July 16--When she was younger, Molly Venter would spend part of the summer on her family's boat, the Wanderer, weaving her way across the waters off Connecticut, as her mother taught her and her brother guitar and multi-part harmony.
"It was a beautiful time to be stuck on a sailboat," she said during a recent interview. "No TV, just our guitars."
Venter, who was born and raised in New Haven, continues to find joy in playing her guitar and lending her voice to the rich harmonies of Red Molly, a female singing trio set to perform at Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford on Sunday, July 21.
Since joining the band three years ago, Venter has had the opportunity to tour the country with her band mates Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner, playing at festivals from coast to coast and opening for music legend Willie Nelson for several dates last year. She replaced one of the band's founding members, Carolann Solebello, when she left to pursue other projects.
"We all have different backgrounds and sides to our artistic impressions," she said.
However, together, they deliver a mix of Americana and roots music -- bluegrass, country, folk and Western swing -- that has attracted a devoted fan following ("RedHeads") and critical acclaim. The group's latest CD, "Light in the Sky," was released in 2011.
"People really respond to all three voices, which become more than the sum of its parts," Venter said.
Venter, who moved back to New Haven last month, has spent the past 10 years or so building her musical career. She has four solo albums behind her and recently started a collaboration with Roosevelt Dime's Eben Pariser, which they call Goodnight Moonshine.
"I love the idea of branching out stylistically," she said.
The duo released its self-titled debut this year.
"I always knew it would be a part of my life," she said of her music, which she honed as a student at Hopkins School in New Haven (Class of 1998) and later at Williams College in Massachusetts, from which she graduated in 2002.
Active in sports, she found a way to balance her two talents, but by the time she moved to Idaho several months after her college graduation, she decided it was time to make a go of her music.
She then hopped around a bit, eventually landing in Austin, Texas, for some time, and then, later, Brooklyn, N.Y. She gained attention in 2008 when her release, "Love Me Like You Mean It," was picked up for distribution by Barnes & Noble, and she has seen her music picked up for marketing campaigns for Jeep and Apple.
As for future projects, she said Red Molly is at work on a new album, which is set for release next year. The band also is getting ready to head off to Denmark at the end of August, which will be their first tour in Europe.
As to how they work together, she said they often work on songs individually before coming together to work out harmonies and arrangements. She said she appreciates working on a mix of songs -- those that seem to play themselves and more complex pieces that can take months to master.
Venter said she has long enjoyed writing songs, and sharing feelings and thoughts that might resonate with others.
"When I sit down to write, it might come from a feeling or a sound and then it starts to reveal itself," she said. "It is a way to take different forces in the world and connect them and make meaning of them."
Venter said she is looking forward to performing in Stamford, as she has family in the area who will likely be joining the others relaxing on the gardens' grounds.
She said life does not always happen as you expect it might, and is pleased that her musical journey led her to Red Molly.
"We all feel really, really lucky," she said.
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Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, 151 Brookdale Road, Stamford. Sunday, July 21, 5 to 7 p.m. $10 nonmembers; $5 members; free children under 12. 203-322-6971, http://bartlettarboretum.org.
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