Husband-and-wife musical team Mare Wakefield and Nomad Ovunc (both ’04), came to Berklee from different parts of the world with different aspirations. Then a chance seating arrangement in a Berklee ear training class brought their two worlds together. Recently, the New York Times proclaimed their unique blend of “old country and contemporary folk, à la Dar Williams or Patty Griffin.”
“We met on the first day of class,” Mare (pronounced like Mary) Wakefield says. She recalls the first time she heard Ovunc speak. “I don’t know if it was his accent or friendly confidence, but it was love at first listen.”
Ovunc had come to Berklee from Turkey seeking a more contemporary music education after studies at Istanbul University State Conservatory. For Wakefield, the Berklee experience was all about fast-tracking her already burgeoning career as a singer/songwriter. She knew that some of her songs worked and some hadn’t, but had yet to understand why. So she left Oregon for Berklee to find out.
What has made the pair a Nashville success story isn’t that they’ve rocketed to super stardom. Rather, it’s their ability to utilize their combined musical talents across genres and mediums. They embody the definition of working musicians and have worked steadily since their arrival in Music City. Their primary gig is touring as the Americana duo Mare Wakefield and Nomad, playing internationally at venues ranging from house concerts to concert halls, Americana conferences and folk festivals. They were finalists in the New Folk Song Competition at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival both in 2015 and 2016.
But when they aren’t touring, “You can find us playing children’s music or teaching songwriting workshops in schools,” Wakefield says. “But turn around and you’ll find us playing Turkish music at international festivals.”
Ovunc’s skills on both sides of the studio glass have also led to musical opportunities and income. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, he is an in-demand session piano player. He built a studio behind their home in East Nashville, where he produces various artists and tracks demos for clients. The dynamic duo also uses their studio to create material for music libraries and supervisors. Their song “Candles and Carols” was featured this past holiday season on Lifetime Television. But it’s never long before they’re back on the road. This year they will embark on their longest stretch yet: a five-month tour across Canada, and America—including Alaska—in support of their new album Time to Fly.
Some touring musicians can get jaded by the rigors of the road, but that’s not the case for these two. “We play for Nebraska farmers, Ohio school teachers, and Southern California lawyers”, Wakefield explains. “One thing we’ve learned is that there are good people everywhere. When you reach beyond ego, dogma, and political divisions, most people are kind, supportive, and compassionate.” This attitude keeps them going.
Their time on the road also taught them how to build and maintain a grass-roots fan base. For years, Wakefield and Ovunc have written and released a song of the month to fans. A collection of these now-finished products makes up the tracks on Time to Fly. “It’s so fun for people to be part of a journey and witness how a song can grow,” explains Ovunc. “We’re delighted to be able to deliver such a strong final product to our audience.” It’s a formula that’s worked for them since that first ear training class. Good people, delivering good music.