CATHY FINK AND MARCY MARXER CELEBRATE 25 YEARS OF MAKING MUSIC FOR KIDS AND ADULTS
by Terry Roland
One of the challenges of enduring and endearing oneself in music for children and one that is a service mankind,is to create music that appeals to parents as well as kids. I am speaking from the experience of a parent who banned Barney from his home back in the 90’s. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are a duo who have long excelled at making music for both parents and the kids. This Sunday, November 7 at 11:00 AM at McCabe’s Guitar Store, there will be an anniversary celebration of their 25 years of making music for children. In a recent interview with Cathy Fink its striking how diverse and busy they have been since they first met 35 years ago. As a duo they have produced a series of children’s albums consisting of pure acoustic music introducing kids to instruments like the dulcimer, ukulele, mandolin and the clawhammer banjo along with original songs filled with wit and charm for audiences of all ages. They have also been very kind to adults who love folk music producing albums like Postcards which was nominated for a GRAMMY in the traditional folk music category in 2003. The have won two GRAMMYS for cELLAbration: a Tribute to Ella Jenkins and for Bon Appétit! After talking with Cathy Fink, it’s clear that her creativity and passion is infectious, a much needed quality for someone who has been able to influence children and adults alike in folk music.
Terry: What’s the secret to your longevity?
Cathy: Being versatile and going with the ebb and flow of the changes in the music industry. We have musical
heroes and friends who have a hard time and at times it seems we’re all treading water. It takes a lot of different skills. There’s always something you gotta do. On any one day we may be songwriters, producer, recording engineer, bookkeeper, shipper, CEO, which is chief-everything-officer. We keep changing hats and there are a lot of different hats to wear. I have a list like this I put at the bottom of my email.
Terry: So, your gig at McCabe’s is a 25th anniversary release party for mp3 downloads?
Cathy: Yes. We did three songs and called it Triple Play as Mp3 downloads on CD Baby. It’s a lot of fun. We’ve never done anything as a digital only release. We thought it’d be a good way to celebrate 25 years of playing music full time.
Terry: I noticed a new recording of your classic “Air Guitar.”
Cathy: That song! If we don’t sing “Air Guitar,” in our family shows, children cry. Take my nephew, who is turning 13, but by the time he was 18 months old he knew the song.
Terry: How did you both get started in music?
Cathy: Marcy and I started in similar ways. Marcy worked for as a house parent for a school for children with special needs. They learned a lot better through music. She had a background of training at the Ringling Brothers Clown School and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts so she applied that to working with kids. I worked at a school on a Navaho reservation where they had no music teahers. I had my guitar and I was 19 and I started singing songs I learned when I was a kid. Marcy and I met at folk festival in 1980.
Terry: You have such diversity in your projects and songwriting; how do you manage this?
Cathy: Marcy and I both do a lot of songwriting. We tend to write solo more than together. She’s a brilliant
songwriter with internal word play and rhythm. But we write in our separate corners then we come together
and tweak it. We don’t really have ‘office hours.’ We let it flow naturally. It’s a testament to being able to
celebrate 25 years together with a flexible style in how we work. Every project requires something different and we adapt and bring a great sense of passion. We still strive to be the best.
Terry: So you each of have unique approaches to songwriting.
Cathy: Yes. I do best when I assign myself a topic and then mull over it for while. I might do prose timed writings with it or get into a groove of word play and sometimes do some research. I may do some noodling on guitar, banjo or mando and a song happens. “B is for Birthday,” came up that way when I was thinking about writing new birthday songs. It literally popped out. Marcy goes into her office and spreads things out for ideas like books, newspapers. She works like a mad scientist. It sometimes takes a long time to get what she wants. When she emerges it’s like a recipe she’s cooked up.
Terry: Is there a difference performing for kids and adults?
Cathy: Yes. Participation. Kids love nothing more than singing. I think we’re helping families celebrate.
Performing for kids, they care about what they’re doing, not about what you’re doing. It needs to active and
participatory. Marcy and I like that. As adults get older we do less of that. We’re old school hold-outs for coming together as a community to play music. We’re one of the handful of players who sit on floor and have kids and parents sit together looking and laughing at each other. It’s about community.