Martha Owen says that “Storytelling is something that sort of comes to you,” but her parents are the source of some of the inspiration she draws upon today. They were good storytellers, and her mother was from western North Carolina—where Martha spent many childhood summers—so her roots draw both from tradition and region. Her college training in early childhood education and literature, and time spent volunteering in schools, contribute to her storytelling skills as well.
Martha and her husband David Liden, play oldtime music together, trading off on banjo, fiddle, and guitar. David, who also tells stories and plays the jaw harp, has been a musician since his teens. Combining music and storytelling, Martha and David perform at schools, family reunions, and other events. One of their largest and oddest jobs, says Martha, was playing for the reunion of Burger King managers of Arkansas—an unlikely audience, but she says they and the Burger King managers all enjoyed themselves.
For more than twenty-five years Martha and David have raised sheep and angora rabbits. They process the animals’ wool themselves, performing every step from shearing to putting finishing touches on wool garments. They run Yarn Circle, a fiber arts supply store in Murphy, and in addition to their music and storytelling appearances, they offer demonstrations of spinning and weaving.
David Liden and Martha Owen tell stories and play oldtime music for a variety of events. Their preferred performance setting is playing for a small group in a relatively enclosed room, for better acoustics. They also demonstrate spinning and weaving for schools and festivals.