Celebrated Folk Duo Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin to Perform in York, PA December 5th

Wil Maring, who used to spend hours at her family’s roadside vegetable stand picking out self-made tunes on her Sears guitar, and now is a highly acclaimed singer/songwriter, comes to York, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, December 5, 2015, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street. She will be joined by virtuoso guitarist and fiddler Robert Bowlin.


Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22.

Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online, or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website.

SFMS Staff writer Peter Winter was able to catch up with Wil while she was traveling through West Virginia, and chat with her a bit on a variety of topics including her musical history with Robert, her formation as a musician and songwriter, and her songwriting process.  A portion of their conversation is featured here.


Peter: I’ve seen the music you make with Robert described as a mixture of bluegrass, folk, and country. How would you describe the music the two of you make together?

Wil: I would say it started out as bluegrass, folk, and country; those were my own roots. But as years have gone on, we’ve branched in to more swing and old jazz. I’ve always liked western swing. I’ve always loved it and it makes me stretch out more on the bass.

Peter: So many people speak so highly of the music you two make as a duo. What do you like about playing with Robert? You’ve played with a band and as a solo artist, what is special about this configuration?

Wil: Well the first thing I noticed, and I think that anyone who plays music a lot with lots of different people knows this, that very seldom in your life do you run into people where it’s so easy to play with them. You’re on the same page from the get go. It was immediately tight and it immediately seemed like all the right notes were coming together in the right harmonies. I think you seldom run into people like that where the two of you just jive so well. One thing we used to do a lot on guitar was we would just start improvising. One person would make up a chord progression, or he would come up with a melody and I would put the chords behind it. And it was almost like mind reading. It was a real fun game to play, course you always wish you had a tape recorder running.   Sometimes the songs you make up disappear back into the ether again.

Peter: It’s really special when you can find someone you share that musical chemistry with, and you can just mesh with them.

Wil: Yeah! I always liken it to riding horses. I’ve ridden a lot of horses, and with some horses, it’s a struggle and you really have to work hard, and then there are some horses that can read your mind.   You can just think, “Go left!” “Go right!” “Go into a canter!” You just think it and the horse knows it. And that’s kind of how playing music with Robert is.

Peter: I love it. That’s a great way of thinking about it. How long have you and Robert been collaborating?

Wil: I’m trying to remember. I met him at recording session and that was about 11 years ago.


 Peter: I want to talk about your songwriting. What were some of the artists, songs, and music that got you into playing guitar, singing, and writing your own songs?

 Wil: My earliest memories have always been attached to the sounds of strings, especially mandolins and guitars, and then later banjos and fiddles. Very early on I was a kid and had some John Denver records, and my mom was paying for me to have classical guitar lessons. My heart wasn’t so much into the classical guitar as it was learning your basic popular folk type things like my John Denver record at the time. So I was bringing these songs into my classical guitar teacher and I’d ask him to teach me these songs.   The ones I would bring into him were pretty difficult, and he’d say “Well you know, these are kind of hard songs, and they’re also meant to be sung, so if you’re going to play these you should learn to sing along with it.” He gave me enough singing technique so I could sing louder than my Yamaha Guitar. I was really painfully shy and was really quite; you couldn’t hear me.

As far as the songwriting, I realized as I learned the stuff off the records (you learn some chords, a couple little picking patterns) I realized it’s a lot easier to make up your own songs with the few chords that you know than try to learn someone else’s song. So that’s what got me started. I think I was writing songs by the time I was nine or ten.

Peter: One of the cool things I’ve seen you do is that you run songwriting workshops and help teach the craft of song writing. I’ve seen some free writes you’ve posted about various objects. Often we think of songwriting as pure inspiration; that songs just float down to us, and we forget that it really is a craft you have to work at.

Wil: Oh it is a craft and you can learn some of the rules! You can learn it step by step. What I teach is not by any means something I came up with myself. I just came up with an engaging way to explain it, and some real fun exercises to get people going and to get their juices flowing. That’s the hardest part, to figure out what to write about. There’s an easy step-by-step way to do it, to build up a song.

Often we’ll play a show, and Robert will teach guitar and fiddle, and we’ll do workshops the in afternoon when you play a show in the evening, or do the workshop in the evening when the show is in the afternoon.


 Peter: What are some of your tips for songwriters? How do you overcome writer’s block and get those juices flowing?

Wil: Well, I try to get people to notice what’s going on around them. Sometimes I tell people to get the title of the song and build the song from the title; kind of work backwards from there. Instead of having a song and thinking “What am I going to call this?” Think of your title first, and build your title into the chorus. Then write out the plot line; what would happen in your song? Write out a storyboard as if you were going to film a video. Build the song that way.

 Peter: I like that. It helps to keep the song focused.

 Wil: Yeah. Titles are not copyrightable. You could even go to Goodwill and look at all the books that are there out of order and grab titles from books. They are everywhere. So there are exercises we do to find titles, and there are a lot of rules on how to find a good title. But I always stress, rules are meant to be broken. So if you learn the rules first then you can learn how to break them.

Peter: There you go! so true! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk! 

Wil: Oh No Problem!

follow Peter Winter on twitter @peterwinter38


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