Mollie O'Brien - Friend of the DFC
Friends of the Denver Folklore Center, Mollie O'Brien and her husband, guitarist Rich Moore, have been performing their unique brand of music for nearly thirty years. In addition to writing their own music, they put their own spin on popular songs, reinventing them for audiences all over the country and the world. Mollie’s exceptional voice and talent have allowed her to explore and elevate each genre of music she’s tackled, including folk, Americana, bluegrass and R&B. In 1997, Mollie earned a Grammy for her part in Sugar Hill Records True Life Blues. She’s also a member of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
We spoke with Mollie about her time as a Mother Folker, working at Swallow Hill Music and the Denver Folklore Center, touring with her brother, Tim O’Brien, and more.
Growing up Mollie’s musical influences included Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Barbra Streisand, Peter, Paul and Mary and Frank Sinatra. “I really liked listening to singers and I still love listening to those people today. If it’s really good music, it’s not dated. A good song written any time is timeless.”
In high school, Mollie studied music and “had a wonderful voice teacher and piano teacher. The school had a strong arts and music program. We had to do recitals every eight weeks so that was a lot of performing.”
Making the Move to Colorado
In Boulder she knew some musicians like Washboard Chaz and Dan Sadowsky. “Chaz was living in Boulder at the time and we started a band. At the time there were a lot of places to play. There was a whole circuit you could do in Colorado every two months. You could go play at certain bars and go back in six weeks and make a fairly decent living.”
The Mother Folkers
While she was with the MoFos, the band did shows at the Loretto Heights Theater “and we’d sell out. We played the Arvada Center, Lincoln Center, The Paramount, something in Boulder … it was amazing. It was a pretty loose operation and a lot of fun getting together for rehearsals. After the first of the year, we’d start working on material for the concert and it always involved a lot of food and wine. It was such a wide variety of music presented every year and people enjoyed that. And such a novelty thing to have so many women in one show. It was promoted as the all-female MoFos.”
Mollie was part of the group until 1991 when she had to quit. “I went on tour with my brother, Tim, and had to miss the MoFo shows that year. I was sorry to miss that year, but I couldn’t turn down the tour.”
The Denver Folklore Center
Mollie remembers the Denver Folklore Center as “a fun place to work and a real social scene. Lots of performers who came to town to play music would stop by and hang out. You knew if you stopped by the store at 5:30pm with a six pack before the store closed at 6:00pm you could stay until 7:00 p.m. and hang and play music. It was great. And that’s where I met my husband Rich Moore – at the first anniversary of the reincarnation of the DFC on south Broadway. April Fools’ Day 1981. Rick Kirby was the owner at that point and threw a party.”
In 1996, Mollie and Tim decided to pursue solo careers and she released Tell it True, which held a spot in the Americana chart’s top ten for six weeks and was lauded by music critics who called each song “a gem” with “brilliant musical arrangements” and praised Mollie’s “shining vocals”. Over the next few years Mollie released two more solo albums, and then in 2006, she began to perform as a duo with husband, Rich Moore. They released a live CD of their performances called 900 Baseline, and in 2010 put out their first studio album, Saints and Sinners. That album features a wide array of music including show tunes, gospel, blues and folk.