Rachel Garlin

Rachel Garlin

 San Francisco, California, USA
SoloFolkSinger/Songwriter

Rachel Garlin is a performing singer-songwriter based in San Francisco. Her recordings feature songs noted for vivid, lyrical imagery, and themes that are “fresh and often unexpectedly moving.”

Biography

Whether playing in a club or coffeehouse or performing on the main-stage of a festival, singer-songwriter Rachel Garlin brings a style that is intimate and accomplished. Her character-filled songs have been recognized at festivals such as Kerrville, Telluride, and the South Florida Folk Festival, and she was honored with first place in the Newport Folk Festival Talent Search. Garlin’s April 2015 release, Wink at July, is a clear declaration of her lyrical and musical gifts.

In its descriptive strength, Wink at July might be compared to a cherished book of vignettes, with musical arrangements ranging from solo vocals with acoustic guitar to a full electrified band. Garlin’s live show is similarly dynamic as she brings together a natural stage presence and the same folk, rock, pop and bluegrass sensibilities that can be heard on her recordings. 


Wink at July takes us to varied settings (the isles of Scotland, the subways of New York, the hills of the Bay Area) and hosts a cast of characters with whom we relate in unexpected ways. Some of them are undoubtedly Garlin herself, the teacher-turned-troubadour who grew up in Berkeley and toured extensively while based in New York. Others are drawn from stories she has absorbed in her work as an educator and artist living in San Francisco with her wife and two young boys.

For Garlin, a childhood in Berkeley meant that there was plenty of social activism and live music in the air, starting with the Pete Seeger concerts she attended early on. Wink at July  includes several retrospective-come topical songs that stem from high school memories: riding the bus while reading billboard poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks (“Gwendolyn Said”) and learning about Keith Haring’s subway art and arrests (“Hey Keith Haring.”) Attending concerts at the Greek Theater (Indigo Girls, Sting, Tracy Chapman) were a big part of Garlin’s coming of age; by the time she got to college, she was eagerly absorbing the songwriting scene in and around Harvard Square.

Garlin went on to enlist with Teach for America and she completed two years of elementary school teaching in Phoenix before returning to Berkeley to teach middle school. At the end of her third year there, Garlin’s graduating eighth graders asked their teacher (who was always encouraging them to follow their dreams) why she wasn’t following her own dream of going on tour as a singer-songwriter.  She took the kids’ advice, quit her job, and hit the road.

While touring with her first three albums, Garlin opened and then headlined in theaters and coffeehouses across America and Europe, including a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The momentum from Garlin’s touring life continued as she made the move to New York City to work with producer Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn, David Wilcox). Her fourth LP, Bound to be Mountains (2008) was featured in Performing Songwriter Magazine as a top-ten DIY album. It includes New York area musicians such as Tony Levin (John Lennon, Peter Gabriel).

Garlin recorded her April 2015 release Wink at July in San Francisco with producer JJ Wiesler (Matt Nathanson, Girls) and musicians Michael Urbano (John Hiatt, Smash Mouth), Prairie Prince
(Journey, The Tubes) and many others including Garlin’s longtime friends and collaborators: Green, Kate Isenberg, Julie Wolf and Jon Evans.

Garlin's songs have aired on Car Talk, Democracy Now, and radio stations throughout the country. Several of her songs have been picked up by indie films and one of her songs is in the full-length film Fuel. Garlin’s style may recall other artists such as Edie Brickell or Suzanne Vega, but a closer listen will certainly reveal a talent with a sound and a story all her own.

Media contact:

Wendy
Brynford-Jones  wendy@hellowendy.com (818)762-7063 www.rachelgarlin.com







Lyrics

Tom's Song

Written By: Rachel Garlin

Tom’s Song

There’s a blue suit in a cherry picker on my street
There’s a white bowl in the green leaves, that’s his hard-hat helmet
A red X marks the spot for his suspenders
As he reaches across the wire, for to mend it

And the safety lights are spinning with the radio
As another truck arrives across the road
They’re just like little kids, playing telephone
As they test the wires, is anybody home?

I remember playing like that long ago
I took the hundred feet of string off of my kite
Then I rode around the neighborhood in my hard-hat helmet
With my two tin cans and my bright blue checkered bike

This is Cambpell’s soup calling out to Spaghettios
This is sweet peas and I’m calling pumpkin pie
And I’m sending you this message over a shoestring or a laundry line
And I’m wondering, is anybody home

In the middle of the block, I found a neighbor’s house
He was the only man I knew who stayed at home
Writing legal briefs while he took care of his little girls, cuz their mother worked
In the city ‘til the rush hour was gone

You don’t look quite old enough to babysit
But come on in, you can call me Tom
I’m sure my little girls would love to play with you, and talk to you
If you show them how to use your tin-can phone

And that’s how neighbors start to feel like your family
Even when you’ve got a happy home
We spent our Saturdays at the ballgame
I got to wear Tom’s Dodger jacket all day long

This is Cambpell’s soup calling out to Spaghettios
This is sweet peas and I’m calling pumpkin pie
And I’m sending you this message over a shoestring or a laundry line
And I’m wondering, is anybody home?

One day I went riding past my neighbor’s house
And it had been a couple years since I’d come around
Cuz I was busy up at junior high playing basketball
With my new friends in my new found crowd

But I noticed as I passed by that the porch was full
With some relatives I knew from out of town
I saw my neighbor’s mother, she was the grandma of the little girls
And people gathered round, sad

I had heard my neighbor Tom got pneumonia
And that later it had turned to something worse
But I had no idea that you could die from pneumonia
So I peddled home to find myself the truth

This is Cambpell’s soup calling out to Spaghettios
This is Sweet Peas and I’m calling Pumpkin Pie
And I’m sending you this message over a shoestring or a laundry line
And I’m wondering, is anybody home

There’s a blue suit in a cherry picker on my street
There’s a white bowl in the green leaves, that’s his hard-hat helmet
A red X marks the spot for his suspenders
As he reaches across the wire, for to mend it

Gwendolyn Said

Written By: Rachel Garlin

Stand up, rock the boat
Get a little water under your float, hey
“Exhaust the little moment, soon it dies” she said
“If it’s gash or gold
It will not come again,” hey
In this identical disguise”*

But the brick ticket counter only takes cash
And your only ID is a bus pass
And you get to the front of the line in time
But you’re afraid to ask
The big kids from around the bend
Chase you down to the corner store and then
You pony up, pony up if you want to last

Stand up, rock the boat . . .

So we put the playground behind us
Pushed the envelope back into our binders
Ran to the stop where only the words of
Gwendolyn Brooks could find us
Someone sent away for a Ninja star
I spent my change on a pull-up bar
There’s nothing you forget
More than reminders

Stand up, rock the boat . . .

It’s what Gwendolyn said
Over my head, over my head

Stand up, rock the boat . . .
Gwendolyn Said
Over my head . . .


*From Annie Allen by Gwendolyn Brooks

Accordion Song

Written By: Rachel Garlin

I’m sorry I was not stronger when I saw you
Instead I only wanted to cry
Hearing about your dad, I admit
Got me thinking about mine

You were looking slight and small
Beside the writing on the wall
Our meeting here was supposed to be benign
And I thought I would be stronger when I saw you
Instead I only wanted to cry

Singing, ooooh . . .

Some days you can’t articulate a story
You take a crack at humor but you miss
I remember clearly when you told me
How to avoid situations like this

Where you are talking casually
With a friend you only rarely see
On a day when you could easily start bawling
Now I am trying desperately to follow some propriety
With feelings that I cannot seem to swallow

Singing, ooooh . . .

Holding it together is a metaphor
For someone trying not to fall apart
Like the bellows of a loosely hung accordion
That move against a tightly pleated heart

They say it’s like a one-man band
A piano right inside your hand
That doesn’t need a complement at all
And maybe that is why I’m sad
The years we’ll spend without our dads
Are echoes in an empty concert hall

Singing, ooooh . . .

Hey Keith Haring

Written By: Rachel Garlin

Hey Keith Haring we followed you following men back into caves
Back in the day when the Xerox machine and the Polaroid were raging
You made the chalk talk to the black
You gave graffiti love and graffiti loved back
Drew the tension into lines that still vibrate
Cuz there was something on your inside that you could not not articulate

Call it blood, call it guts
Call it chalk, call it dust
You drew your fire into lines so clear
You were here

Hey Keith Haring we followed you following Basquiat and Warhol
Back in the day when we shared on the pillars and posted on real walls
You kept a Sharpie in your pack
You gave graffiti love and graffiti loved back
When you ran up from tunnels to the street above
There was no victim just some criminal mischief but still they locked you up

Call it blood, call it guts
Call it chalk, call it dust
You drew your fire into lines so clear
You were here

Hey Keith Haring we followed you following art back into crowds
Back in the day when the galleries stayed far away from lines that loud
You got a pop shop, you got swag
You gave graffiti love and graffiti loved back
In a T-shirt with a drawing of a barking dog
And a baby who was dancing on her way to learning how to crawl

Call it blood, call it guts
Call it chalk, call it dust
You drew your fire into lines so clear
You were here

This Winding Road

Written By: Rachel Garlin

Reading the pages of a Modern Love
The Sunday paper’s little treasure trove
Mama’s in the kitchen washing up
Baby’s at the window stalking trucks

And I look at these hills and I can’t believe
I didn’t used to see their beauty
I used to think this winding road
Was just the high way to get home

Have you seen the view from Grizzly Peak
Eucalyptus grove, Strawberry Creek
An empty lot where we used to go
To watch the Fourth of July sky show

And I look at these hills and I can’t believe
I didn’t used to see their beauty
I used to think this winding road
Was just the high way to get home

We flew down the canyon in your cousin’s car
Climbed barbed fences to the reservoir
In a corner cave we might have carved a heart
But I can’t remember that
I can’t remember that

It’s a grand disaster and a catch 22
You take for granted what they give to you
When they mow it away, you might appreciate
You can’t rake back the time you waste

And I look at these hills and I can’t believe
I didn’t used to see their beauty
I used to think this winding road
Was just the high way to get home

The Sea You See

Written By: Rachel Garlin

I know where to look at Ailsa Craig
And predict the kind of weather
If the island wears a hat that’s made of fog
And I know where to find a hermit in a cave
Where the roads are lined with heather
And I know where to find Greyfriar’s Bobby dog

But though I got your eyes, I cannot see
The blue behind your gaze
When I see you see the sea you see
Beyond the ocean waves

I know how to walk a tatty field
To find a berry in the brambles
And I know how to dance a fearsome eight-some reel
I know how make a shepherd’s pie
And hear the sound inside a seashell, yes
I know how to play a Burns lullaby

But though I got your eyes, I cannot see
The blue behind your gaze
When I see you see the sea you see
Beyond the ocean waves

And I guess you had some wanderlust
And a pack of Marlboro Lights
And though it’s hard to imagine you before us
I guess there was a time

When you left the land of lochs
And bought a ticket for the land of the kiwis
Didn’t fear the vastness of this globe
And I know I’m not the only one who’s glad
You didn’t make it all the way to New Zealand
But sometimes I wish you weren’t
So far from your home

‘Cause though I got your eyes, I cannot see
The blue behind your gaze
When I see you see the sea you see
Beyond the ocean waves

Colorado Rain

Written By: Rachel Garlin

The spring that follows a Colorado rain
Is not looking for love, she’s not looking for something
The spring that follows a Colorado rain
Is not looking for luck, she just wants to sing

We went chasing up a mountainside
And running in our long johns
On the best day of my childhood life
Pure bliss, pure crisp mountain air, no expectations
Just in, just us, just this

Colorado rain

The spring that follows a Colorado rain
Is not looking for say-so, she’s no decoration
The spring that follows a Colorado rain
Takes off the raincoat and a coat of pain

Colorado Rain

Reaching through an hourglass
I want to punch my hand through
I’m too overwhelmed to ask you how you are
Did you get lost, lose trust, trust fall, or fall to pieces
Just what, just how, just this

The spring that follows a Colorado rain
She’d love to see you, she’s doing fine
The spring that follows a Colorado rain
Just went through hell, so you better get in line

The spring that follows a Colorado rain is in the country
She’s re-directing spiders to the doorways in the barn
So some pig, terrific pig, gold medal pig
Can get the message: Just kick, just grin, just this

Colorado Rain

Up on a Ladder in Boots

Written By: Rachel Garlin

I met a woman who paints like a
Carpenter building a balcony
Stretching her canvas like scaffolding
Up on a ladder in boots

She says she’s more like a circus clown
Dangling from a trapeze she found
Dizzy from putting the drop cloth down
Up on a ladder in boots

There is no mirror inside her room
Who can be sure when she’s all alone
That it is really the same someone
Up on a ladder in boots?

Give it a day and she’s coming down
She was too wired to look around
I looked for eye contact, none I found
Up on a ladder in boots

There is no mirror inside her room
Who can be sure when she’s all alone
That it is really the same someone
Up on a ladder in boots?

How could the handshake be callused, dry
All from a woman who makes you cry
Like Caravaggio’s secret sky
Up on a ladder in boots

Flying Together

Written By: Rachel Garlin

You are flying away tonight
With our youngest, flying together
And though I wish I could be your light
Your compass, I know better
Than to try to control
Anything any more
I will wait here at home
For the phone when you’ll say
I am here, everything is okay
You are flying away tonight
With our youngest, flying together
And although you can’t see it yet
I am sure, he’s curly headed
Like a girl that I knew
In a hat in a store
With a globe full of snow
On the phone who would say
I am here, everything is okay

You are flying away
You are flying away
You are flying away together

You are flying away tonight
With our youngest, flying together
His older brother can’t sleep tonight
And I wonder if he will ever
When you’re gone, on the road
And he waves to the phone
In his cape, in his room
With his light that can glow
Like the moon in the snow
Not the same, does he know
You are here, everything is okay

Spin

Written By: Rachel Garlin

My constant friend, she said
“You’re a human being not a human doing”
But look at you go twirling
You’re a top on a tabletop
Not about to drop, not about to stop, no
I can see your muddy colors swirling

And you spin, over, over
Like leaves falling in the wind
Spin, over, over
Leaves falling, leaves falling in the wind
‘Til you’re spinning around again

My head is down
It’s looking at the ground below me
When I go you won’t be
Waiting around lonely
Some cats, they fall
While their backs are turned
When they land they learn
It’s their feet getting dirty

And you spin, over, over
Like leaves falling in the wind
Spin, over, over
Leaves falling, leaves falling in the wind
‘Til you’re spinning around again

You can trip on hope ‘til you can’t seal an envelope
Or you can lick that little sticky bit goodbye
I’m at the edge of the well, but I can’t even tell
I don’t even know where my wish is hiding
I don’t even know where my wish is hiding

Spin, over, over
Leaves falling in the wind
Spin, over, over
Leaves falling, leaves falling in the wind
‘Til you’re spinning around again
Spin

Stranded

Written By: Rachel Garlin

I carried home a suitcase of your notebooks every night
Didn't have a clue what I was doing
Happily I gave you all of my beginner's mind
And somehow we all go through it

And when I landed in Phoenix
I could not believe the heat
Where we were standing
When we went up on the rooftop
The blacktop beneath our feet
Like we were stranded

Knocking on the fencepost
Just to meet your old grandma
She said there were men here but the boy never met ‘em
Then she brought out a photo of a uniformed grandpa
When the Navajo soldiers got a medal

And when I landed in Phoenix
I could not believe the heat
We were standing
When we went up on the rooftop
The blacktop beneath our feet
Like we were stranded

And when I lived in that dessert, the snapshots were weak
And so I only remember some things
Like they made all the inmates in state prison wear pink
To shame them, to shame them

And they were stranded
And we were stranded
Stranded

When they built the airport,
They offered our school a lot of money
If we would put our building under ground
So we dug a hole and
From underneath, we were aware of all these engines running
We could not, we could not hear a sound

When I landed in Phoenix
I could not believe the heat

Dear Friend

Written By: Rachel Garlin

Dear friend, I’m proud of you
Your voice is sounding better
You knew what you needed
Was an answer to your letter
Now that it has come, some things are done
Not saying that it’s settled
But the land is shifting underneath your luck and
It’s sand instead of mud that you are stuck in

Dear friend, the soulless sky
Is taking inventory
Just another boring day of
Streaming sunshine in the morning
Now that spring has come, something’s begun
Not saying that it’s warmer
But the calla lilies stretch across the stream
And a battle ends when nothing’s in between

You held your ground
And gained some power you should hold
Hold the letter, hold the answer
Hold the right to have some anger
Of your own, then let go

Dear friend I’m mad that you
Now live so far away
I will forgive you if you
Promise not to waste away
And make space for new neighbors
I’m not saying that it’s easy
But you made it, now get in it, it’s your bed
And it’s chin up like our mothers always said

Wink at July

Written By: Rachel Garlin

Leaving the Cape and the Center of Space
Apollo touched down at Tranquility Base
On a magical night in the middle of July
The whole world stopped to look at the sky

‘Cause a footprint like this had not yet existed
Before it arrived maybe nobody missed it
A little bit early, but really not a bit too
And now it’s a part of the dance that we skip to

I look at the sky in her layers of maroon
And the glow in the eye
Of the little grey moon
And I wonder how I got to be in this room
And I wink at July like the astronauts do

We are leaving the way of a life we once knew
With our walk-up apartment, our little bijou
There were five flights of stairs and not one of them straight
And a laundromat view from the fire escape

And the Billy Boy bakers put rings into pies
And we gathered around with those books and those guys
We moved in tight spaces like bubbles of soap
With light and with color we bent and we broke

I look at the sky in her layers of maroon . . .

They played music every Sunday
In the alley below
We would dance by the ledge
Of the open window

Now our boy’s blowing bubbles and pushing his broom
He’s our Billy Boy baker, our little bijou
The books that he chooses he chooses with care
He’s our laundromat dancer with sun in his hair

And he started to notice the bump on your lap
The last time you cuddled him down for his nap
He is getting a brother no not that he knows
But he sees how the love in this family grows

I look at the sky in her layers of maroon . . .

Discography

Wink at July (2015)

Bound to be Mountains (2008)

Big Blue Sky: Live at the Freight and Salvage (2004)

Five Minutes (2002)

Green Light Distance (2000)

Compilations: 

"Remembering Rachel: The Songs of Rachel Bissex"(2005)

Live Java Blend II: Recordings from Iowa Public Radio

Set List

Two 50-minute sets, or one 90 minute set. Over two hours worth of original material.