& WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS Playlist for May 15, 2016
Honesty and challenge are two factors that Marci Geller used to her advantage to create a masterpiece of a CD with her latest release Square Peg. A songwriter whose profile has been rising in recent years, Marci writes catchy tunes, heartfelt lyrics and employs her stunning voice to deliver a mesmerizing collection of songs. Marci visited my show this week to share the songs and the story of how this came to be.
While Square Pegs contains some very personal songs, Marci makes each song relatable to the listener. The songs celebrate many facets of love including some difficult topics such as bumping into former lovers, rejecting suitors, ending relationships and maintaining a distant relationship. There are also songs such as “Only Love Matters” (sung with guest David Buskin), that offers a reminder about the power of love. Expressions of pain and joy and ultimately hope.
The CD was crowd sourced through a Kickstarter campaign. The honesty that Marci displayed in this campaign, as well as her talent, led to raising 130% of the goal. As part of the process, she invited her backers to watch live video feeds of the CD being recorded in the studio. The resulting CD proves that her fans and backers were well rewarded for their faith.
In the campaign, Marci explained the significance of the CD’s title, Square Peg. Marci revealed that she felt isolated when growing up. In my interview with Marci, she recalled spending time alone during middle school, sitting in the schoolyard by herself and picking out pieces of smooth glass that she found in a rock bed by the school. While the other kids would play with Barbie dolls or join in games, Marci was more interested in books, music and silent contemplation. This introspection helped nurture her creativity, and today we see the results.
The release of the CD itself was delayed due to a massive flood that wiped out her in-home recording studio, followed by her father suffering two heart attacks. He has recovered, and so has Marci, and we now have the CD. Besides these challenges, the majority of the songs on Square Pegs are also the results of challenges of the creative type.
Over the course of the past few years, Marci participated in several “song challenges” including the Fearless Songwriters Challenge, the Kerrville Songwriters Breakfast challenge, Jack Hardy’s Songwriter Exchange and others. These “challenges” are creative exercises where songwriters are given a topic or a source of inspiration and asked to write a song within an allotted time frame. The late Jack Hardy often stressed how important it was for a songwriter to keep writing songs on a regular basis, and the conditioning required to maintain a rigorous schedule would help the artist improve their work. Challenges like the ones Marci participated in often involve discussion among the songwriters who participate, opening up new insights. These challenges, with self-imposed deadlines, push the songwriter to look beyond their comfort level by offering new inspiration and exposing the craft of creating songs in a new light. The artist often is required to post their creations online. The results can be mixed, but as in Marci’s case, gems are often uncovered through this process.
One of my favorite cuts on Square Pegs is a product of the Fearless Songwriters Challenge. The evocative song called “She Was Happy Then” was inspired by an image of the famous Childe Hassam painting “Boston Commons at Twilight.” The participants of the challenge were given this image, and at first the 1880s painting stumped Marci. After studying the work, she focused on the woman in the painting who is seen holding a child’s hand. Marci began imagining what that woman’s life and thoughts were at that moment and she created this lovely song in less than an hour.
Another memorable cut is “Forgotten Dreams,” a song that came from a Kerrville Folk Festival sponsored songwriters breakfast challenge that was held at a Folk Alliance conference. The participants were asked to pull a slip of paper from a box and write a song. Written on Marci’s slip were the words “Forgotten Dreams.” While thinking about the words, Marci began thinking of images of a person transitioning to the other side, while friends and family kept holding this person here on our earthly plain. Marci created this song and performed it on the final day of the conference. When she arrived home, she learned that her close friend and friend of the folk community, Steve Minnisale, was in the process of transitioning. Marci firmly believes that Steve’s spirit sent her the images that nurtured the creation of this song. The song was also covered by Mya Byrne on her CD As I Am.
Marci is joined by a number of her friends and folk community mainstays on this recording. The first cut, “Save Me,”features legendary singer-songwriter Lori Lieberman on backing vocals. This song grew out of Marci dealing with a case of SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) after a particularly long winter. David Buskin joins Marci for the song “Only Love Matters.” An earlier recording of this song appeared on the reality show Celebrity Rehab as background to actor Gary Busey opening up about his issues.
In addition to Lori Lieberman and David Buskin, other guest artists appearing on Square Peg include Mya Byrne, Barbara Kessler, Craig Akin, Brian Dunne from Hall & Oates and Jon Preddice from Miles To Dayton. Conductor/arranger Paul Michael Barkan added his touch to several cuts, along with a well-placed string quartet to round out the sound on this diverse collection of songs.
Click below to hear Ron Olesko’s interview with Marci Geller discussing Square Pegs.
Originally broadcast on WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS on May 15, 2016
will be the subject of the next entry in the Folk Music Notebook. Stay tuned!!