The duo Folk by Association came together a bit more than
six years ago, in 2000, quite by accident, says Karen
Krajacic, the group’s brunette half. Krajacic, who sings
and plays guitar, was performing at a show on the Jersey
Shore, and another performer, Jill Unger, struck up a
conversation with her.
"She suggested we work together on one song that evening,
do it sort of off the cuff, and I said no," Krajacic says.
Despite that initial rejection, Krajacic soon realized
that the two women shared similar musical tastes and
styles, and that their voices sounded good harmonizing
together. "We realized that the professional chemistry was
there, and the next time we were scheduled to play at the
same place, we did do a couple of songs."
The rest is history, as they say. Krajacic and Unger began
practicing together, and soon they were formally a duo.
"It was an accidental but fortuitous turn of fate. We were
both very forthright about how serious we were about music
as a profession, and it has been a progression from there,
a slow but steady progression," Krajacic says.
Folk By Association will perform a Sunday morning
breakfast series show at Orpha’s Coffeeshop in Skillman on
January 21. The duo will also perform at John and Peter’s
in New Hope on Sunday, January 28. And they recently
performed at the new Coffeehouse Cafe in Pennington.
Both women have extensive backgrounds in folk, or at least
the sounds of singer-songwriters. As influences, the duo
cites performers such as the Indigo Girls, Simon and
Garfunkel, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Joni Mitchell, but
there are also touches of other genres as well. The
group’s second CD, "As We Travel" (available through
www.perplexed.net), released in the spring of 2006, is a
nine-song disc with production values that represent
somewhat of a departure from the band’s live shows. That
is to say, the duo added some other voices, including four
guest musicians. Krajacic and Unger take a lot of their
pride and identity from their harmonies, which are
prominent in this disc, as well as slight but definite
influences from jazz and world music.
"We are harmony-driven," says Krajacic. "That is the thing
that seems to catch people’s ears. Songwriting-wise, what
we do reflects our personalities. Jill is much more
laid-back, and I really envy that. What normally happens
is that I’ll bring her a song I have written or that I
think we could do well, to see if it’ll click for us, and
she’ll come up with the harmonies or the accompanying
The duo’s name comes from a realization that the style it
plays is not just folk. "We did not have a name for
ourselves the first few months," Krajacic says. "I like
the name because from my perspective, the side of my
musical personality was a lot more folk than I ever had a
chance to express, but the name also reflects what Jill
brought out of me. We are not just folk; we incorporate a
lot of different kinds of music. A lot of people tell me
that we are kind of hard to place, and that says to me
that we are something unique, and that’s good. I do not
want to be easily defined."
Krajacic grew up in Robbinsville. She is of Slavic
ancestry – her father, Ely, emigrated from Croatia more
than 40 years ago, and her mother, Irene, is locally born
of Polish heritage.
Recently, Krajacic went to Croatia and visited the areas
from which her family came. "For a year and a half, I
tried to learn Croatian," says Krajacic. "I tried to go
the self-taught route – the flash cards, that sort of
thing. But I just wasn’t quick enough."
Despite a brutal civil war that divided and destroyed the
country in the 1990s, Croatia is attempting to bring
itself back as a tourist destination. And it’s done a
pretty good job, according to Krajacic. "It’s so beautiful
there. When you go to the populated areas of the coast,
you can see the high number of tourists there from many
European countries. Driving through the countryside, you
can also see a lot of ruins, the shelled-out houses, the
things that have not yet been rebuilt."
It was tough on her father, Krajacic says. "But people are
quite positive about the future there. A lot of people say
Croatia is the best-kept secret in Europe. It is really an
amazing place. If you go, you have to see Dubrovnik, with
its walled old city. It’s incredible."
As she was growing up and attending Notre Dame High in
Lawrence, Krajacic was not particularly musical. "I was
kind of looking for ways to express myself artistically,"
she says. "I tried painting, drawing, learning piano. But
it was when I was in college and had friends who played
guitar that I really became hooked."
That was at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA; she
graduated in 1997 with a bachelors in sociology. "I
immediately became obsessed and transformed myself into a
self-taught musician. To my parents’ chagrin, that’s when
I decided that I wanted to do something with music."
It has been a struggle for the Ewing resident to make a
living as a musician – Krajacic, 30, has no other job –
but she has been willing to put in the work to make the
music work. She spends all of her waking hours either
practicing, writing, or booking her duo’s gigs around the
country. "I have fallen into the role of being the booker
and manager and doing whatever promotional stuff. This is
what I do on a day-to-day basis," says Krajacic, who is
single with no children. "It’s the most challenging thing
I can imagine. I am constantly putting myself in
unconventional circumstances, calling people, working out
Her efforts have largely paid off. Last year, Krajacic and
Unger traveled from New Jersey (Unger lives in Toms River)
west to Kansas, Iowa, Texas, and Colorado to play gigs,
and they plan to do the same this year.
Believe it or not, performing is still tough for both
women. "We are both naturally shy. We had the worst stage
fright before we had a lot of experience," Krajacic says.
"Even now it’s tough. But it’s go to work now and do your
job and try to enjoy it the best we can."
Folk by Association, Sunday, January 21, Orpha’s Coffee
Shop, Skillman, and Sunday, January 28, 3 p.m., John &
Peter’s, 96 South Main Street, New Hope.
www.johnandpeters.com or 215-862-5981.