Mara Levine is very well known in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Her recordings have climbed high on the folk music charts. She just released her latest album entitled “Facets of Folk”, which is already charting. Mara has performed both in the United States as will as in Europe. Christine Lavin said of Mara Levine, “Mara is one of the best singers of her generation.” Mara sings both traditional and contemporary folk music. I talked to Mara about her music and what she’s planning on next.
How did you become interested in folk music? When I was a kid my parents listened to folk music and it was a regular fixture in our household. They listened to a show Bob Sherman did called Woody’s Children that was on WFUD every Sunday. My father would tape the show and I had this exposure to all different folk music and it became ingrained in me as a young person. I started performing folk music in my late 20’s and I’ve never looked back.
How do you select your material? I listen to a lot of music, go to conferences and concerts, and I receive CDs that other artists send me. It’s a rare song that grabs me in such a way that I feel that I want to collect and sing it. For me the song has to have a really great melody, a great chorus, and many have a great message.
When you put together “Facets of Folk” was there a theme that you wanted to get across? Actually I did. I was inspired by the current political and social challenges that are facing us today. I thought a lot about the importance of speaking out against injustice. These are songs that I have been collecting over the years but have not recorded until this album.
A number of your recordings have been high up on the Folk DJ list. Can you explain your success with Folk DJs? My first CD, Mara’s Gems, debuted 18 on the DJ list, and was number 52 the year 2009. Then I had two singles (Straw Against The Chill and Leaves That Are Green) that were pre-released from Jewels and Harmony and made number 1 the month they were released. The album Jewels and Harmony itself was the #1 album, artist and song in October 2013, and the album was #3 for the whole year. Two of the songs on Facets of Folk were pre-released (You Reap What You Sow and By My Silence) both made #1 on the Folk DJ charts.
You have sung on other peoples recordings. Who are some of these artists? I am part of a duo with Caroline Cutroneo from Staten Island and we sometimes play with the group Celestrial Harmonies. I have a duo with Terry Kitchen and I’ve played and recorded with Gathering Time. And I’ve also participated in concerts with a variety of artists. I’ve also sung on other’s people’s recordings.
Interview by Ray Naylor (firstname.lastname@example.org)