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Carolina calling

The lyrics from “Carolina Calling” come straight from the experiences of Mipso band members, who are just months or in one case, days, removed from their days at Carolina.

“They say you can’t go home again,

But I hear a quiet voice begin . . .

It must be Carolina calling me.”

Those lyrics from “Carolina Calling” come straight from the experiences of Mipso band members, who are just months or in one case, days, removed from their days at Carolina.

Mipso features four young alumni. Guitarist Joseph Terrell of High Point, who wrote the song; Jacob Sharp from Morganton on mandolin; and Wood Robinson of Greensboro on double bass are 2013 graduates. Fiddler Libby Rodenbough of Greensboro graduated on May 11, 2014.

Bands don’t usually list their college degrees on their website, but these proud UNC alums do. Rodebough, Sharp and Terrell are Morehead-Cain Scholars. They’ve all spent time abroad and studied everything from geography to religious studies to environmental science.

Here, they reflect on the song and their time as at UNC. Some recent and not-so-recent graduates may feel the same sentiments.

Terrell:

I spent many months during my senior year working on Carolina Calling.  In November 2012, I began cataloging my thoughts as my friends and I were looking forward to graduation in the spring. More than that, I was already looking forward to a time when I’d be looking back – sort of a pre-emptive nostalgia, I guess.

It was for my friends and people I love who I met at Carolina, a gift for them.

All of my friends in senior year were talking about graduation. You could feel it impending. It was a feeling we were all going through. And, I understand the call that Carolina has on people. The song is a response to the sentiment that “you can’t go home again” from Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel.”

I remember my very first class. It was on a Tuesday at 8 a.m. with Bland Simpson in creative writing. He became a role model, and showed me that you can be a songwriter and be involved in many creative ways and also be a part of an intellectual community. My last college class was another course with Simpson called “Lyrics & Lyricists,” and Jacob and Wood were also in that class.

I took a year off after high school. I had always loved traveling. So, I deferred admission and spent time in Uganda, Rwanda and Argentina studying tango guitar, which is rooted in Argentina. I returned home to realize that I knew little about North Carolina’s indigenous music – bluegrass.

I’ve always proud of living in North Carolina and I am grateful that I was able to come to UNC.

Robinson:

The first time I heard the song, we were in a writing session in Boone over winter break in 2012. I was struck by how it made me nostalgic before I had something to be nostalgic about. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, savoring a time while you still have it.

It grabbed me from the first guitar riff.

Carolina has the amazing ability to ground you. You can pursue and study just about anything under the sun but you are grounded in a sense of reality. Being a science major, I find it hard to think about the kind of esoteric things you might learn in college. I do remember in particular learning from professor Tamlin Pavelsky, a hydroclimatologist and geographer who’s in the geology department. He was adamant about wrapping your head around a whole situation before you form an opinion or try to argue for or against it and I think that approach has carried over into my experience as a musician.

Rodenbough:

When Joseph first brought “Carolina Calling” to the group a couple years ago, it felt a little funny because it was a nostalgia-in-anticipation — the guys hadn’t even graduated yet, and I was what felt like a lifetime away from that. I think it turned out to be fairly prescient. These years of early adulthood might actually be, however counterintuitively, some of the most nostalgic of our lives, and being just out of college is a time when you think a lot about what it was like to be there.

It’s sort of silly, though, because obviously you don’t have enough distance after a few months or years (or, in my case, days!) to really decide how you feel about it all. I know there have been a lot of times over the last year when the prospect of new places and new people has been really alluring to the boys, and I suspect it’ll be the same for me as I start hitting the road with them, but there’s obviously some extent to which Carolina actually is “calling” all of us—otherwise we wouldn’t still be here! There’s a line in the song that goes “some day I’ll realize my mistake/and I’ll reconsider my escape,” but the reality is that none of us has “escaped;” I mean, we haven’t really gone anywhere, for all the traveling and looking toward the future. Maybe writing the song was Joseph’s way to give himself the good advice to stick around!

“Carolina Calling” is probably Mipso’s poppiest song, and we’ve never been a band to shy away from pop. Just look at our last album title! It’s a cool feeling when a whole audience sings along to that chorus, though. And it’s catchy, something that appeals to audiences all over, but it’s especially cool when we do it around here — you get the sense that there are people in the audience who have experienced that pull, maybe people who left and came back again. If we ever do make our escape, I have complete confidence we’ll be back before too long.

Sharp

I’m grateful for being at an institution like Carolina and in a community like Chapel Hill. I feel very fortunate that I wound up here. I take a lot of pride in this place and the people here.

While at UNC, I learned a lot about human geography and how cultures spread and morph, and I studied Latin American cultures. I also traveled to Africa, Peru and New Zealand, and spent a summer working for National Geographic TV and their record label.

Being a student at UNC taught me to think about and identify problems, then figure out solutions. I also learned how, when I’m writing a song, to start from something personal or a relationship, to take it from hyper-personal to a place where others can relate. Some of that comes from the diverse people at Carolina and in Chapel Hill.

Carolina Calling

In ten years I’ll be older
Maybe living somewhere colder
Getting used to pavement under feet
And these will be our good old days
All the scenes that we’ll replay
Before we scattered in the breeze

They say you can’t go home again
But I hear a quiet voice begin…

Chorus:
It must be Carolina calling me
It must be Carolina in these things that follow me
It must be Carolina reminding us of how we ought to be
It must be Carolina calling me

We’re gonna have to face it
Street lights on empty faces
City sights and sounds under our skin
But nothing can erase it
Rolling hills and red clay acres
It’s funny how a place can sink in

Someday I’ll realize my mistake
And I’ll reconsider my escape…

Chorus:
It must be Carolina calling me
It must be Carolina in these things that follow me
It must be Carolina reminding us of how we ought to be
It must be Carolina calling me

Read more about Mipso and their days at Carolina.