Q&A: Ordinary Elephant discusses thoughtful lyrics, origin story

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Pete Damore and Crystal Hariu-Damore are a husband-wife folk band that started around 2011. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Olive and White | Daily Texan Staff

Whether they are performing in an open-air folk festival or simply feeding their dogs, the singer-songwriting duo balance one another’s unique talents.

Ordinary Elephant, a husband-wife folk band, sat down with The Texan to discuss how they strive to connect to their audience through thoughtful lyrics and acoustic folk melodies ahead of their Wednesday performance at The Cactus Cafe.

The Daily Texan: How did Ordinary Elephant begin?

Pete Damore: We met each other at an open mic, became friends and then started dating. We’ve been married for seven years. I got a banjo around 2011 and started playing along with some of her songs.

Crystal Hariu-Damore: Once he got the banjo, it just really clicked. It created a whole (new) entity. I was a very lyric-focused performer, and he brought in a more musical aspect to it.

DT: Where did the name ‘Ordinary Elephant’ come from?

CH: Basically, because there are no ordinary elephants. Even your everyday, ordinary elephant out there is this magnificent creature. It’s a reminder to us to always take a second look because there are a lot of things out there that may seem ordinary, but there’s a lot more to them.

DTWhat are you trying to convey through your music?

PD: A lot of our shows are in (intimate venues), so the audience is focused on the music and lyrics we’re presenting. Crystal’s the lyricist so I can say this, but (the lyrics) are really effective when the listener allows them to speak to them. They bring out a strong connection and evoke emotions.

CH: The main thing is making people feel something, whether it be ‘I’m not the only one’ or making them have empathy for someone else’s story. Just for them to leave having felt something real.

DT: What is it like traveling and performing as a duo?

PD: We feel so lucky to be able to work together as a duo.

CH:  … and as a couple because so many of our friends have bands or are solo songwriters. They may be in a relationship, but they’re traveling all the time and away from their person. We can’t imagine having to do that alone. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it that isn’t always fun, like if it’s a bad night and people don’t show up.

DT: What unique strengths do each of you bring to Ordinary Elephant?

PD: Music was always a big part of my life. I’m a native Austinite, and I took lessons growing up. However, I didn’t have anyone to show me how to listen to lyrics until probably 10 years ago when we met.

CH: Before I started writing songs, I would write poetry or stories or just write in a notebook. That’s how I would get things out and figure things out for myself. I came at it more from a word standpoint, and the music was a vehicle to get those words out there.

DT: What has been your favorite part of this journey so far? What has been the greatest challenge?

CH: A great thing has been connecting with audiences. I’m a pretty shy person by nature — like the fact that I get on stage and perform still floors my parents. I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t always be terrifying.

PD: There’s nothing better than when an audience member comes up to you after the show and says, ‘That song, or that line or that person, was me.’ It feels like really important work that we’re doing.