A couple Saturday afternoons ago, Melissa Hyman lugged two Hefty bags down Asheville’s Lexington Avenue to the trunk of her car. They were filled with blankets.
“I don’t know if we’re gonna put anyone to sleep, but I kinda want to,” Hyman said. “I want to have a set up in front of the stage of just lots of pillows and blankets and see if anyone falls asleep there.”
Putting audiences to sleep is about the last thing a performer is after. But the Asheville duo The Moon and You -- Hyman and her husband, Ryan Furstenberg -- have a new album of lullabies called “Big Mystery,” they’re planning a blanket fort as a centerpiece for the CD-release show, 2pm June 23 at the Grey Eagle in Asheville -- timed perfectly for an afternoon nap.
“One really cool experience in producing this record was realizing pretty early on that each track would become a soundscape that evoked a different dream,” Hyman said. “I loved getting into that mindset of ‘What is this dream like? What are the images we want to try to call to mind? What is the feeling we want to try to evoke with this music?’ And as a songwriter who’s always been more focused on lyrics, this was an incredibly satisfying exercise.”
Furstenberg, who plays guitar and banjo, is from eastern North Carolina and switched sides when his entire rock band enrolled at Appalachian State. Hyman was a singer from Long Island, N.Y., who found a doorway into Asheville’s music scene through playing the cello.
Before the two met, in 2011, Hyman had been performing several times each week in nursing homes, and they spent their first date playing for seniors in Winston-Salem.
“The senior home circuit was kind of performance boot camp for us, just playing consistently a couple hours a day in a low-stakes environment,” Hyman said. “It felt like a safe place to learn how to be performers and be vulnerable in front of an audience that may or may not have anything to give you in return.”
The Moon and You’s own artistry was hard to pin down. The first two records of their own music are a mishmash of folk, lounge pop, gypsy jazz and Americana. Now comes “Big Mystery,” born from an Asheville booking agent who commissioned the couple to write an album of lullabies for his new son. More than a dozen singers and musicians joined them in their home studio.
“These are people that were Asheville famous when I got here in 2007 and it was a thrill to have them sing songs we wrote, in our bedroom,” Hyman said.
She mentions the song “My Bean,” featuring vocalist Pierce Edens.
“I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of him for a lullaby album because his singing voice tends to be very gruff, like Tom Waits,” she said. “I asked him to sing it like a muppet and one crooning. We went with the muppet.”
Hyman and Furstenberg have performed in Belgium, Portugal, France and in a casino, among other places. They’re starting to record other artists out of their home studio and hope to grow that into a steady side business. In the meantime, they’ll continue touring, meeting and collaborating with other musicians along the way.
“We both want to cobble together a creative professional life that is in line with our passions and our morals and our need to be delighted,” she said.