Artist Spotlight: Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer

Meet a couple who make music and meaning together.

Love makes a family—not mom, dad and 2.3 kids! To prove it, GRAMMY® award-winning musical duo Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer have released their 44th album, a tribute to diverse families. Dancin’ In the Kitchen: songs for ALL families is a soundtrack for 21st century families, and now available from all major music retailers.

Put it on your list for Mother’s Day gifts! The album of 15 songs, which features award-winning guest artists, is already racking up awards. To celebrate the release, we caught up with couple Cathy & Marcy before their national spring and summer “Dancin’ in the Kitchen” tour to learn about their love, life, and how they became a family.

How did you first meet?

Cathy: We met in July 1980 at the Toronto Folk Festival. Marcy played in an all women’s string band called “the Bosom Buddies.”

Marcy: Cathy was touring solo at the time. We were in a few workshops together and in the evenings back at the hotel, we gravitated to the same late night jam sessions.

We stayed in touch and continued connecting at more festivals and music events.

What were your first impressions of each other – and was it love/like at first sight?

Cathy: Marcy was an impressive musician who played with tons of soul and really immersed herself into the music. A deep friendship grew around playing music together—no love at first sight, but a definite pull to spend a lot of time together.

Marcy: Cathy impressed me with her immersion into Traditional music. Her banjo playing was great and her singing was spectacular.

We really hit it off and had a great time playing music together. Cathy was also the only Folk musician I knew at that time who was also working with kids.

My band The Bosom Buddies loved doing school programs as much as playing clubs and festivals.  Most Folk musician didn’t understand the level of musicianship and humor involved in doing shows for kids.

Who made the first move, romantically?

Cathy: We danced around it for a long time. Eventually, it became obvious where the relationship was heading.

Marcy: We had known each other for a while before either of us realized that we were heading in the direction of being a couple. Some friends accused me of being “smitten” and I denied it because it sounded bad. The truth is I didn’t know what they were talking about.

I went home and pulled out a dictionary to look up the word and found out that it was a good word. A very good word. It did express my feelings.

I immediately felt a sense of relief because finally the words and the feelings matched up. They added up to love.

When and how did it become official?

Cathy: We had a long distance relationship for about a year and a half. That was very hard. Marcy worked in different traveling bands.

Marcy: Cathy had a very active solo touring career. No cell phones or email back then, so staying in touch and staying connected was much harder.

That’s when we realized it was time to move in together, around 1983. We had a tiny two-room apartment that included office, bedroom, living room, kitchen and music space.

Cathy: We officially got married in September of 2012, the 32 years after we met. We had a fabulous wedding. Instead of a short wedding and a four-hour party, we celebrated the party as part of the ceremony, with close friends officiating, playing music, making dedications and telling stories.

After that, there was cake and champagne and some wonderful toasts from friends and our extended families. It was also special because Marcy’s mother was able to be there and enjoy it and be part of it.

You have made 44 albums together. When did you first begin collaborating?

Cathy: Our first recorded collaboration came in 1982, when Marcy and another Bosom Buddy, Karrie Potter, traveled from Michigan to Maryland to sing harmony and play on Cathy’s first solo CD, “Doggone My Time”.

Marcy: We called ourselves The Sibling Sisters and our three part harmonies were marvelous. Karie and I spent the week working on the album for $75 each.

Cathy: Marcy was integral to my next two albums for kids and families, “Grandma Slid Down the Mountain” and “When the Rain Comes Down…”

Marcy: …And Cathy was central to her “Jump Children” recording. That’s when we realized we may as well go full time as a performing duo. We had tried for a while to keep our careers separate, but it wasn’t meant to be!

Describe each of your musical and creative talents. Why do they work so well together?

Cathy: Marcy is an amazing instrumentalist who seems to be able to pick up almost any instrument and play it. She’s a virtuoso on electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, ukulele, cello banjo, Latin percussion and more.

She plays steel drums, hammered dulcimer, tenor banjo, cittern, and the list goes on. She’s got a voice like an angel and writes complicated and clever songs. Her production skills are intense and Marcy’s got a great sense of creative arrangements.

Marcy: Cathy is a beautiful banjo player and a very solid rhythm guitar player. Saying a guitar player is solid is highest praise. She can sing any style and make you think she grew up in it. As a writer her playful side is as deep as her serious side. Cathy is also a prolific writer.

Do you ever have differences and if so, how do you resolve them?

Marcy: We’re human, so we have plenty of differences. Musically, we have a policy that whoever brings a song to a project, or to the duo, gets the final say on that song. So, we’ll discuss, bring lots of ideas to the table, but there’s a system for that and we honor it.

What makes a lesbian family? And please describe yours—each other, children, pets, etc…

Cathy: For us, what makes a lesbian family is that the center of the family spokes are two women. It’s that simple. We do not have children of our own and we travel too much to consider pets.

Marcy: We have four godchildren whose lives we are very involved in, and a very large circle of close friends we consider to be our family. And of course, we have cousins, siblings, a nephew and their families.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced together thus far?

Marcy: We were both very involved in helping take care of our mothers in their last years and the many decisions that needed to be made about caregiving and then about closure.

It’s emotionally draining and we were very good at doing this together. We still talk about it a lot as in both cases, it had a profound impact on us both. It brought out the best of each other in the hardest of times.

Cathy: We also became official “parents” when one goddaughter moved in with us for a few years. She was struggling out in the world and needed some support and guidance to get back on track. We found that very challenging – but worthwhile.

What is your biggest triumph…?

Cathy: I can’t really think of a “biggest” triumph. We honestly get up every day and do what needs to be done-music, practice, business, taking care of friends and family, trying to be a positive part of the world. It was a HUGE thrill to win our two GRAMMY Awards in Children’s Music, but a real triumph goes even deeper.

Marcy: I think our biggest triumph is being exactly who we are in so many different situations.  We’ve been very active in Bluegrass and Traditional music, which is not always known for being openly accepting of differences and those differences include simply being female.

Audiences in the Children’s music field have used us as an example of an alternative family for many years. We’ve won at least 100 awards and traveled the world. We’ve been able to mentor young artists. All of those things are major accomplishments and I’m very proud of all of them.

A key piece of advice for lesbian couples who want to love and work together?

Cathy: As we built our working relationship, we learned to make some agreements about how we would handle disagreements and for the most part, they have served us well. I think any couple that wants to live together and work together needs to figure out where the problems are and create systems or “policies” for dealing with them.

We care about each other more than we care about things we disagree on, which is probably why our relationship has lasted this long. It is very intense living together, working together, and traveling together.

We also support each other in “side” projects where we each get to stretch out in different and new ways. So, one of the keys here is to keep the door open for each member of the couple to grow, while still being part of the unit.

Marcy: Keep going. Trust each other. Rest easy in the knowledge that you’re doing what’s right for each other. Don’t hide but protect yourself and each other. Take care of each other.

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