Husband/wife duo is ruled by serendipity
Ryan Furstenburg and Melissa Hyman each had things going as singer/songwriters before they met in 2011. But once they combined their creativity, the result was something special. “Our first date was playing music together,” Furstenburg recalls. “Melissa offered me money.”
“I could tell he was really broke,” Hyman adds. Clearly the pair — now husband and wife — enjoy a little good-natured verbal sparring. It’s a key to their effectiveness as a musical duo. “I guess I must have had a little crush on you, Fursty,” she says. “It was mutual,” Furstenburg replies.
At the time, Hyman was playing a series of gigs at senior homes across North Carolina. “So I asked Ryan, ‘If I book these senior homes in Winston-Salem, do you want to come play them with me?’” she recalls. “Because then I knew he would have to come over to my house and practice. And that meant that I could cook for him.”
It worked, and they clicked instantly. But they both still had their own musical projects; for his part, Furstenburg was playing rock ‘n’ roll in Uncle Mountain with future River Whyless musician Daniel Shearin. Hyman played in Ten Cent Poetry with Chelsea La Bate. “We didn’t see each other very often because we were both on tour a lot,” Furstenburg says. They became a couple, but not yet a musical outfit.
Then, what might have looked like two unfortunate, unrelated events added up to an opportunity. “Both of our bands broke up within a month of each other,” Hyman recalls. “And we were like, ‘We need to become a band now, because we don’t want to do anything else!’”
Such was the start of The Moon and You. Their honeymoon would be a concert tour of Europe.
Even though the pair came from somewhat different musical backgrounds, their combined style was determined by what each brought to the project. “I think we were just honed in by our instruments,” admits Furstenburg, who sings and plays guitar and banjo. “Just an acoustic duo. I don’t think there was a lot of thought process that went into it.”
Hyman is a classically trained cellist. “But she was already a folkie,” Furstenburg insists. And Hyman agrees. “I grew up on a lot of singalongs at my house,” she says. “But my cello life and my singing life were separate for a long time.”
Those pursuits combine gracefully in the context of the duo. Hyman and Furstenburg released their debut record, The Ocean’s Lonely Daughter, in 2013. A live album and three more studio releases would follow; 2019’s Big Mystery is their latest. That record is a kid-focused record of lullabies, and the project gave the couple the opportunity to rope in a who’s-who of local friends and musical notables.
But at its core, The Moon and You remains very much the creative expression of Furstenburg and Hyman, and the lyrical themes they explore via crystalline instrumentation and sweet harmonies communicate the love they share.
It all happens very naturally. And even though The Moon and You’s albums are finely crafted, polished affairs, the couple’s easygoing nature is reflected in the informal approach they take to making those records. “I wouldn’t say that we plan too much, would you?” asks Furstenburg, giving his partner the final word.
“That’ll be an ongoing theme,” Hyman says with a chuckle. “So far, our approach has been to assemble a recording setup — one that often involves borrowing pieces from friends — and then assembling a band that involves borrowing friends. And then … we throw it all together at home in a way that costs as little as possible.”
After the laughing subsides, Hyman provides an answer that sums up what The Moon and You is really about. She concedes that — strictly speaking — music isn’t something that’s absolutely necessary in life. But she says that at its best, in a live setting, “you’re doing something that hopefully makes everyone in the room feel connected, inspired, and curious about what happens next.”