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Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog

Remembering grandma’s 8-track still a key note for Mare Wakefield

By JIM DRAKE Hood River News

I’m beginning to think the 8-track copy of John Denver’s Greatest Hits must have existed in every household in America. I certainly remember hearing his voice in our Toyota Corolla, as a passenger of course, in New Jersey in the early ‘70s. Yesterday, musician Mare (pronounced Mary) Wakefield told me of a similar experience it brought on — the simple comfort of liking music.

“One of my earliest musical memories is being six years old at my grandma’s house in Oklahoma. I was supposed to be taking a nap, and she put in a John Denver 8-track (laughs) and it must have been a greatest hits package of some sort, because it had all the big songs, Country Road, Rocky Mt. High, Sunshine on My Shoulders, and Annie’s Song. I didn’t sleep at all. I just remember lying in bed, looking at the sunlight moving across the ceiling. That was the first time that I had the conscious awareness of ‘wow, I like this music, this is really beautiful music,’” Wakefield said.

Wakefield and her husband, Nomad, have been crafting songs together for 13 years, and she credits Denver for what she writes about.

“He walked this line between folk and country, with beautiful melodies and nature themes. I feel like in my songwriting I’ve stayed relatively true to that, and I take a lot of inspiration from nature and geography. It was so long ago, but I felt like my heart had a musical home in that,” Wakefield said on the phone from Bellingham, a stop on what’s become an annual 10-week NW tour for the duo.

Their show in Hood River on Sept. 9 marks the third time the couple has visited.

“I used to live in Oregon, so we always do a big tour out to the West coast. We just played the Tumbleweed Festival in Richland, and tonight we’re in Bellingham. We’ve got shows in Portland and Seattle, too. We mainly do festivals, house concerts and listening rooms. We try to stay out of the sports bars (laughs),” Wakefield said.

Wakefield launched into a full-time music career after being awarded a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she committed to songwriting as a major.

“I had always been doing music part time, even in high school and college when I was singing in cover bands. I was a self-taught songwriter, but I couldn’t figure out why some songs were better than others, because I didn’t have the tools to analyse any of that. In immersing myself at Berklee, I got a heavy dose of music theory and ear training. Studying the craft of songwriting has put me on a solid path. You still need the inspiration part, the bolt of lightning out of the sky, but if you have the tools at your fingertips, it’s easier to craft a solid song,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield’s latest songwriting efforts can be found on the latest CD “Poet on the Moon,” which has landed in the top ten on the folk and roots music charts.

“It’s Americana-folk, which is a good starting point for people, and it’s original music. I sing and play guitar, and my husband Nomad plays beautiful piano, and sings background vocals, so we’re a hard-working married-couple duo,” Wakefield said.

The duo should easily be able to replicate the mellow folk sounds from the new CD at the upcoming house concert, especially since there’s a real piano in the room, something Wakefield was fondly remembering.

“House concerts are one of our most favorite venues to perform at, because you get to share the story behind the song, and the stories from the road. You really get to connect with people. It’s a lovely intimate setting for an acoustic music concert. We travel with an electric keyboard, too, but I know there’s a piano at the Hood River show, so we’ll be able to use both,” Wakefield said.

“We’ll definitely be doing the title track to ‘Poet’ and a great song called ‘Empty,’ with a sweet piano part. We’ll also play a song called ‘Rattlesnake’ that the radio people liked a lot,” Wakefield said.

house concerts Paul Blackburn is hosting two Hood River house concerts in September: Tuesday, Sept. 9, Mare Wakefield. Critics say Wakefield is “Cozy brilliance, like the merger of Natalie Merchant, Shawn Colvin and Dolly Parton.”

Wednesday, Sept. 10, Craig Carothers. Originally from Portland, Nashville-based Craig Carothers is an award winning songwriter who’s work has been recorded by the likes of Trisha Yearwood and Peter Paul and Mary.

Donations will be accepted. 401 Montello, Hood River Contact: 541-387-4011

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