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.

Opening for LEANN RIMES!

LeAnn Rimes with opener Marina Evans at The Cabot Theater

February 8, 2019: Marina is honored and SO excited to open for acclaimed singer/songwriter LeAnn Rimes at the beautiful Cabot Theater in Beverly, Massachusetts.

LeAnn’s career spans several decades, 16 studio albums, and countless international tours and accolades. She comes to Beverly together with her band to perform new music off her most recent album, as well as familiar favorites from her expansive catalog.

Marina will open up the show solo acoustic, performing her original songs combining her background in jazz with traditional folk, americana, and a dash of blues grit.

Click here for tickets & more information. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours soon!

Riverwalk Nashua w/Dwight & Nicole

Dwight & Nicole supported by Marina & Berna at the Riverwalk Cafe.

Marina & Berna are looking forward to returning to one of their favorite New Hampshire venues, the Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar in Nashua, to support blues-soul trio Dwight & Nicole on February 2.

Together, Dwight & Nicole have toured up and down the Northeast, growing a fiercely loyal fan base, and self releasing two award-winning albums through crowd funding. The Boston Globe calls them “A tour de force that demands much wider success” and describes their sound as “poignant, hard-driving and heavenly”.

Marina & Berna will open up the show with their unique blend of folk, americana, and gritty blues, refined over many years spent together on the road, the stage, and in the studio, from Italy to California and just about everywhere in between.

Join us for this great show at the Riverwalk – click here for tickets and more information.

Opening for David Mallet!

david-mallett-2018

I am very excited to announce that I will be supporting none other than David Mallett this March at the lovely Me & Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA!

In a career spanning four decades, David Mallett has recorded 14 albums, and has had several hundred covers of his songs – including the American folk classic Garden Song [Inch by Inch, Row by Row] – performed in clubs, concert halls and festivals across the US, Canada and Europe. He has appeared on numerous broadcasts, including National Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. Known for his carefully written, poetic offerings, his body of work has provided material for an eclectic list of artists that includes Alison Krauss, Pete Seeger, Hal Ketchum, Emmylou Harris, John Denver and the Muppets.

“Mallett is a first rate folk singer and writer. His portraits and townscapes are camera sharp, and his knowledge of his subjects is profound.”

-Ed Morris, Billboard

Join us on March 15, 2019 for an intimate acoustic concert at the beautiful Me & Thee Coffeehouse, located at 28 Mugford Street, Marblehead, MA! Click here for tickets and more info.

Folkin’ Christmas in NY

marina berna livorno

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

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

From the wilds of Maine to NYC

Acadia shot 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, the beauty of New England in the summertime: my two next shows couldn’t be more different from each other! First, Bernardo and I head north to the wilds of Maine to play an intimate concert at the beautiful Somerset Abbey up in Madison, ME on September 9. We will camp in stunning Acadia before heading over to Madison for dinner & a show — let us serenade you as you dine! Tickets and more info available here.

Next up, we’re southbound for New York City! We’ll be playing an acoustic set at the Rockwood Music Hall on the lower East Side, down on Allen Street, on September 16 at 4pm. A cozy venue with great original music from local and touring acts, Rockwood features some of the best undiscovered, up and coming music around. Visit their website to see the full lineup… hope to see you, New Yorkers!

Club Passim campfire.festival

marina at club passim 2017 campfire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Summer shows!

Marina & Berna in VT 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, hello! I write from a glowing screen in an old stone house in the hills of Chianti, the dark green Persian blinds drawn tight against the summer swelter outside. The wheat sways and glows gold, spilling down the hillside to the well in the valley below. Summer is here, the cicadas are singing, the jasmine is blooming… and I am booking, booking, booking!

After another few weeks in this blissful place, Berna and I will hop a plane and head back to salty New England, guitars in hand, where my trusty steed (… Honda) awaits. The trunk is already packed: tent, fishing pole, amps, CDs. We’ll hit the ground running — as usual — with shows booked in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York City (and more on the way). We’ll be stretching out some new tunes — including one in Italian (!) — off my forthcoming album Tide & Stars. And we would LOVE to see & sing to you. It’s been too long!

Click here to view upcoming gigs on the books. I’m adding more shows all the time, though, so check back often if you don’t find one in your area — or follow me (Facebook) (Instagram) to stay up to date! Thanks team… and see you SOON!

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