Linda Sharar is an award-winning singer-songwriter whose songs are honest and pure. Linda expresses herself in an easy, familial, and tangible way as though she’s been a good friend for years . There’s a musical comfort zone that wraps around you with each and every song. That kind of rapport is something to appreciate and respect.
To learn more about Linda Sharar, visit her website.
Here’s a sweet video of Linda playing “Harmony with You” along with Adam Michael Rothberg.
Your bio states that you started playing guitar and writing songs when you were a teenager and started playing open mikes during college. Looking back, what do you think of your songwriting back then?
In my teen years my songwriting was very predictable lyrically but had emotional truth and a strong feeling musically. My older sisters were all musically talented and encouraged me as a writer, which made me feel confident enough to keep at it. But I was a very shy about my songs and did not promote myself as a songwriter with any real effort until I graduated from college.
If you could pick up a brand new instrument and have the time to learn to play it well, what would it be?
I would love to have another go at the fiddle, and there is also a very nice Appalachian dulcimer at my home waiting for me to spend more time with it.
What’s it like playing with your sisters. Did you grow up playing together or is this something that you started to do as adults?
We’ve been playing music together forever. Our mom Helen played guitar, sang, covered songs and wrote poetry. Our dad Paul also encouraged us all to sing and recorded us often as kids with his basic tape recorder… My mom had a group that performed around town (and surrounding areas). So all of us were inspired and learned guitar and/or singing… part from Mom, part from lessons, from listening to and watching others perform. At family holiday gatherings and often just around the house we were always singing, playing instruments and carrying on… As kids and into adulthood, we’ve all had different musical paths. Carol studied violin and has played professionally with large symphonies to folk acts to large pop acts from a young age. Carol also teaches orchestra, bluegrass and other instrumental classes at a NJ middle school. Connie and Kathy have both performed as singers in rock/blues bands and have learned some instruments. I took piano and tried violin but ended up mostly a guitar player and songwriter. But there have been periods in our teens, and later, where we did gigs with each other and would get up on stage at times at each other’s performances. Our divergent paths have kept us from performing as an “act”, at least until recently. Just in the past few years we’ve had regular appearances at the Black Potatoe Music Festival as well as some other smaller venues (Fox Run last year). Playing gigs with my sisters is one of my utmost favorite things to do in life.
When you moved to New York City, was your intention to make your living as a musician?
I was exploring several different options, including possibly going to law school. I worked for a year as a legal assistant in a large firm in Manhattan, then switched to a job in Business Affairs/Legal at Sony Music, where I stayed for 5 years. At that time I knew I couldn’t afford to live off of being a musician, but was exploring all the possibilities of my various skillsets. Eventually I realized I could probably work as a software engineer/IT professional (something I picked up at the Sony job), and play music at the same time. I made that career change in 1996 when I moved to Boston.
How did you hook up with the Fast Folk songwriters and what did you learn at Jack Hardy’s songwriting sessions?
Jack (and Wendy Beckerman) lived diagonally across from me in New York. I had a little apartment on MacDougal St off 6th Ave below Houston, and they were on the north east side of that large intersection. Some of my friends including Chris Bauman, Gregg Cagno, and Catie Curtis were involved with Fast Folk and so eventually through one of them, I met Wendy, and then joined the regular meetings at Jack’s. It was a wonderful community to join at that time because they had just gotten the Fast Folk Cafe going and there were not only great songs to hear but gigs to be had. My first Fast Folk gig was opening for Cliff Eberhardt, then Paul Geremia, and I played there several times over the years. I also was recorded performing my song “Nathan” on the “New Voices NYC” CD in 1996, and had a song covered, “Carriage Horse” at a Fast Folk show at the Bottom Line. Also at the same time there were songwriting meetings held over at David Seitz’s apartment (Prime CD) and just tons of great songwriters were revolving between those two meetings. I was extremely grateful for the regular nights of shared meals and creative community, which is not always easy to find in a sprawling city like New York.
Tell us about Camp Hoboken. That musical collective was a big part of your life for a few years. What was your biggest joy during that time?
It’s hard to tell the tale of Camp Hoboken in a short answer, but my sisters were involved… one of my best friends Gregg Cagno, his best friend Chris Bauman, and I were initiators of it. We would meet in the front room at Maxwells in Hoboken, and plot how we could improve our music careers. Don Brody booked the front room and started singing with my sister Connie in a rebirth of his well-known duo, the Marys. Out of some late night imaginings we decided to create a sort of a traveling variety show with several different members, the goal being to make self-promotion, traveling and conferences easier to manage (and bear). Our first real engagement was the 1995 National Folk Alliance Conference in DC, and we made a compilation tape of all of our music, setting up several showcases as a group where we played songs in the round and together. People came to see us and said, “can we book you as a group?” We also had our own campsites at Falcon Ridge and other festivals. Don (who also worked at Razor & Tie) was in many ways our fearless leader and guru. We lost him to a heart attack in 1997. That was devastating to all of us but made us closer. Read Chris Bauman’s book “In Hoboken” to really get a feel for what our lives were about. I’d say the great joy for me in being a part of Camp Hoboken was all the incredible fun we had, anywhere we went. We focused on the fun first, and always treated each other like family. Too many wonderful stories to tell here really, but a highlight for me was a tour I did with Gregg and Chris through Atlanta, Dallas and back. We met Woody Guthrie’s daughter, were attacked by ticks, ate too many ribs and almost crashed my car but that doesn’t really capture it at all much…
You’ve released three solo records and have taken a bit of a break to raise your children. Have you been able to grab some time now and again to write some new songs so we’ll get a new addition to your discography?
I have been writing recently, I think mostly inspired by the passing of Jack Hardy. His loss really hit me in a deep way and I started to hear his voice urging me to get off my soapbox and start writing again. I also can thank Esther Friedman and Chris LaVancher who host a songwriting meeting I attend, as well as Timmy Riordan who hosts an online “Fearless Songwriting” challenge regularly. I am lucky to have so many talented musicians, engineers, promoters, DJs, etc in my life who I truly appreciate just as people. The quality of the music is enhanced by these relationships, and so I hope my musical compositions/recordings also reflect that.
You were deeply involved with the Respond compilation which was a benefit CD for domestic abuse causes. That collection caught the attention of many people and the songs were powerful. Tell us about the genesis of that project.
I had moved up to the Boston area in 1996 and started playing open mikes and gigs almost immediately. Charan Devereax was hosting the open mike at Club Passim on Tuesday nights and she invited me to a pancake breakfast at her house with some of the other women playing the open mikes, including Colleen Sexton, Kris Delmhorst, Jess Klien, Pamela Means, Lori McKenna, Mary Gauthier etc. Charan spearheaded the project but got several of us on board as co-producers as well as artists. We brainstormed together at a few meetings and came up with a list of other better known artists we also wanted to involve, as well as producers, promoters etc, and once we found the Somerville organization “Respond” to be the recipient of the fundraising, lots of people jumped on board. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it. What a group of women and what an amazing compilation we made!
Do you listen to much new music these days? Have you discovered any new voices that you feel are comparable to those whom you knew from the Fast Folk days?
I do love to listen and find new music, not through radio exposure or the typical channels, but mostly via house concerts, word of mouth, and/or at festivals. Mary Lou Lord has a great Facebook feed where she promotes a lot of great bands who are under the radar. I also just poke around to see who my favorite bands are working with and that kind of thing…
Will there be a new Linda Sharar recording any time soon?
In the past four years or so I’ve recorded some individual songs at different places with different levels of finish. I think I would consider putting out an EP in the next year but nothing dramatic or expensive. I suppose in this day and age it might be enough to do this online and have a few youtube videos to complement the songs. But I also am hoping the Sharar sisters get some recordings in the works, because we all realize how valuable it is to document what happens when we make music together.