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20 Questions With Mare Wakefield & Nomad

The rootsy Nashville duo on Rumi, Raki, reincartion & rocking out around the house.

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Photo by Martin O'Connor.

Mare Wakefield & Nomad know that two heads are better than one. Just one week after premiering their latest single Give Myself To Love exclusively HERE, the Nashville duo put their noggins together and gave themselves over to my ridiculous questions. Here’s hoping they don’t end up with two headaches for the price of one:

 


 

Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
Mare Wakefield & Nomad. American Scorpio and Turkish Capricorn. Old enough to know better but young enough not to care! We’ve been living happily ever after in East Nashville since 2005.

What is your musical origin story?
Mare: It’s impossible to separate our musical origin story from our love story, We were both new students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. It was the first day of ear-training class so the teacher was calling role. I remember the teacher start to stutter over an unpronounceable Turkish name, and then this voice from behind me calls out: “Hi, that’s me. I’m going by a nickname here. Call me Nomad.” There was something about that “call me Nomad” that just sent a lightning bolt through my heart. Even now, I’m not sure I fully understand what happened. Friends have speculated Cupid’s arrow or a past life remembrance, but the theory that appeals most to me is that we get these moments in life where we can “remember” our future – the same way we remember our past (an idea that owes its generation to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five). Hard to say if our musical collaborations led to romance or if our romance led to musical collaborations, but by the time we left Boston three years later, we began planning a tour and a wedding!

What’s your latest project? Tell us everything we need to know.
No Remedy is our third record as a duo. The first single Give Myself To Love debuted on March 19, and the entire record will be available May 21. It sounds weird to say this, but the pandemic really made this record a hundred times better than it otherwise would have been. We were overbooked for the spring and summer of 2020, and had only left a few short weeks to finish all the tracking, mixing and mastering between different tours. When all the tours got cancelled, we realized that we finally had time to make the record we’d always dreamed of. Some tracks were remixed, some parts were scrapped, some songs were completely redone. Produced by Nomad and mixed by Grammy-nominated engineer Bobby Holland (ZZ Ward, Maggie Rose, Wade Bowen), the record features 11 original songs with arrangements artfully executed by bassist Brian Allen (Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile), drummer Wes Little (Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys) and guitar, banjo and mandolin from Tim Galloway (Luke Bryan, Josh Turner).

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
We strive for a genuine connection to our audience, while remaining authentic to ourselves. We play a lot of house concerts, and so we quite literally break bread with the people that we play music for. Also, Nomad’s Turkishness! I don’t know how many Turkish / Americana folk duos there are in the world, but I’d say that variety and diversity of sound and perspective is definitely an asset to our act, and our lives! 🙂

How will my life improve by listening to your music?
Mare: I believe that music — ALL music — (and all art for that matter) is what sets us apart as a species, and thus what truly connects us to one another. Seems like we’ve been making art and music since we came down out of trees and started walking upright. It’s consistent across so many different time periods and geographies and ways of life. Music is an integral part of what it means to be human. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of being caught up in the daily routine, running down the to-do list, etc., and then being stopped cold by a song, or a painting, or a sculpture. For just a moment, we get a break from the daily grind and we’re transported to a higher plane. We reconnect to the divine, to the mystery, to the infinite. If one of our songs can do that for you, even if just for a few moments, then I feel we’ve done our job.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
Mare: I wrote my first song when I was 6. Though I certainly didn’t know that’s what I was doing. My younger brother was crying, and I went to the piano and plunked out a melody on the keys while making up a silly song to cheer him up. His name is Greg, and I remember I rhymed “Greg” with “turtle egg” (why “turtle” and not “chicken” or something I’ve no idea). He was so surprised to hear a song with his name in it that he stopped crying. To me that felt like magic! I’ve been hooked ever since.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you have given?
Nomad: Mare and I started playing out together while we were still students in Boston. We had finished a gig in a dive bar up in Somerville and were sitting at the bar talking with the bartender. A super-drunk patron came up and complimented us on our playing, and then he turned around and puked on the floor! All of my performance experiences before this had been in classical music settings, so this kinda blew my mind. Felt super rock ’n’ roll!

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen?
Mare: There was a guy whose name I can’t remember now. But I had been hearing some buzz about him and saw that he was coming to Nashville, so I marked the date and went out on a rainy night to his show. I was one of only five or six people in the audience, and the guy was basically throwing a tantrum on stage. He kept saying things like “Well, since nobody’s here, I guess I’ll play this one … ” I still remember how disrespected and small that made me feel, and so I vowed that even if there was only one person in the audience, I would still give them my all. It was a bad show, but a good lesson!

What living or dead artists would you collaborate with if you could?
Rumi! We actually are collaborating with him in a way. We have a book of his poetry and have been building songs using lines and ideas from some of his poems. He lived in Anatolia (before it became known as Turkey) so it feels like a true amalgamation of both of our cultures. The project is probably still a year or two from being finished, but we’re really enjoying the journey!

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
Funny you should ask! Earlier today we were cleaning the house, blasting classic rock (Heart, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, etc.). It’s really great music for housework or manual labor!

Tell us a joke.
Nomad wrote this joke: Q: What’s the difference between an accordion and a condom? A: A condom is ONLY 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
Cooking, baking, gardening, roofing! Nomad built our entire recording studio from the ground up. Mare recently conquered the tricky double bake on some yummy orange almond biscotti. 🙂

What do you collect?
Literally litter!!! Since we couldn’t go to the gym (or anywhere!) during the pandemic, we started taking long walks through our neighborhood. We noticed quite a bit of litter on the streets so we bought a grabber and started picking up what we could as we walked. This has been going on for almost a full year now, and it’s actually been super empowering! In a time when we were so helpless about so many things, this was one tiny thing we could do to help out the neighborhood. (We just made a short video of one of these walks which will be up on social media very soon)

What would you like to be reincarnated as?
Nomad: A bald eagle! They’re not threatened, they’re at the top of the food chain, they have a wide habitat and they can fly! Or, myself again but 6’7” so that I could finally dunk!

What’s your idea of perfect happiness / total misery?
Nomad: Perfect happiness: A sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after a decent day’s work.

What are you afraid of?
Nomad: Snakes … I hate snakes

What would the title of your autobiography be?
Beauty and the Beast! LOL. But seriously, in our musical journey, Nomad tends to be more the muscle and forward-driving force, while Mare is more creative, ethereal and aesthetically minded … so perhaps the title fits?

What’s your motto?
Mare: Be here now.
Nomad: Save the drama for your mama!

What’s always in your refrigerator?
There’s a Turkish booze called Raki. It tastes a lot like Ouzo — super-high alcohol content and strong anise taste. Neither one of us likes it and we had a half-full bottle in our freezer for years. Finally one day we needed to make room and so decided to go ahead and just pour it out. Very soon after that — within a week! — we had a house guest. A Turkish man for whom Nomad was recording a few songs. The man showed up with a gift for us: A bottle of Raki!!! That’s when we realized it must be a universal law that all Turkish men need a bottle of Raki in their freezer at all times. We’ve had one ever since.

What’s the best and / or worst advice you were ever given?
Nomad: Best: My teacher at Berklee once told me there were two reasons to play music. You’re either having fun or you’re getting paid. Not every performance has to do both! But if the gig isn’t satisfying at least one of these, don’t do it. It’s great advice and I’ve never forgotten it!

Check out Give Myself to Love and some live performances above, hear more from Mare Wakefield & Nomad below, and connect with them on their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Photo by Martin O’Connor.