Explaining her approach to music as a “song interpreter,” Mara Levine says, “What I do is look for really wonderful songs and then put my own spin on them.” Along with the many classics from the American folk songbook, which she grew up listening to constantly, Mara has connected with many contemporary songwriters at conferences and workshops. “It really has to grab me, to add it to my repertoire.”
Once she has a song selected, there’s quite a bit more to be done to bring it to life. Mara typically starts with her vocals. “I work backwards. A lot of people will put all the instruments down first, then do the vocals. But I do the lead vocal first. Then I decide what I want to do with the harmony arrangements.”
Mara’s third collection of songs, Facets of Folk (2019) charted at #1 on the Folk Alliance International Folk Chart and had nine songs hit the top 20. It ended up as the #3 album for that year.
Since speaking with Americana Rhythm previously, Mara Levine has been working on adding a compelling visual element to her music. “What I’ve been doing since the pandemic, since I haven’t been able to be out of the house much, or go to the studio [is] working with Valerie Smith from Bell Buckle Records, my record label, and we are releasing singles from my previous recordings…making music videos to go along with them.” Mara has found herself experiencing an extended personal lockdown as she cares for her elderly parents with pre-existing health conditions.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Mara and Valerie figured out how to be creative and productive, despite Mara’s extra limitations. “We hit on the idea of meeting and filming at a farm close to where she travels in Maryland for her business,” she explains. The pick-your-own sunflower farm, called The Sunflower Garden, provided a beautiful setting for the video of ,You Reap What You Sow.
Despite the continuing family challenges that limit her ability to travel and share her music in a live setting, Mara has found other ways to stay connected. “I’ve participated in many online song circles, open mics and online camps…and the silver lining has been the friendships and opportunities that I never would have had made under normal circumstances.”