jordan sees how being a musician changes some of their social interactions.

“At the end of a performance, no matter what your beliefs are, most of the time, the hearts are turned; people are open,” Jordan said. “They come to me with smiles, hugs, compliments and invitations to whatever is going on. That wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The difference between me walking into a room having not performed yet and me walking out of that room having performed is two completely different experiences.”

But Collins also sees the vulnerability that comes with that connection.

“It’s just a richer experience, because you do have all that affirmation afterward of connecting with people and feeling kin with them,” Collins said. “But it’s also a bigger vulnerability, going into certain towns, rooms, spaces. We don’t know how we’re going to be received, and there’s such a great vulnerability in that.”

TINA & HER PONY
WHAT: Tina & Her Pony with Del Suggs and Smithfield Fair at RadioLive
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, July 11
COST: $10
WHERE: Museum of Commerce, 201 Zaragoza St.
DETAILS: radiolive.org, tinaandherpony.com