Most times you’d need a well-organized day planner — and money for tolls — to catch just a glimpse of all the music Dani Mari makes. The next few days, however, are an exception.
The guitarist, singer and songwriter is playing at Triumph Brewery in New Hope this Friday. The band on the marquee is Lover’s League, her collaboration with fellow Philly folk scene mainstay the Reverend TJ McGlinchey. But with a full night to fill, Lover’s League, augmented by standup bass player Christopher Davis-Shannon and drummer Dean Gorfti, is calling in some friends.
Also playing is Owl & Wolf, Mari’s Brooklyn-based duo with Will Hanza, and the night includes short solo sets by Mari, McGlinchey, Davis-Shannon and Hanza. And you can expect some cross-pollination too, like Hanza picking up the mandolin to sit in with the headliner.
“We’ve been starting to do this a little more. We like mixing it up,” said Mari. “It changes the scenery, the audience stays stimulated, and it’s cool for us, too — we get a break, and get to hear everyone else play, too.”
It’s a safe bet, though, that no one mixes it up more than Mari. To say she’s a folk singer-songwriter is just part of the story — although she is, and a good one at that. She describes herself as a fan of Billie Holliday and Mazzy Star, and you can hear those dreamy, jazzy approaches in Mari’s solo music, as well as in the songs she writes with other artists. But there’s also a lot of Emmylou Harris in the singing and writing, especially in her Lover’s League work — and, if we’re invoking country artists, a large helping of Dolly Parton’s work ethic.
The bulk of Mari’s music, whether in Philly or her more recent home in Brooklyn, finds her working closely with other artists. “I’ve always been really into collaborating and bringing people together,” she explained. “I like that energy.”
It’s how Lover’s League formed: Mari had met and played informally with McGlinchey plenty of times at shows and open mic nights around Philadelphia, and they always drew compliments for how well they harmonized. They ran with the idea, taking each artist’s solo songs and recasting them as duets. “Having two voices brings a different element and energy to each song than if it was just one of us playing,” Mari noted.
It’s also a showcase for the “love side” of their writing: sweet melodies with warm, classic folk-country arrangements and soothing singing. It sits a little differently than Mari’s solo work, which can, at times, be more ambient and modern, or a bit rougher around the edges. The band’s collaborative nature also hints on her electronic music, which she works on with producers in New York. It’s something she got into recording after she moved there two years ago.
At the time, Mari was booking shows in Philadelphia and New York, constantly travelling back and forth. When new recording opportunities came up in Brooklyn, she decided to move there to pursue them — and also to find more ways to integrate bands between the two cities. “Like any transition, the first year was definitely a hustle, but now I feel more settled in,” she said. “I found a good group of people. It’s been really cool to introduce them to Philly and vice versa.”
Aesthetically, electronic music is a long way from acoustic guitars and earthy vibes, but in the oeuvre of Mari’s work, it makes a lot more sense. “It felt pretty natural to me. I like folk and the energy of playing live, and at festivals, things like that,” said Mari. “But I listen to a lot of electronic music, too, and I’ll write vocals and lyrics for a producer who has an instrumental. I’ll record over myself doing harmonies, and the producers can add their vision to it as well.”
She’ll be spotlighting electronic music early next year with Female Frequency, a new collaboration of all female artists. It’s an effort to put women in an area of music where she feels they’re under-represented. That EP is due out roughly around the same time that Lover’s League returns to the studio for a new record, the first where Mari and McGlinchey are writing together. And, well before that she’s got another showcase for females coming up soon — albeit one in a more familiar genre.
Thanks in part to her relocation, Mari was able to cement her work booking shows in two cities as Brookadelphia. Described as “a bridge” between the two cities’ music scenes, Mari curates live events in Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
A handful of these shows are tribute nights like Crazy, tonight’s Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson show. It’s an ongoing series, and this leg of it starts on Tuesday at Bourbon and Branch — the same club Lover’s League will play next week — — in Philadelphia, before moving on to Lancaster, Delaware and Brooklyn.
At each show, bands local to those areas will play a few songs each by those iconic country artists. Mari and Owl & Wolf perform at each one, too. Originally, Mari envisioned it as an all-female showcase using Cline’s catalog, but after some requests to include the guys, too, she added Nelson. It makes sense, she noted, since Nelson wrote Cline’s hit “Crazy.”
The shows may not be as she originally envisioned them, but the expanded format sits well with what Mari does regularly. “It works to make it co-ed,” she laughed.
It also mixes things up — and makes for more collaboration — too.
‘Crazy’ will take place at Bourbon and Branch, 705 N. 2nd St. in Philadelphia, on Sept. 29. Lover’s League is playing at Triumph Brewery, 400 Union Square in New Hope, on Oct. 2. and at Bourbon and Branch on Friday, Oct. 9. For information, visit www.danimarimusic.com.