Cincinnati Duo Turtledoves are Challenging the Typical Listening Experience, One Release at a Time

Alex and Ashley McGrath of Turtledoves are releasing one new single every month this year.

Mar 8, 2023 at 5:15 am
click to enlarge Cincinnati musical duo Turtledoves - Photo: Devyn Glista of St. Blanc Studios
Photo: Devyn Glista of St. Blanc Studios
Cincinnati musical duo Turtledoves

This story is featured in the March 8 print issue of CityBeat.

In decades past, the album was the standard in releasing music – a great work that the public waited for. In some ways, especially with the renaissance of the vinyl record, the release of a complete body of work is still relevant. But in the last few years, streaming has changed the listening experience, forcing musicians to learn new ways of releasing music. 

With their current collection of songs, Alex and Ashley McGrath of Turtledoves are meeting that challenge head on by releasing one new single every month this year. Having shared their first song “Come On” in February and their second single “Precious Metals” on March 2, the Cincinnati duo has hit the ground running. These ten songs, broken up into two EPs, will ultimately find their way onto CD and or vinyl, but for the next several months, listeners can enjoy anticipating each new track.

The first group of songs – the five that will comprise the first EP, Secret Weapon – is a collection of powerful and edgy works. With a full band sound that is cinematic in scope, the music and lyrics are intended to grab the attention of the listener and hold it there, according to the band. Each song has its own story, but the two current singles plus the forthcoming song “Pavement” speak specifically about the McGraths’ experience in navigating the last few years and, as the McGraths say, invite listeners to reflect on the events that challenged all of us during the COVID pandemic. 

“‘Pavement’ is about transcending the chaos of what was happening in the world and finding something to anchor ourselves to.” Alex McGrath tells CityBeat.

Once all five songs from Secret Weapon are available, Turtledoves will give the fans a short break before releasing five more singles from the second EP, Two Dreams. In contrast to Secret Weapon, Ashley McGrath says Two Dreams will present songs that are more intimate and personal. With Ashley’s dreamy work on her Baldwin upright and Alex strumming his acoustic Gretsch, these personal conversations give a small glimpse into the couple’s kind, warm, and gentle personalities. 

For “My Big Guitar,” one of the singles from Two Dreams, Alex McGrath tells CityBeat that he wrestled with several old and unruly acoustic guitars for a long time before finally conceding and purchasing one that “cooperated.” He says that as a song that leans into the idea of surrender and comfort, “My Big Guitar sums up what Two Dreams is about. 

“These songs are about intimate times, about creating shelter, to insulate ourselves from the outside world,” Ashley McGrath says.

The McGraths say that the journey in creating these songs gave them the opportunity to dive deep into their sound. 

The McGraths say that while some of their music has been recorded in Colorado as well as at a friend's home in Newport, it’s the dining room of their own home that serves as Turtledoves headquarters. With homemade isolation tents for vocals and drums and PVC structures draped with blankets to dampen the reverberation of the 100-year-old plaster walls, the customized space provides them with most of their home recording needs. 

Working in tandem, the McGraths say they build their songs from ideas that they both bring to the table. One secret of the Turtledoves sound comes from their experiments with vintage equipment. The use of 1980s Casio and Yamaha Keyboards and excerpts from rare, ambient cassette tapes, have become go to techniques for layering and elevating their music. 

“We feel we’ve achieved a foundation, a sound that represents us, and we’re very excited to share it with everyone,” Alex McGrath says.

Turtledoves’ singles “Come On” and “Precious Metals” are streaming on most platforms. Info:

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