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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Linda Marks Album "A Recipe For Hope" Review

Updated: Mar 5

Artist: Linda Marks

Album: A Recipe For Hope

Released: 2024

Linda Marks has quite a different story than most singer / songwriters. Her first word uttered in her journey through life was "piano". At the age of 3 she was enrolled in a music program for gifted children. She graduated with a degree in Music from Yale University. She co-founded the Women In Music Gathering which is an intergenerational artist alliance. She has recorded 14 albums, the first dating back to 1983 with the latest being released on New Year's Day 2024. She holds degrees from both Yale and MIT and has authored two books, “Living With Vision” and “Healing the War Between The Genders.” To say the least, she has been productive!

The latest release A Recipe For Hope is a 12 song set clocking in at 44 minutes. Vocally, it has a classic Folk approach, taking the listener back to early 70's AM radio. At first listen I find Linda separates herself from many of the artists within the genre by being far less acoustic guitar driven than most singer / songwriters. She approaches her music with a noticeably larger production and interesting instrumentation throughout the entirety of the album.

Out On A Limb is a standout track that cries with a string melody that is woven together beautifully with a piano and cello, painting a haunting picture in its first ten seconds. The track is under three minutes, but evokes a lifetime of emotion. The lyrics mention creeping grey shadows, spirals of doubt and asks where did the light go. Those words perfectly capture the uneasiness that the music evokes in the song's first few bars.

Love Always Wins has a wonderful Americana flavor that is a bit different than the bulk of the record, but is still tied together by the comfortable vocal performance, and presence of strings. Those two ingredients coupled with insightful lyrics of hope are the roux that binds this album together. The lyric "When all is lost, love is a force that has no cost" is a timeless sentiment that can never be overstated. The message often falls on the deaf ears of good days, but will always be comforting, if truly understood, when the sun sets on a rainy one.

Another track that musically flirts with Americana is September Morn. It is the vocal that serves as a time machine of sorts taking the listener back to mid 60's / early 70's folk. The combination of that vocal approach over a track that has hints of classic country in it is quite unique and compelling. I suppose that is what Americana truly is. A musical storyteller that doesn't fit neatly into any one genre. We call it Americana because we have to call it something.

This record is very difficult to define but easy to listen to. The vocals and songs are equally soft and pleasant on the ears. The lyrics hit on some political issues without ever feeling like they are lecturing, but simply suggesting there may be a better option. Linda Marks is clearly a well schooled musician that knows her craft, but doesn't flaunt it. She chooses wisdom over knowledge in her compositions and performance. Her voice is a welcomed throwback in time to the heyday of Folk music and would've been right at home where Haight /Ashbury intersected with the next generation of young artists that pointed to the injustices of their time and asked if there was another way.

Check out this interview as well!

Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.

Music was my first language. I did not talk until I was 3, but as a toddler, I would toddle my way to any piano I could find and start writing music. My family did not have a piano, although I wanted one with all my heart. My mother saw my musical inclinations and enrolled me in a free recorder program at a musical school in Boston when I was 3. The staff there told her I was musically gifted, but my father was opposed to my pursuit of music even at such an early age. His mantra was “music is a waste of a good mind.” So, I was in the recorder program, then a free Suzuki violin program in my grammar school, and Iearned drums and percussion and became the first female drummer in my grammar school band. I saved up enough money to buy a nylon stringed classical guitar when I was 11 and had an instrument to play my songs on. I finally saved up enough money to buy my own piano when I was 13, and walked down to the living room and told me parents to please drive me to the piano store. I had found a piano I could afford, but needed a ride to pay for it. Once I had my piano, I never looked back. I wrote my grammar school graduation song, sang lead and had my 8th grade classmates sing the chorus with me. I went to Yale and majored in Music, graduating with honors and distinction, co-founding Yale’s 3rd women’s a cappella singing group, still there now, Something Extra. I wrote music, played and sang. And I continued my musical life in the Boston new acoustic music scene when I went to grad school. I co-wrote, arranged and performed music with another singer-songwriter named Lisa Wexler when I was in my early 20’s. I released my first album in the mid-1980’s and ran an artist-alliance group. It was hard to earn a living as a musician, even one who was getting great radio play, so I developed a side hustle/second career. By the early 1990’s, the voice of my father was haunting me, and as I became a single mom with my own mom suffering from Alzheimer’s I had to take what became a multi-decade hiatus from my musical career. I did creep back in when my now 28 year old son was 12, but until my mother passed in 2014, it was 1 step forward and 2 steps backwards. Over the past 10 years I have given 1000% to my music with 14 studio albums now in my catalogue, many songwriting awards, Voting membership in the Recording Academy, and heading up several artist-alliance groups. I love writing songs at the heart of our times, including songs for important causes from animal shelters, to children’s needs to helping domestic violence survivors to lung cancer.

Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Lots of musical influences. I grew up as the singer-songwriter genre was blossoming with Carole King, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonoff, and Joni Mitchell crafting the sound of my childhood. I also loved Dionne Warwick and learned every song in the Burt Bacharach songbook. Harry Belafonte, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Pete Seeger, Santana, music from musicals like Pippin and Godspell also were part of the sound of my early years. I loved music of MANY genres and listened to as much as I could. Smooth jazz became a passion in my early 20’s. Non-musical influences are friends, family and themes/events happening the world around me. Even as a child I found myself writing what I call “songs at the heart of our times”

What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?

To just choose one album is hard…But Carole King’s Tapestry is sure one. When I got it, I also got the songbook and I learned every single song on guitar and piano and sang them with connection.

Is there a particular song that has resonated with you for a long time?

This is also a really hard question, since there are MANY songs I love. A few are “Don’t Cry Out Loud” by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager, “Give Me Wings” popularized by Michael Johnson, “I Need You To Survive” by Hezekiah Walker and “Something That We Do” by Clint Black. All are emotionally and spiritually rich songs that come from the heart.

What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?

Overcoming the internal voice of my father squishing my musician’s heart and spirit repeatedly telling me “music is a waste of a good mind. AND making it through a couple decades where I could not pursue my deepest passion, music, raising my now 28 year old son as a single mom with no child support while also caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s. Having recorded 14 studio albums with a 15th on the way is something I am both grateful for and proud of.

Tell me about your favorite performance in your career.

Another hard question. I could say when I was in 8th grade and I wrote the song for our graduation, playing guitar and singing lead with my entire grammar school class singing the chorus. It was my first publicly performed work. All my album release shows with full band are up there too. I love playing with full band and not just solo as a singer-songwriter the piano.

What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

Rebecca Parris was a wonderful coach when I was re-entering professional music. I had a lot of healing to do having been kept away from what I loved most by life responsibilities and circumstances, so every time I would go to work on music, I would cry my songs before I could sing them. Rebecca told me to cry them until all the tears were gone…and then I could really sing them.

What's new in the recording of your music?

I just released my 14th studio album, which has already won awards, and charted well, with one song climbing the UK Hot 100 and another climbing the Cashbox Magazine Top 100. I am currently working on recording my 15th studio album for release 1/1/25. And I have a big social impact song coming out 8/23 inspired by and including words of domestic violence survivors recorded with fellow members of the Recording Academy from across the globe.

How has your music changed over the years?

As I grow, my music grows. I listen to songs I wrote when I was 21 and am quite amazed at how they still stand strong. As I go through different life experiences, my songwriter’s voice reflects those experiences. As our world changes and as the times change, my songwriter’s voice reflects those changes. I have had fun jumping into more and more cross-genre songs. What remains constant is the desire to write from the heart and connect with the heart of the listener.

What inspires you to write the music you write?

My own experiences. Experiences of loved ones. What’s happening in the world. Social issues. Ways the world needs to change. Four legged animals. Things that touch my heart.

What made you want to play the instrument you play?

Piano was my first word as a child (I did talk until I was 3 but toddled my way to any piano I could find). I always felt a connection and resonance with the piano. I learned other instruments, but they were just stepping stones on the way to saving up to buy my own piano, which I did when I was 12 or 13.

How does your latest album differ from any of your others in the past?

It is the second album fully produced by Glenn Barratt at Morningstar Studios in Phillie. My 2023 Everyday Legends album was also produced there. What always differs is the songs. My songs grow with the times, with my life, with what touches me, with what seems important to write about. And the focus on “A Recipe For Hope,” the theme of the album is a timely and needed message.

How are you continuing to grow musically?

I believe we always need to keep learning and growing musically. I have a number of coaches I work with: a songwriting coach I run by my new songs, a vocal coach who helped me recover my voice after damage from COVID, a media coach helping me navigate the world of media…I was part of a songwriter’s group for many years, and we all learned and grew from one another’s feedback. Beauty and nature keep me growing. Good self-care keeps me growing. Being part of the Big Records label and the wonderful people in the Big Records community keeps me growing.

Are there any musicians who inspire you that are not famous? What qualities do you admire about them?

Most all the musicians I work with inspire me. They may be respected here in the Boston area, but “famous” often implies Taylor Swift-like status and none of them are famous in that way. I love their passion for music, their genius at their own unique craft, and their collaborative spirit.

What did you learn from this experience?

When I was 21, I was terrified of being on stage, in public with people looking at me and judging me. I am an introvert and it has taken years of inner work to be able to enjoy being on stage, open my heart and share the joy of my songs…and try to connect with my audience to touch their hearts. One of my earliest performances, all I could do was be terrified and freeze up with fear. It impacted my vocal quality. A voice needs to be relaxed and open to be beautiful. I was horrified that I was the embodiment of a terrified introvert struggling with discomfort on stage. I learned I had to be on stage for a reason that was meaningful to me and to let go of the fear of other’s judgments, the need to be perfect and all that comes with it. I worked long and hard on all of those things, and have grown to a place where I truly see music as a way to touch hearts, heal wounds, build bridges, and grow community.

Tell me what your first music teacher was like. What lessons did you learn from them that you still use today? Sadly, I had pretty horrific early music teachers. I tried piano with a man who had a respiratory condition, and when he would passionately play Chopin, he would be gasping as though he was going to die. It scared me so badly that I could not bare to go back after a couple lessons. My high school choir director was my first voice teacher and he was jealous of the fact that I wrote songs and that I wrote rag time. He was obsessed with the register break where the voice when from chest voice to head voice, and focused so much on the notes where it happened, that I was terrified to sing. I had a vocal coach in college who was a graduate school student, because the faculty could not coach singer-songwriters. She had a lot of personal troubles and our lessons became therapy sessions where i would listen to her and try to support her. Not much focus on me or my voice. It was not until much later in adulthood that I found teachers that were actually TEACHERS—capable of having a rapport with their student and helping me learn and grow. What I learned from the early teachers is that it is very important WHO you send your child to learn from. I learned to teach myself piano, and I would probably have a much higher skill level if I had found a teacher I connected with. As an adult I have been very thoughtful in who I employ as my coaches. And I am grateful to have found really good ones.

How would your previous band mates describe you and your work ethic?

They would speak of my tireless commitment to work hard, refine my craft, bring people together, create events that benefit the community, and my focus on team and collaboration.

If you could play anywhere or with anyone in the world, where or with who would it be? Since I have curly blonde hair and play piano, for much of my life people have compared me to Carole King. One colleague even photoshopped my face into Carole King’s hair in a photo of Carole with James Taylor and people asked how I got the gig with James! I have covered a lot of her songs. So, it would be fun to play with Carole—her songs and mine. And in terms of where, maybe at Fenway Park since I love it there and am a big spots fan…or Carnegie Hall.

If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be?

I wish that the many talented committed musicians could make a good living, if not a survivable living doing their craft. I have had to have two careers my whole life, and most all musicians I know have a side hustle to make enough money. I wish all the work that we need to do had more support and financial backing.

What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?

Earning enough money to pay for creating quality albums. It is a lot of hard work and long hours each day having two careers. Becoming more visible is always an obstacle and a lot of work. Balancing being a musician, having a side hustle and trying to have a family/personal life is a lot. It has also been hard to build and sustain a band. Not everyone wants to work as hard as it takes. And many discover how hard it is to be a musician and step away.

What do you think the best aspects of the music business are?

Music is lifeblood. Creating music is what I do and who I am. I have many wonderful musician colleagues who are very talented and great people.

What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are?

I have a deep heart. I am very creative. I am touched by life. I can translate what is deeply felt into music and lyrics. I have a strong work ethic. I know to seek coaching and build community. Everything I do is from a love of music, and desire to be a positive force in the lives of others.

Do you have any weaknesses that you're actively working to improve on?

I have spent my life trying to become an ambivert when I am an introvert. I am not the kind of person who likes to stand on a stage and say “look at me.” I am also dyslexic and have learned to compensate for that by always having charts with me when I play piano. Asking for help and support—like to vote for me in a contest or for a song to move up the chart has been hard. I am having to work on that regularly.

Describe your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician.

Favorite parts: the creative process, songwriting, playing with other musicians, touching people through music, making a difference through music

Least favorite parts: How hard I have to work at two careers to be a musician. How little money is available as a musician. How hard I have to work to find and build alliances with other.

Do you have any anxiety about performing live?

My only anxiety is about making piano mistakes due to dyslexia on songs that I have practiced and know well, because that just happens. I also lost my voice for 2 months due to early COVID in November 2019 and spent 3 years working with a coach to restore my voice. My voice has its quality back but is more fragile. So, if I get or have laryngitis, that can make me nervous. I don’t know how long my voice will last.

If you had to choose one... live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why? That would be hard. I love studio work and it is the foundation of building a catalogue. But sharing music with people real time and playing with other musicians real time is incredibly meaningful and fulfilling. Both are creative endeavors. Just different.

Describe your creative process when you write new music.

When something touches me or resonates with me, a melody may start to come or lyrics start flowing…I write down any lyrics as they come and sing or play into my phone to capture fragments of melody. Sometimes I have time to just dig in. Sometimes I have to put the fragments aside and come back to then later. I generally sit with and meditate on music and lyric seeds and let them evolve. When I have a draft of a song, I run it by my songwriting coach for tweaks and feedback. Then I edit and refine it.

Other than being a musician, what was your dream job growing up?

To be a leader who made the world a better place—who helped other people at both an individual level and at a global level..and who brought hope, healing and helped people fly.

Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry.

Building a support team is really important. Finding mentors who will stand by you and believe in you makes a great difference. Having coaches for voice, instruments, songwriting, marketing and social media are all super helpful. Whether you build a band or a songwriter’s circle or join an artist-alliance group, having a team or community of fellow musicians makes a huge difference, The business can be hard and solitary, so having support is important.

What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

I love beautiful acoustic baby grand and grand pianos—Steinways, Chickerings, a Schimmel that my sound engineer has…Real acoustic pianos sound sooo much better than keyboards, and a good one has all kinds of possibility for nuanced sound.

How do you prepare for your performances and recording work?

I decide on what to include for a set list for a performance or what songs I want to work on in a recording session. For a set list, it depends on whether I am playing solo or with others. Solo, I rehearse my set many times in preparation. With a band, I make sure we have a rehearsal. I send all band members charts and sound files well in advance of the gig so they can practice. For recording, I start with a piano/vocal reference track before starting to orchestrate. So, I have charts made and prepare to record the piano/vocal tracks in the studio.

What does your practice routine consist of?

I have a weekly vocal coaching session and work on any tunings or adjustments I learn. I have a weekly livesteam, so I prepare and practice that set list. How much I sing each week depends on my side hustle and family schedule and what other gigs are coming up. I also sing in the car when I’m driving and often listen to songs and sing when I take daily walks.

What do you like most about your new album?

I like the title: A Recipe For Hope…and the spirit that title brings…I love the arrangements of many of the songs…and there are a number of really powerful songs on the album—beautiful ones, touching ones, a funny one, a few sadly necessary songs about gun violence, a song about an 87 year old woman looking at her life, a love song for America with an invitation to heal America’s broken heart…

What artists do you enjoy listening to nowadays?

I love listening to my fellow singer-songwriters. I keep their albums in my car and when I drive a distance they become the soundtrack of my drive! There is so much talent in my area (and in many areas). Supporting my true colleagues is wonderful and so is their music.

How do you promote your band and shows?

I have a mailing list of people who want to hear updates from me. I post on Facebook, Instagram and sometimes Threads and Twitter. I post in FB groups. I create FB events. I write press releases for big shows and send them to local media.

What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc.?

My mailing list and my personal and music Facebook pages.

Anything you would like to share, from new merch to upcoming shows/tours or songs/albums?

New mercy with my logo (mugs and t-shirts) are available through my page on Hived music. My A Recipe For Hope album release show is June 23 at the Burren in Somerville, MA. I have a bunch of shows in the greater Boston area. I am working on potentially doing a show in Vancouver in October as part of the roll out of the Sanctuary Project.

What's next for your band?

Honestly, I’d love to be able to afford to play out more often as a band and not just as a solo singer-songwriter

What are your interests outside of music?

I’m a mind-body psychotherapist. I love healing arts. I love photography, and take photos of beauty every day. I love walks and physical activity. I love eating healthy food and finding balance. I am active in the life of my 28 year old son. I have 7 cats and a corgi. I love building community. I love sports—especially basketball and baseball.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

When I was a little girl I had blue eyes, but I wanted green eyes like my cat. I would envision myself having green eyes every day…and eventually, my eyes became green. A second one: besides being on podcasts and tv as a musician, I have been on a tv show talking about sports!

Are there any artists outside of your genre that have not had much influence on your music that you enjoy?

I listen to all kinds of music, and a song or artist of most any genre can touch me.

Mini bio:

Linda Marks is a multi-award winning Boston-based singer- songwriter, a healer at heart, and emotional alchemist whose music gracefully uplifts the spirit and transforms sorrow into gold. Her music offers a full genre buffet, anchored in contemporary folk, with elements of jazz, gospel, Latin, pop, blues, and Broadway. Audiences will be treated to poignant, timely songs, with a touch of humor thrown in for good measure. Linda’s passion is writing songs at the heart of our times: what's going on in our world both individually and collectively. Her elegant voice teamed with piano both tug at our heart strings and inspire hope. Her 14th studio album, A Recipe For Hope was released 1/1/24 and charted on the January 2024 Folk Alliance International Folk DJ Charts. Two songs from the album are climbing the Cashbox Top 100 (“September Morn”) and UK Hot 100 (“Love Always Wins”). Building community through music has been a lifelong pursuit, founding and leading artist-alliance groups and organizing and performing in benefit concerts for important community causes from domestic violence to children’s issues to animal shelters. She is the co-founder of Women In Music Gathering, the leader of the International Singer-Songwriter Association Boston/Northeast Chapter, a member of the Recording Academy and a Big Records artist.

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