Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer’s “Compass” Points Home


When you’re a folk singer, it’s inevitable that you’ll be spending countless nights away from home. That never-ending journey is what inspired “Compass” by Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer, a folk duo based in the islands of the Pacific Northwest. The sweet song comes from their newest album, Maritime, which was just released in the U.S. after a successful launch in Europe.

Direct your attention to “Compass,” then read our Q&A with Fer just below the player.

CMT Edge: When I listen to “Compass,” I hear encouragement, persistence and also a sense of home. Do you feel like that’s accurate? What was going through your mind when you wrote it?

Fer: I started writing “Compass” right before our first tour to Europe, and then set it aside for a while. After returning from being abroad with so many memories, I knew the song had to reflect some of those insanely rich experiences, and what it was like to be on that journey. It definitely brings to light the longing for a sense of home that comes with constant travel.

While we’re on the road we often come across people and places that make us feel at home, and sometimes it can be really confusing to say goodbye to them and keep moving forward. It can rip our hearts right in two, but at the same time makes us feel so grateful for having the experiences in the first place.

The guitar-playing on here is beautiful and really adds to the dynamic ebb-and-flow of the arrangement. Is there something about these lyrics that pointed the way, so to speak, about the way you played?

A lot of the lyrics in the song are about traveling/movement so I knew the melody really had to drive and pulse behind those words. When we land on the chorus with “I wish I knew my way home” we intentionally pulled back the busy melodies so the central focus could be the almost lonesome-sounding vocals, in order for that be the pivotal moment of the song.

It’s interesting to follow you around the world on this song — California, Chicago, London, etc. I know there’s a lot of traveling in a musician’s life, but what is the personal reward in being in motion so much?

I’d have to say the biggest reward is seeing the goodness in people all around the world. Strangers in Germany opening their doors to us for a family dinner, farmers in Holland offering up homemade Dutch cheese … these amazing human experiences so far from home continue to fuel us to survive the hustle of being on the road.