Marriage, children, relocating: Singer-songwriter Rachel Garlin has experienced all three since 2008. And those life events were not only contributing factors in her seven-year gap between albums, but they also played a role in the songs on her recently released full-length studio effort, Wink at July (Tactile Records).
“I’ve been doing my music all along,” Garlin says in reference to the past seven years, “but everything was more expansive and abundant and spread out than I had done in the past.”
That’s not a surprise: During that period of time, Garlin moved with her wife from New York to Northern California (where Garlin was raised), had two boys and began teaching music courses part-time at a middle school near home in San Francisco.
Garlin says her new album began to take shape in June 2012, when she wrote the title track.
“I was looking forward to the birth of my second son; his due date was July 20 — the same day man walked on the moon in 1969,” she recalls. “That kind of inspired this whole vibe around the album — how we’re faced with big, momentous moments in our lives and in history and in the world, and then we’re also faced with teeny-tiny moments of simple pleasures and daily life, and how the big and the small can co-exist to create a meaningful landscape for us all.”
Several songs on Wink at July hearken back to Garlin’s childhood in Berkeley, Calif., among them the leadoff track, “Gwendolyn Said.”
“There was a poetry campaign that was going on called Streetcar Poetry, where different poems were posted above the seats on public buses,” Garlin says. “ ‘Gwendolyn Said’ was inspired by poetry [written by Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks] that I remember reading on the way to Berkeley High.”
Then there’s “The Sea You Sea,” which was inspired by Garlin’s mother, who was born in Scotland and lived there for the first 20 years of her life. Garlin says her mother ended up in California after deciding not to complete a planned around-the-world trip.
“The older I get, and the more I think about what it means to be close to your family or far away from your family,” Garlin says, “the more I realize what a big decision that was for her. The song came out of the experience of wanting her to feel at home here in the states but realizing that she’s very far from her own home.”
Garlin stuck close to home while making the 12-song Wink at July, which she tracked at Decibelle Recording Studio in San Francisco’s Noe Valley district with producer-owner JJ Wiesler.
Her goal for this album, Garlin’s fifth overall and first since 2008’s Bound to be Mountains, was “to enjoy the process: to enjoy the studio days, to play with a band and to let the songs do their thing without trying to constrain them.”
“And that’s why there’s a ton of variety on the album; I feel like it’s pretty cross-genre,” she adds. “We didn’t have a formula for each song.”
In terms of shows supporting the album, she does plan to do some traveling and is looking into mapping out what she calls “satellite tours” — three- or four-day weekend jaunts covering a few regions.
— By Chris M. Junior