From left: Trevor Hobbs, Andrea Moreno-Beals, Micah Middaugh

Todd Zawistowski

You may have heard Breathe Owl Breathe—the East Jordan–based trio that produces dreamy, organic music that’s equal parts folk, indie and classical—perform at Sleeping Bear Dunegrass & Blues Festival over the weekend. We called up guitar and banjo player Micah Middaugh to get sense of what summer festival season is like on the other side of the stage.

How’s your summer touring schedule looking this year?

Oh my gosh. Summer is so exciting because we’re thawing out from the winter. And Michigan is the place to be. Pretty much every weekend is filled up, though we like to keep a weekend free to go kayaking or make our way up to the North Channel.

What’s Breathe Owl Breathe’s set-up?

I play guitar and banjo. Trevor [Hobbs] plays percussion. Andrea [Moreno-Beals], wow, she can play anything she touches. It just comes out of her. She plays banjo, and cello is her main instrument, and she adds harmonies. We also like playing found instruments.

Such as?

The Activities Center—it’s one of those things you find in a crib. A lot of people think that mine was something I had when I was younger, but I actually found it at a moving sale. This lady was trying to sell me all this really ornate furniture, but I was really just interested in the baby toy. That’s all I left with.

How would you describe Breathe Owl Breathe’s sound?

Well, let’s see. Maybe … hmm. Wow. Like … um … maybe … hmm. That’s a tough question.

Come on.

We always tell people that our music sounds like swimming. I want our music to be easily relatable, but also really abstract so that everyone can get something different out of it. I really love it when music becomes visual or at least sounds like it could be visual.

What are your backgrounds, musically?

Andrea’s classically trained. I grew up with music around me. My mom and dad, they never performed, which I think was important because that’s what I thought music was—just playing in the living room. Before you have your cup of coffee in the morning, you pick up your guitar. That’s the way I woke up every day; I would hear music underneath me coming through the floor. It was outside of performing, and I think that’s what Breathe Owl Breathe has tried to do: bring it to that place where we could play on a stage but love it just as much as if we were in someone’s living room, playing music in our pajamas.

Tell us about Michigan’s sumer festival season.

It’s amazing. We feel really fortunate; life’s a picnic when you’re at these festivals. I think we’re molding something here in Northern Michigan—you come to these festivals and you look around and there’s all these generations that are just experiencing things completely differently but they have this love for being together with the music. It’s being just a walk down to the water. It’s hanging around the stage. It’s back at your own campsite, playing music on your own. Taking the time to hang out.

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Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski