Serendipity in Music City

We packed up an acoustic guitar and mandolin, stuffing their canvas cases with t-shirts and beanies to cushion their journey. It’s always risky, flying with acoustic instruments – but keep them in a soft case and try as they might, those airline employees can’t quite force you to surrender your baby to the crude handling of the luggage team. (“What was your name? Just so I know who to call if you make me check this and it’s a pile of matchsticks when we arrive.”)

Oh, but that’s the worst-case scenario. The matchsticks reference doesn’t really come up that often. For the most part, people are just curious about what you’ve got strapped to your back. That is, until you fly to Nashville, where a gleaming, cherry-red 1960s Gibson 335 in a crystalline display case greets you by baggage claim. Merle Travis is piped in over the loudspeakers. Patsy Cline smiles down from a giant billboard; next to her, Johnny Cash’s scathing gaze looks right through you. Welcome to Music City.

After landing we headed straight to Exit/In, a club that since its opening in 1971 “has taken its place among the nation’s most venerable, historic music venues.” Everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Etta James, from the Black Crowes to Death Cab for Cutie, has played there. We caught a raucous set by sister duo Larkin Poe, whose powerful voices and soaring guitars filled the room. For an encore, they invited up and coming guitarist Tyler Bryant and incredible slide player Robert Randolph (who had been standing next to us at the bar, unbeknownst to me!) to join them onstage. They then proceeded to bring the house down.

Even though we were new to town, and even though we had followed the impressive careers of some of these musicians but had never actually met them or heard them live, the whole night felt like an easygoing party amongst friends. After their killer encore, Robert Randolph stepped offstage and raised a glass with the crowd, which was mixed: all ages, some in cowboy hats, some in combat boots; young bucks barely of drinking age rubbing shoulders with old bikers who looked like they were born with beer in hand. It all felt very open and honest and straightforward: come as you are and enjoy the music. We’re glad you’re here.

The next day we headed to ASCAP (Association of Songwriters, Composers, and Publishers), the performance rights organization (PRO) which represents both me and Berna as music authors and publishers. I had heard that in the old days, the best thing was to meet a rep from your PRO, play your three best songs, and get their feedback. Maybe they’d tell you to take a hike, and keep your day job; maybe they’d pair you up with another writer.

In trying to schedule such an appointment, I had repeatedly heard the line that ASCAP represents over 750,000 writers and publishers these days, and their reps don’t have the bandwidth to meet with just any writer in their constituency. Fair enough. We showed up anyway.

While we were waiting in the lobby, the elevator opened and a tall, slim gentleman dressed all in black, with bright blue eyes, smiled. We smiled back, shook hands. He introduced himself – Ralph Murphy – and said if we waited he could meet with us. A few minutes later he ushered us into his office. The glass walls and modern furniture contrasted with the piles of books and old school stereo receiver. A large Bugs Bunny stuffed toy sat in one of his desk chairs, holding a guitar; Mickey Mouse lounged in another corner.

Ralph, Bugs, and Mickey all looked at us and waited. A little frazzled (he is the VP of ASCAP Nashville, after all…), I explained what we were there for and asked if we could play some songs for him. He nodded (Bugs and Mickey were stone faced), and from one phone we played a selection of our tunes while he read lyrics off another phone. He tapped his foot and listened intently, and for each song he had both general comments about the rules of writing hits and specific comments on the music and the message of the song. In 20 minutes I got more substantial, concrete feedback on my writing than I had in 15 years of gigging. I came away with some clear marching orders, all outlined neatly in the fresh copy of Ralph’s book which he generously gifted me. But perhaps most importantly, we came away inspired anew to work, reach, and refine our craft.

Despite the downpour outside, our footsteps were light. We walked by RCA Studios A and B – no big deal, just humble little studios where the likes of Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, and B.B. King have recorded (to name a few) – on our way back to the car. We spent the rest of the day in vintage guitar shops playing precious, beautiful, completely unaffordable museum pieces before heading to The Ryman Auditorium, the famed hall that originally hosted the Grand Ole Opry.

The band was Blackberry Smoke, whose sound blends the liquid, dual guitars of the Allman Brothers with the soulful edge of the Black Crowes. Pure southern rock with catchy guitar riffs and a tight rhythm section, punctuated by interjections from the guest pedal steel player. As has been happening to me a lot lately, this music at once brought me back & pitched me forward. The familiarity of the song forms, the harmonies, and even the bands’ flowing locks (a-la-Gregg and Duane) were comforting, and felt like home; but the songs’ insights and delivery were very much of the current moment.

My favorite song of their set was one I have come to call “Itty Bitty Town”(though the song is actually called “One Horse Town” and the lyrics talk about a “little bitty town”, not an itty bitty one… remember the “creative” song lyrics you’d come with as a kid, based on what you thought you were hearing on the radio?). Contrasting nostalgia and loyalty to family and home with ambitions of something bigger, “One Horse Town” illustrates a conflict that’s all too familiar to the artists and dreamers of small town America. And it’s just as true today as it would have been over a century ago (when leaving town actually did require you to saddle up your pony).

This was the kind of timeless story and detail that Ralph (and Bugs and Mickey) were pushing us towards – something specific yet relatable, unique yet universal. To see and hear such a stunning example of this kind of writing live, so soon after our meeting with him, seemed uncanny… or at the very least, serendipitous. But really, that’s just living in Nashville. The place is simply saturated with music – good music – and everywhere you turn, musicians are reaching back and looking forward, honing their craft, their ears and hearts open. It was all we could do to soak it in for the brief window we walked those streets, tucked into the curves of the swelling Cumberland River, whose singing currents blended with the twang of the honky tonks and drifted up, up, up over the valley, fading into the stars.

Folkin’ Christmas in NY

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On Sunday, December 9, Berna & I are psyched to be returning to New York City! We’ll play a cozy acoustic set at Rockwood Music Hall (stage 1) starting at 6pm. Nestled on the lower east side, Rockwood presents a variety of independent music 7 days a week on 3 different stages. The tunes are top notch, the staff is great, and the beer’s not bad either – so join us to kick off the holiday season in beautiful New York!

Cape Ann Song: A Ballad for my Salty Hometown

Ahoy!

It’s a new month, so it’s time for another new song – and this one hits (quite) close to home. Please enjoy my love song to Cape Ann, written while far from home…

Click to listen to Cape Ann Song!

Adventure at sunset 2016

As many of you know, in recent years I have spent a lot of time far from my home port. During one of the longer sojourns abroad, I made the mistake of re-reading the beautiful book Lone Voyager, by Gloucester author Joseph Garland. It tells the extraordinary story of Howard Blackburn, a dory fisherman out of Gloucester who, after losing his mother ship in a snow squall, ended up also losing his dory mate and both of his hands while rowing for his life through the storm. He eventually made it to shore, and slowly made his way back to Gloucester.

Incredibly enough, this was just the beginning of his illustrious career on the high seas: despite having lost his hands, Blackburn went on to sail solo across the Atlantic (multiple times); he sailed down the U.S. east coast, around the tip of South America, and back up the west coast to Alaska for an ill-fated stint in the gold rush (though that time he had a crew); and he also sailed solo up the Hudson River, across the Great Lakes, and as far down the Mississippi as he could – until his hull got stuck in the mud. An inspiring, salty soul, to say the least.

I say that reading Lone Voyager while traveling was a mistake because, well, it made me incredibly homesick. Images of that stunning, uniquely-New England light over the Atlantic peppered my dreams; I would wake up to imaginary gull cries, or fog horns echoing over invisible harbors. Beyond the rich maritime history of the place, its rich artistic history haunted me as well: the poems of T.S. Eliot drifted through my mind, and mingled with the dreamy Luminism of Fitz Henry Lane and Winslow Homer, or the stark realism of Edward Hopper. So many have passed through this port, and have been inspired to work, to dream, to create. This is more than an island, I thought.

And so, around that phrase, a song was born: my humble tribute to a place I am honored to call home. Nel mio piccolo (in my little way), I hope it does the place some semblance of justice.

As ever, I am so grateful to my fellow musicians and collaborators in realizing this song – and grateful to you for listening, for reading, for writing, for showing your support in so many ways. Thank you.

I will be headed home again in August (!), and will be booking/posting gigs around New England soon. I cannot wait to see & sing to you. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this little taste of home, sent from afar.

Wistfully,
Marina

New release: “Afterglow”!

The third single off Tide & Stars is here!

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A song from the road, Afterglow paints a picture of our troubadour’s life together – both its beauty & uncertainty – and also gives the new album its name:

We’ll set our course by tide and stars
No map to draw or follow
With one voice and two guitars
We’ll sing our tomorrow

Hope this track kicks off your weekend (and your spring) right – and if the spirit moves you, please share!

Opening for Kate Taylor at the Regent!

BIG NEWS! I am thrilled to be supporting none other than Sister Kate Taylor this November at the beautiful Regent Theater in Arlington, MA! Kate Taylor’s “Sister Kate Revisited” tour resurrects the singer/songwriter’s debut album, released back in 1971. Sharing a velvet voice and penchant for folk music with her brothers James and Livingston, Sister Kate is back on the scene after a long hiatus, and is not to be missed.

Bernardo and I are honored to kick off the concert, on November 8th, with an acoustic opening set of my songs. Join us for a night of original music by two songstresses in one of the Boston area’s premier theaters! Click here for tickets and more info.

Photo by Sheila Roberts Orlando

Photo by Sheila Roberts Orlando

Club Passim campfire.festival

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VERY excited to join the lineup at the legendary Club Passim‘s campfire.festival this weekend! I’ll be performing in the round with Maisie Bull, Liv Greene, and Lizzy Marella on Saturday, September 2. Our set starts at 2:15 pm, but there’s an incredible lineup of independent musicians throughout the weekend. Grab a weekend pass to catch all of this new and inspiring music! Click here for full lineup, ticket info, and more.

Opening for Dar Williams at The Cabot – 3/17!

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Exciting news! Marina is honored to be supporting none other than Dar Williams at the beautiful Cabot Theater in Beverly, MA on March 17!

One of the most lauded singer-songwriters of her generation, Dar Williams has been captivating audiences with her sheer elegance and honesty in her folk-pop songwriting since the early ’90s. Williams’ growth as an individual over her almost three-decade-long career has gone hand-in-hand with her evolution as an artist. She has toured with such distinguished artists as Joan Baez, Patty Griffin, Ani DiFranco, and Shawn Colvin, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post‘s Green Blog. A dedicated environmentalist, Williams toured throughout the northeast visiting children’s camps and planting bee gardens in summer 2011.

Marina has long been a fan of Dar’s, first having seen her 15+ years ago (!) at a solo acoustic show. Dar’s exuberant stage presence and insightful, funny, and honest songwriting have continued to inspire Marina as her own performance and writing career has developed.

This promises to be a memorable night of original music performed by one of the biggest names in American folk, supported by a local rising star. Don’t miss it! Click here for tickets and event details.

Rising Stars in Folk: Marina Evans & Alice Howe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 3: Singer/songwriters Alice Howe and Marina Evans join forces for a night of original acoustic music at The Burren. The Boston-born songwriters have traveled far and wide with their music — in Alice‘s case, to the western shores of Seattle, and in Marina’s case, across the Atlantic to Florence, Italy (Marina will be joined onstage by Bernardo Baglioni, Italian-born guitarist and producer, and, incidentally, her husband!). On this rare occasion the two songbirds  find themselves back in Boston at the same time, and are eager to share their new music — featuring sweet, sultry vocals, insightful lyrics, and unusual melodies — with a hometown crowd.

Purchase tickets online in advance using the coupon code below to get a special discounted rate!

 

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Opening for the Adam Ezra Group!

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Saturday, February 25: Marina & Bernardo head down to Fall River, MA to support New England favorite the Adam Ezra Group at the Narrows Center for the Arts! Marina’s sultry voice and Bernardo’s gritty slide guitar are a perfect warmup to the rollicking, heartfelt, socially conscious music of AEG, a group that’s fast-rising to national acclaim. This is one show of original, homegrown New England music that you won’t want to miss!

Tickets:

About the Adam Ezra Group: A tireless touring outfit, the Adam Ezra Group (AEG) played upwards of 200 shows in 2015, often devoting their time to local charities and always going out of their way to connect with fans. The Group is made up of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist, Adam Ezra, Alex Martin on drums, Turtle on percussion, Corinna Smith on fiddle, Francis Hickey on bass and Josh Gold on keys. Together they are creating a powerful, inclusive community around AEG shows that is beginning to be compared to a social-movement as much as a traditional music fan-base.

 

Now Teaching @ Marblehead/Salem School of Music!

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Marina is excited to be joining the team at the Marblehead/Salem School of Music this winter! She will be giving lessons in voice, guitar, songwriting, and ukulele. Study with Marina while she’s home — she will only be in the States until the early spring, so catch her while you can! Click here to learn more and sign up!

More about the Marblehead/Salem School of Music:

At the Marblehead and Salem Schools of Music, we strive to provide a total musical experience for each student. Drawing on the wide-ranging talents of our teaching staff, we are able to match student and teacher based on a variety of criteria, including personality, learning style, goals, and interests. As part of private lessons, all students are given the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians and to showcase their skills; either live, at a formal or informal recital, or in the recording studio.

We make lessons fun and our studios funky, but everything is rooted in pure, wholesome academics. We track student’s weekly progress in a password protected database to make parent-teacher communication seamless. We take pride in the accomplishments of all of our students and view their growth both as individuals and as musicians as our success.