Mare Wakefield on new single “Give Myself To Love” from forthcoming album ‘No Remedy’

Photo by Martin O'Connor
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The Americana duo made up of husband and wife Mare Wakefield and Nomad recently released a new single, “Give Myself To Love,” from their forthcoming album No Remedy set to release May 21. Based in Nashville, the duo had a 2020 tour scheduled throughout the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada, but COVID struck, and like all musicians, tours came to a complete halt. Again, like most musicians, the pair used this time to finishing their album. Nomad says, “The pandemic allowed us to make the record we’ve always dreamed of.”

Mare Wakefield fills us on her background in music and No Remedy.

“Despite all the madness and chaos in the world, love is the only thing that truly matters—I believe that 100 percent!”

Share with us a little about your background in music.

I’ve been singing on stages since I was seventeen. I started off singing back-up in a blues, rock and reggae cover band called Sister Southpaw. We’d play in bars and I’d have to go outside on breaks. My mom came to every one of those early gigs to keep me company.

Because of this early band, the singer-songwriter and folkier music that I was personally drawn to (Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Edie Brickell) was tempered with the songs I was learning for the band (Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley). Throw in some classic rock for good measure, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of my early musical education.

All these different songs and styles left an imprint on my musical DNA. It sometimes frustrates Nomad because one song I write will sound “kinda bluesy,” another will be straight-up country, and the third will be pure folk-pop. We’ve had serious discussions about trying to intentionally narrow our repertoire to be more “marketable,” but in the end, I keep finding I have to be true to whatever song is coming at me.

What’s the inspiration behind your new music?

That song demanded to be written while we were backstage at a venue in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The melody and the first few lines came immediately, like a bolt of lightning. “I’ve never been a hero, and I doubt I’m gonna be heroic soon…” It was just like one of those cliche songwriting stories about the writer scribbling the whole song down on a cocktail napkin, only in this case I at least had our touring logbook within reach.

The lyrics were fine-tuned in the car on our way back to Nashville. The narrator of the song (mostly me) was really struggling to find her way through all the dysfunction and trials of modern life, but she keeps coming back to just surrendering to love: “I just want to give myself to love, love will keep my heart from giving up…”

The song was finished slightly before the time of COVID and the quarantine. But as 2020 progressed, we heard from more and more people about how much the song was resonating with them right then (“we’re on the road to ruin now, and everything is worse than it might seem”). That’s when we started describing the song as a mantra for uncertain times. At the end of the day, the song is basically saying that despite all the madness and chaos in the world, love is the only thing that truly matters—I believe that 100 percent!

What was the songwriting and recording process?

If you listen closely, you’ll hear that the verse and chorus are actually in different (but related) keys. After the lyrics and general structure of the song was done, Nomad and I were working on an arrangement, including finding a key. We soon realized that the chorus was too high to sing comfortably, but then if we moved it down, the verse started to be too low. We explored a few different keys and the pushing of vocal ranges, but eventually, we realized that a direct modulation to a related key was the answer. Even though it came about as a solution to a “problem,” I really love how the song shifts musical gears for the chorus—really makes your ear hone in to that part.

We are fortunate enough to have our own recording studio, and for the initial recording process, we brought in a full band: bass, drums, electric guitar. But something about that arrangement felt too heavy and didn’t seem to match the spirit of the song. We wound up trading the drums for a shaker, trading electronic keyboard for accordion, and adding another layer of acoustic guitars. Tim Galloway contributed fabulous banjo and mandolin, which were each given plenty of space to shine.

What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?

Nomad and I enjoy what we do.

You know those moments when you’re caught up in the hectic schedule of everyday life, and then suddenly you’ll hear a melody, or catch a line of poetry, or even see a painting or a sculpture, and suddenly you’re transported? You transcend the everyday and catch a glimpse of a higher plane, a brief reconnecting with the divine.

Everyone responds to different works of art, and what moves one person may do nothing for someone else. But if one of our songs can momentarily provide even just one person with this feeling of connectedness, then I know we’ve done our job.

When did you first pick up the guitar and what drew you to that instrument?

I was seventeen, in the aforementioned cover band, when I first laid hands on a guitar. I kept wanting to bring folky songs to the band, and out of frustration, the lead guitarist finally said, “You wanna sing that song? Here, you play it.” He sent me home with his old beater acoustic guitar and a dog-eared songbook of folk tunes from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember that as I was leaving that practice session, he called out to me, “If you’re serious about guitar, your fingers should be bleeding by the end of this week!”

If he was trying to scare me off, it didn’t work!

The action was high on that guitar, and my fingers were definitely sore after even just a few hours. But there was something absolutely magical about finally being able to accompany myself (sort of) on all these old songs that I loved so much. One of the first songs I learned was “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The very next song I played was one I made up on the spot, using those same three chords. From that point on, I’ve never looked back.

One kinda funny side note is that I’m left-handed, but I play guitar right-handed. I don’t know if that guitarist from all those years ago even knew that I was a lefty, but the guitar he loaned me was a right-handed guitar. So that’s what I learned on, and that’s all I’ve ever played. I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a left-handed guitar until years later, and still to this day, I’ve never even tried playing one.

Who are some of your musical influences?

In a “life’s journey” kinda way, there are probably too many to even try to name (see the above description of my time in a cover band.)

But if the question is more “who do we sound like,” I’d say: Emmylou Harris meets Shawn Colvin meets Aimee Mann. Throw in a Turkish piano prince, and you’ll start to get some kind of picture! 🙂

What’s next?

Like all musicians right about now: We’d love to get back on the road!! 😀

Beyond that, we have another whole record’s worth of songs pretty much ready to go. I’d love to be able to hit the road in support of No Remedy before we head back to the studio, but who knows what COVID will have to say about that.

Also coming down the eventual pipeline is a collection of songs based on writings by Rumi, the 13th-century philosopher, poet, and Sufi mystic. Rumi lived part of his life in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), and we’re excited to incorporate Turkish instruments and sounds into the project. I’ve been writing on an instrument called the saz, which is like a Turkish version of a lute. It’s very different from guitar; it’s got seven strings (two sets of doubles like a mandolin and one set of octaved triples), and an open, droning aspect to it which I just love. Plus, it’s soooo much fun to get out of my own comfort zone and experiment with different sounds and rhythms.

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