Marye Lobb may be releasing a second album of songs inspired in part by her world travels, but the indie singer-songwriter recalls early musical memories focused on more domestic journeys. As a child growing up in Rochester, New York, Lobb looked forward to trips to the City of Falls Church to visit her family, and often composed little ditties about the excursion to sing in the car to pass the time.
“I always remember singing, and making up songs, all the time,” Lobb said.
She was a musical child – “My Mom always says that I would sing before I could talk,” Lobb said – who sang in choirs in her youth, but didn’t study formally. When she went to college, she chose to pursue social work, but a study abroad experience in South America would change her career path.
“When I moved there, that was kind of when everything opened up for me, music-wise,” Lobb said.
She joined a choir and started playing guitar while living in Chile, and immersed herself in a new musical culture, discovering new singers and sounds and learning Chilean folk songs.
“In South America, it’s just music is a way of life – it’s like you breath, you eat, you sleep, you sing, you make music, and everyone is a part of it, and it is such a huge part of their culture and their community,” Lobb said.
She returned, and spent a year living in New York City. She worked at a non-profit that helped the homeless and as a translator, but was also performing at open mics and becoming part of the musical community there. It was then that she applied for music school, and enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2005.
Though she struggled in the technical classes, she shined in performance classes. She learned and heard more Latin American music there and, exposed to artists like Brazilian performers Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, credits the experience with helping her find her sound.
“I felt like as soon as I started listening to that music … I was like, ‘ah, OK, I have my place,” Lobb said. “I don’t have to be a loud singer, I don’t have to be really showy with my voice. I can just communicate what I need to communicate, and it’s OK.”
She recorded her first album at Berklee, Finding Home, and sought to infuse the Latin rhythms she had learned in school into its songs.
She graduated Berklee and returned to New York City in the summer of 2008. That same summer, she embarked upon a small tour and released Finding Home. It wasn’t the social work career she set out pursuing when she first enrolled in college, but to the artist, making music isn’t far from it.
“I see music as a form of social service,” Lobb said. “I want to help people with these songs.”
Lobb still lives in New York City, making and performing her music while working as a music teacher, but will be returning to the Northern Virginia area for a solo acoustic performance at The Birchmere March 2 opening for the David Bromberg Big Band – an honor, Lobb says.
The Birchmere gig will launch a tour with East and West Coast performances for her album, Not at War. The latest release will be available at her Birchmere show, and a digital copy can be purchased at her website, but the album is due out on iTunes and Amazon March 3.
Not at War features the delicate vocals, folk sounds and Latin rhythms found on her first release, again slipping casually from Spanish to English in delivering songs about love, peace and life’s experiences. Her journeys still play a role in her music, but this time around the role is different.
She says a friend described it best – her first album is about finding a home when living in many different cultures, but the second is about finding a home within yourself.
“I feel like that really sums up what this second album is about – being at peace with and proud of who you are,” Lobb said.
• For more information about Marye Lobb, visit maryelobb.com.