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Musical duo returns to the Grove

After getting their musical start in town, Tuck and Daisy are on to greater things

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Erik Isakson and Amy Smith are fundraising to complete their first album. They came slinging a guitar and ukulele, armed with one forceful female voice and one probing lyricist.

Tuck and Daisy packed the house so full last Friday night at Waltz Brewing in Forest Grove, there was barely enough room to move. They radiated that certain kind of insouciant energy that comes only from 20-somethings taking advantage of their youth.

Oh, and Tuck and Daisy are actually Forest Grove natives Erik Isakson and Amy Smith, who have spent the last four years enjoying wherever their talents take them, initially traveling in a van across the country to sing for tips, and even working on a farm in Hawaii.

Now they’re working on their first album at Jackpot! Recording Studios in Portland — and if any duo was made for that city, it’s this one. They live in a house with friends and work part time, he repairing bikes and she managing a vegan food cart. The rest of the time they’re working as Tuck and Daisy — booking shows, fundraising to get their album into CD form, writing songs, practicing and enjoying music.

Last Friday their troubadour lifestyle brought Isakson and Smith back to their hometown, where they grew up nurturing their musical inclinations at Forest Grove High School. They lived just a few blocks from each other as kids, but didn’t meet until mutual friends brought them together in the San Juan Islands four years ago. They knew right away they were meant for each other.

Smith left shortly after their meeting to work on a farm in the Netherlands. When she returned a few months later, Isakson picked her up from the airport and on the way home she played him a few songs she had learned on the ukulele.

“I can still remember the first time I heard her sing,” said Isakson, 27. “It was mesmerizing.”

After that, their band just sort of happened, they say. Isakson and Smith entered a Portland open mic night — where they chose their name on a whim — and started playing together more and more. Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Waltz Brewery is becoming a hot spot in town as they host more live music in the evenings.

“Our voices sync,” Isakson said. “It’s something I haven’t experienced with anyone else.”

Both halves of the duo agree they’re better musicians together than apart.

Smith, 23, grew up wanting to be a rock star. When she got bored singing soprano in the FGHS choir, she started exploring her voice and practicing harmonies in the car. “I started pushing my limits,” she said.

“She was never shy,” said Dan Porter, Smith’s stepdad, who attended the show Friday and is amazed at Smith’s natural, self-taught talent.

“I listen to their album over and over. They happened to pick the exact music I like.”

“She always loved to sing and perform,” said Juli Porter, Smith’s mom.

Isakson, too, has always been musically inclined, playing the violin at FGHS. “I’m amazed at the knowledge you gain in the high school orchestra program,” Isakson said. “It helped send me on my musical path from the beginning.”

Both Smith and Isakson say their parents are their biggest supporters.

Smith’s love for music and performing was rekindled when she met Isakson. “He revitalized my dream,” she said.

Her dreams of being a musician aren’t quite as flamboyant as they were in childhood, though. “I’m just trying to play music and enjoy it,” Smith said. “I’m not worrying about the ‘success’ of it.”

When Smith was younger, “making it” to her meant getting famous, but now it would mean being able to play and sing at her favorite folk festivals.

The duo said they’re looking forward to playing more shows in Forest Grove and are excited for the new venue found in Waltz Brewing.

“We were blown away by the powerful local response to our music,” Isakson said.

“Live music is the draw for us,” Smith said.

“It’s that chemistry of giving and receiving with the crowd,” Isakson said. “I haven’t found the same experience in any other thing.”

It also improves their own personal bond as a couple. “It adds depth and a sense of communication to the rest of our relationship,” Isakson said.

Writing is also a major component of the music for Isakson, the major wordsmith of the duo. “Songs show up like an itch — an idea that wants to become material,” he said.

Isakson has lyrics written on napkins, envelopes and receipts all over the house. “I try to use metaphors and expansive lyrics that make people think about and appreciate their lives,” Isakson said. “We’re all dynamic human beings with a full range from joy to suffering, and we can release those emotions through song.”

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