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Margo Cilker

Biography

MARGO CILKER is a woman who drinks deeply of life, and her debut record Pohorylle, released in November 2021 on Portland label Fluff and Gravy, is brimming with it. For the last seven years, the Eastern Oregon songwriter, who NPR calls one of “11 Oregon Artists to Watch in 2021,” has split her time between the road and various outposts across the world, from Enterprise, OR to the Basque Country of Spain, forging a path that is at once deeply rooted and ever-changing.

As Pohorylle traverses through the geography of Cilker’s memories—a touring musician’s tapestry of dive bars and breathtaking natural beauty—love is apparent, as is its inevitable partner: loss. For what bigger heartbreak is there than to be a fervent lover who must always keep moving? Cilker seems keenly aware of the precarious footing upon which love stands, and at many turns, the record circles something that is staggeringly beautiful and slipping away.
“I am a woman split between places,” Cilker sings on the album’s wistful closer, touching for a brief moment upon the vast dichotomies of her selfhood and her profession, and the negotiation that she conducts between them.

“I’m just very inquisitive. I’m a very curious person. Why are things this way? Do they have to stay this way? You know, how can things change?” Cilker asks. It is this part of her nature that expands Pohorylle into the complex journey that it is: her ability to crack open a moment of desperation and lay it out on a table to catch a careful light.

Pohorylle, which carries gentle nods to Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and Gillian Welch, shines under the instincts of producer Sera Cahoone, whom Cilker first came across in 2019 while planning her first full-length. “I was trying to pin down what kind of sound I wanted and stumbled across a video of Sera and just loved how she performed. I then listened to her last studio record and thought, that’s the sound.” Cilker says. “I found out Sera had produced that record herself with John Askew. My friend put me in touch with her and she liked my demos enough to produce the album. It felt very auspicious—It was truly just a gut feeling.”

Cahoone quickly got to work assembling a first-rate band: Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists) on keys, Jason Kardong (Sera Cahoone, Son Volt) on pedal steel, Rebecca Young (Lindsey Fuller, Jesse Sykes) on bass, Mirabai Peart (Joanna Newsom) on strings, Kelly Pratt (Beirut) on horns, and the album’s engineer John Morgan Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson) on an array of other instruments. The record also prominently features effortless harmonies from Sarah Cilker, Margo Cilker’s sister and frequent touring partner.

Over the last six years, Margo Cilker has toured extensively across the US and internationally, and is a staple in the independent festival circuit.

(written by Maria Maita-Keppeler)


Video & Press
  • Rural Singer-Songwriter Margo Cilker’s Pandemic Hustle is Paying Off

    [NPR] By KIRK SIEGLER Listen here BOISE, Idaho — Margo Cilker’s songs bring listeners to the West’s more forgotten places: from the 99 freeway through California farm country south to Tehachapi Pass to the north and Jordan Valley, Ore. “Took a room at the old Basque hotel, it was like a kind of prayer when […]

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  • Margo Cilker Debuts with Honest and True ‘Pohorylle’

    [No Depression] By Maeri Ferguson EDITOR’S NOTE: As album releases slow down in December, we like to catch our breath and write about albums that came out earlier in the year that we didn’t get a chance to review but we think are worthy of your attention. Pohorylle was released in November. “A lot gets lost on me […]

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  • Song You Need to Know: Margo Cilker, ‘Kevin Johnson’

    [Rolling Stone] The Oregon musician shows that she is as interested in reinvigorating Southern country-folk storytelling tropes as she is in exposing their flaws By JONATHAN BERNSTEIN  Margo Cilker stakes out the geography of her native Pacific Northwest on her stunning debut, Pohorylle. On “That River,” that classic country-folk source of renewal becomes a symbol of […]

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  • One to Watch: Margo Cilker

    [The Guardian] The American singer-songwriter’s expertly honed country-rock is as frank and fresh as it is warm and familiar Emily Mackay California-born, Oregon-based Margo Cilker has honed her story-songs on the road for years, travelling across the US and the Basque country of Spain, where she formed a covers band playing the likes of Creedence, Dylan and […]

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