Now Hear This typically features Nashville-based artists, but today we're pumped to bring you a premiere from one of our favorite San Francisco folk singers, the inimitable Rachel Garlin. Garlin is a big fan of the City That Listens, and shares her unique perspective on it in this interview.
Listen to the lively "Spin," from her 5th independent album, Wink At July, out 4/21, below.
Tell us about the song "Spin," and what inspired it.
Car door open, ready to say goodbye, I was standing in the street with an old friend. She was visiting from out of town (spontaneously), and I was able to meet up with her on short notice. We were musing about how lives can get so busy, how time passes and we miss opportunities to just stop and visit. She said something like "after all, you're a human BEING not a human DOING." And as I drove away, I kept thinking about that comment, how we spend so much time doing things and getting places and sometimes we forget to just BE. And that's how I wrote the first line of the song, and the rest came spinning and tumbling after . . .
When's the last time you were in Nashville? Any thoughts on the city?
I love Nashville. I was first invited there by Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Kye Fleming who was kind enough to take me under her wing and show me the town. After my first visit, Kye encouraged me to come back and spend a chunk of time there, so I did that in the fall of 2006. I lived in a little house on Graybar Lane within biking distance to the Bluebird and I used to cycle around town under the shade of the cherry trees .
Since then, I've returned a couple of times to play shows or meet with folks on Music Row. I always get a good feeling when I'm there, knowing that the place is steeped in songwriting.
Do you watch the show Nashville?
I have not seen the show . . . I can only imagine!
You've played the Bluebird Cafe in the past. What's that like?
There is no place in the world like the Bluebird: An intimate listening room where people come together on a nightly basis to pay attention to songs and stories. I learn so much every time I go there. There's got to be magic in that space . . . with all of the songs that have crept into its walls and how deep its roots are.
Nashville is a big co-writing town. What are your thoughts on co-writing?
My first Nashville host, Kye Fleming, taught me about co-writing. The best part is just being in a room with someone and seeing where the collective spirit takes you. A lot of the songs I write come out of a freestyle of process where I simultaneously strum my guitar, sing melodies that come into my head and improvise lyrics out loud until something enduring arises. When I meet others who enjoy this same kind of improv-style writing, we usually have fun co-writing.
What's the last good concert you've been to?
Sarah McLachlan at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. My buddies Jon Evans and Curt Bisquera play bass and drums in her band and it was awesome to hear them live. She's got an incredible voice, great stories and presence on stage, and she puts on a really inspired show. I left feeling energized and lucky. The Greek Theater is great too, because you're there under the gaping sky and a vast sprinkling of stars but somehow the space still feels intimate. It's an old school amphitheater and I love that. Plus, my high school graduation took place there many years ago so it always brings me back!