It's been a difficult year for artists, but for a pair of Los Altos songwriters, singers and multi-instrumentalists, it's also been a fruitful time to watch their music blossom. The Song Gardeners (Mary Gospe and Corrie Dunn) have been hard at work writing, recording and releasing original songs with empowering messages, in a genre they call New Age pop.
"It is our intent to bring peace, beauty and harmony into the world through our music," Dunn said. "Songwriting is our therapeutic creative outlet."
The band (which also previously included Mountain View musician Chris Day), has released a number of well-received singles and plans to release an album in the coming months, with producer and fellow Los Alton David Scheibner at the helm. With titles including "Love Flows," "Warrior of Light" and "Love is the Magic of Change," their songs offer uplifting and affirming lyrics set to chill grooves and danceable beats, with vocal harmonies and more of a contemporary-pop sensibility than one might usually associate with the "New Age" tag. It's a natural association for Gospe, though, who teaches meditation, among other spiritual pursuits, while also having roots in rock, folk and jazz.
"We've really found an audience in the New Age genre," Gospe said, noting that both The Song Gardeners and her solo songs have found success on New Age radio charts, critical acclaim from international listeners, and even earned several honors.
The jazz-harmony infused "Love Is the Magic of Change," written by Dunn, recently won the "Oneness" award from One World Music radio station, for the song "that best represents the hope for global harmony, peace and a oneness of heart, regardless of colour, creed, age, religion, gender or sexuality."
Their sixth single, "Reveal," is out April 8 on all streaming platforms. With a world-beat flavor, a chant sung by Gospe in Farsi, Spanish and English, and lead vocals by Dunn, the song "is an invitation for women across the globe to break free of outdated patriarchal, religious and cultural norms that keep them silenced and hinder their choices and freedom of expression," according to a press release by the band.
Gospe and Dunn both grew up in music-loving families. They met 20 years ago, when their sons were in kindergarten and have been friends ever since, with a mutual love of organic gardening (hence the band name). They played together in the Los Altos cover band Cool Fire, then formed The Song Gardeners to nurture their original material.
Dunn has long been involved with music professionally; she holds a degree in music from UCLA and works in the Los Altos School District, teaching choir, orchestra and band to local elementary school students. She also plays violin in the Palo Alto Philharmonic and has taken bluegrass fiddle lessons with local legend Jack Tuttle. While she's composed songs since her youth, sharing them with the public is a fairly new endeavor.
Gospe earned an MBA and worked in high-tech marketing and consulting for years, with music on the back burner, although she, too, dabbled in songwriting, taking a class at Foothill College multiple times, "until I maxed out," she said with a laugh. In 2018 she decided to take a short sabbatical to follow her heart's true delight. A fortuitous introduction to producer David Vito Gregoli led to the recording and release of an album of original music, "Time to Soar," in 2019 and before she knew it, "My six-month sabbatical turned into a forever sabbatical," she said, transitioning to an "encore career" as an independent musician.
"I always dreamed of being in a band or doing something with music but I don't know if I ever thought it would take off," she said. "I'm kind of living my dream right now."
Obviously, the year of pandemic restrictions have put a damper on Gospe and Dunn getting together to play, record and perform, but they've kept up with their collaborations from a (short) distance.
"We all are really close together physically but we each record our own parts at home and then send tracks to the producer," Gospe said. "I'd say the biggest challenge in home recording is the leaf blowers!"
When writing, Gospe said she often starts with the lyrics.
"I've had a few songs drop in while I was meditating," she said. For the song "I Choose Love," the words struck suddenly mid-meditation as a sort of divine download: ''In this moment I get to choose. No one else is standing in my shoes. It's up to me how I want to be'" she recalled. "That was really cool. Those are like gifts, when that happens."
The band marked its return to live, in-person performance with a gig as part of downtown Los Altos' First Fridays event on April 2.
"With technology, we can still create and share our music; we've even had some online performances. But nothing beats live music, both for the performers and for the audience," Dunn noted.
Ultimately, Gospe said she'd love to tour both locally and internationally, especially to Europe, where the band has received some nice airplay and attention. But in the meantime, it's all about continuing to develop their songs and keep the positive vibrations humming.
"We feel really good about the messages we're putting out," Gospe said. "The songs are healing. I think we've found a niche for ourselves."
More information is available at thesonggardeners.com.