Mara & Urban Skies

New projects are on the horizon for 2014 - be on the lookout for new music!  Download my CD free - Enjoy!

    “I open my windows and let the stories of the city flood in…” Echoing the grit and gravitas below, Mara Sanchez’s biting voice poignantly captures the swirling dramas within the faceless crowds. A native New Yorker, Mara spent her entire career finding inspiration in these “wicked women, gnarly men, lost loves, and almost realities.”

     Remaining true to this multiplicity of voices, Mara’s first solo album, appropriately titled Ventanas Abiertas (Open Windows), mingles the self-assuredness of jazz with joyous bursts of flamenco over a driving pop beat. Like Mara’s city, her sound is fusion, and authentically mixed; bearing the footprints of many lands, she sings the global story of New York.

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Biography

     Mara’s journey as a performer began as the leader of her own band. Playing venues like SOB's, the Blue Note, and the Apollo Theater, Mara began to quickly cultivate both local and international followings. As I listen to her sexy, husky voice, I closed my eyes for a second and let Mara take me to the hippest jazz club in the Village,” said art and culture journalist Juan Cruz-Barrios.

     After performing at local events with greats like Stevie Wonder, Mara began touring internationally. In Spain, she recorded the hit record, "Madrid", which dominated the Spanish charts. In Japan, she roused crowds night after night in clubs across the country. After seasoning her craft in venues from France to Puerto Rico, she returned to Manhattan, set to stretch herself as a performer.

     While always keeping music central, Mara stepped away from the nightclub circuit and began amassing a fast growing list of television, film, and theater credits. In recent years, Mara has returned to her music roots and delighted crowds at CAMI Hall with standards from her own repertoire. From being a featured performer for Disney’s tribute to Chita Rivera, to belting, original songs on PBS, to ushering in the coronation pageant at the 2006 Puerto Rican parade with her stirring ballads, Mara’s burst back onto the New York music scene has been greeted with accolades from her old fans and new friends.

     With the release of Ventanas Abiertas, Mara begins a new chapter in her career. Working with Michael Weeden a renowned producer who has recently worked with Corrine Bailey Rae, Ventanas Abiertas shows Mara’s versatility and broad appeal. Her single, “BOOM BOOM,” promises to be a crowd pleaser as Mara lays her signature sound over an explosive Reggaeton beat. Singing in three languages, Mara retells, celebrates, and blends stories from the streetscape below her window to present a collection of international rhythms that could only be born in New York.     

Diary of a Female Music Producer

Week 12: Diary Of A Female Music Producer – The Cd Release Party 

     You’re at the finish line, you’ve recorded all your tracks gotten your pictures taken, packaged your product and are now ready to present it. However the amount of work that it takes to create “buzz” for your product should have begun four months prior to the release party. Yes I know a lot of you might be thinking “Wait a minute I was in the middle of recording?” Yes you were but remember you are the one person, the executive producer in charge of this whole project getting done and so part of the marketing and creating of the “buzz” is your job as well. So we are back to our initial question of budget; what type of release party do we want to create? Do you want to do a live event? Or do you want to do a listening party which is very popular right now?

     Whether you’re going with a live event or listening party I suggest the following, take time out when you’re away from the studio and select a venue for your event. This in itself is a huge job and you should enlist the help of friends to help you in this process. I happened to luck out when a friend of mine told me of a venue that was looking for acts. With that in mind I went to the place however, it was just raw space. There was no sound system, no mixing board nothing. Luckily I was with my friend www.lisabodnar.comLisa Bodnar who has done many shows in New York City and the United States. She offered to loan me her sound equipment and also got me in touch with a good engineer for the show. Although I had not counted on that added expense, it had to be dealt with. The next things to consider are whether the band will be playing, or if you’re going to enlist the DJ to play your CD and paying for advertisement. I will tell you upfront that my CD release party cost me $1400. YIKES! Nonetheless I wanted to go all out. With those decisions made, I then focused on the marketing. I had already researched the publications that reviewed the type of music I play which was Latin Pop. I then reproduced a copy of my CD into a postcard and send it out to press on my target list. I also posted on Facebook, my website, LinkedIn, and tweeted about it. Needless to say that all this work is exhausting but if you have a few trusted people in your team enlistment to help you. Keep in mind that the main thing you want to do is present the music and yourself to the public. The second most important thing is to make sure is that you get press reviews. This is invaluable and necessary for your publicity kit.

    A new way that folks are getting others to hear their music is by having a “listening party.” This cuts down on the tremendous cost of hiring the band however you still promote your event and you still have to find a venue. While I don’t adhere to this type of promotion because you are not performing, it still presents the material to the public. Whichever way you decide to go pick your venue wisely, do your advertising far in advance, and make sure that if you are performing you have rehearsed the band. Remember to have friends helping you out the day of the performance; by that I mean selling tickets, seating guests, seating the press and selling CDs. If you are lucky enough to get press make sure you follow up by thanking them and treat them as you would any honored guest. Remember you have to create a relationship with them that will be more apt to continue writing about you and keeping you in the public eye.

     Our 12 week journey of my sharing my executive producing are coming to an end and I want to wish you all the very best luck on your journey; Never give up! And please feel free to contact me should you need support.: URBANSKIESMUSIC@GMAIL.COM

Remember “Sing your song, sing your life.”
XO
Mara

Week 11: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “Packing your CD and Branding YOU” 

     Hey fellow producers, Last week we went through suggestions on mastering your CD.  If you’re still hanging with this blog then you are well on your way to mass producing your CD, of course this does not come without challenges.  At this point in the game, we’ve invested a lot of our finances on getting our music recorded and mastered but now we have to think about the packaging and distribution of our CD.’s The first thought should be will the CD have artwork or a picture of you on the cover. Keeping budget (the magic word) in mind it is always best to put your image on the cover. Why?  Unless you’re a well-known artist your CD cover should speak to who you are as an artist and give a glimpse as to the music you perform. This was my one huge mistake when I produced my CD. I was so spent (spiritually and physically) from all the work I had put into the project that when it came time to mass produce I had not given a lot of thought to my image.  What ended up happening was me running frantically to different stores trying to find the right outfit, getting hair and makeup people and negotiating with friends and graphic artists to “come up with a cover.” Yes, I had a cover in mind but I did not enlist the help of stylists or people who had experience to bring my vision to fruition. At the end of the whole melee my good friend and graphic artist Gloria Coleman did a terrific job of getting me a photographer (Ali Waheda), and she put together a great cover.
     When I look back on the cover I wish I could have enlisted a stylist because although I “slapped an outfit together” it does not represent who I really am.  This portion of your production requires time, thought and the help of a small army to pull you together so that when someone picks up your CD they get “the vibe” of what “you” as an artist are selling. I am still searching for “my look” but I am going to enlist the help of a pro to pull it together for my next CD.
If you have all of this already in place the next step is going to a company that will mass-produce your CD. I recommend David Rodriguez at Discmakers. He guides you to the whole process of getting your artwork together and working with your budget. Also keep in mind that if you have your website up you can always sell your music that way and save on the costs of producing 1000 copies of your CD. So give your marketing some thought I suggest getting a low volume of CDs produced to sell at your shows, and setting up your websites so that you can digitally sell your music.                                                                                                                                                                        
Next week: The CD release party!

“Sing your song sing your life.”

XO
Mara

Week 10: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “MASTERING YOUR CD FOR DISTRIBUTION” 

Week 10: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “MASTERING YOUR CD FOR DISTRIBUTION”

Hey fellow producers, we’re getting to the finish line of getting our project to market, but before you do Mastering is the final step before getting it to distribution. But what is mastering really? This is one explanation from SoundLab engineers: “So what is mastering? Every major label release is “mastered to prepare it for radio play and retail sale. The reason? In the studio you record one song at a time, resulting in songs that all peak at different levels and have different EQs. A mastering engineer can unify your album with skillful use of EQ, gain, and compression to give it a consistent sound from track to track.”
Simply put it gets your music ready for sale, radio play etc, and makes the entire project sound great.
There are many studios that do mastering and it’s always great to get recommendations from those that have already gone through the process.
Another point I want to make sure you all know of is this, “Always make a copy of all the work you’ve done onto an external drive. I have heard horror stories of some scurrilous people hijacking someone’s project, meaning “they have your project, and are not releasing it to you.” IT HAPPENS.
So: 1) Get an external drive (check out www.tigerdirect.com for some great deals)
2) Download all your work after each session!
3) Find a studio to master your project, get recommendations from friends (or send me an email and I
can make some recommendations.) 

Next week: Creating the look for your CD!   Take care and send me your comments and questions!

“Sing your song sing your life.”

XO
Mara

Week 9: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “OUR TRACKS ARE RECORDED – MIXING DOWN” 

Week 9: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “OUR TRACKS RECORDED – MIXING DOWN”

     Hey there fellow producers, I apologize for this coming a little late but I am actually getting ready to do a show in New York City and the time got away from me. At any rate at this point we’ve come to a two-month journey in getting our music together, hiring producers, musicians and booking studio time with our engineer to record our project. You come a long way! And if you’re still on the journey that’s great, if you stopped prior to this point it’s never too late to start.
So we’re finally in the studio, and mixing down our tracks, but what does that really mean? Well it means that YOU’VE finally recorded all your tracks and now your producer and engineer have to find the right balance between the instrumental sections of your music and your vocals. This may sound easy but it’s actually a highly technical and somewhat instinctual art. This again becomes a time when you have to trust your producer and the engineer to bring their best technical expertise to produce the greatest level of sound for the project. Also remember that your producer has to mix down several different ways. The first one is what they call “radio ready.” All that means is it has to be produced so that it can be heard clearly on the radio. This enables the listener in the audience to hear the music clearly. The second type of mix is called the final mix. This is the mix that will be used to create a master of your project. Mastering is required when you are going to produce multiple copies of your CD. And this is required if you are going to sell it en masse to audiences around the world.

     So there’s a lot to learn, but luckily you have the right team supporting you. When everything has been mixed down, I suggest you keep the number of people in the studio to a minimum. Then we close the door, sit with your producer and engineer and listen to the entire project from beginning to end with minimal talking. What does it feel like to you? Do you hear your voice clearly? Is the instrumentation balanced? Is there something you’d like to hear more of? Tell you crew and have to make adjustments and listen to the project again. While this may seem tedious it will save you time and money mixing done properly been going back and fixing something you do not like when it’s already been mass-produced. Remember trust yourself, it’s your project! I look forward to hearing your comments and stop by the blog and leave some comments for your fellow musicians.

Next Week: Mastering Your Project.

“Sing your song sing your life.”

XO
Mara

Week 8: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “Letting go and soaring in the studio booth.” 

Week 8: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “Letting go and soaring in the studio booth.”
I am back from our Presidents’ Day week hiatus and I hope I gave you enough time to think about your project and getting it up and running. And now here’s your big moment; you’re in the studio booth and it’s time to soar. A lot of us live for the moment when we finally have the budget, producer, engineer, recording studio and musicians. That’s a lot of work we covered in the last two months and kudos to you for staying with it this long. But now you’ve got your songs in hand, the arrangements and the tracks ready to go; waiting for your talent. You walk into the studio and one of two things can happen, you’re staring through the glass back at the engineer and producer and you let your vocals fly. Or, you become a deer in headlights and your vocals freeze up because all of a sudden you can’t let go and enjoy the moment that you’ve worked so hard for.

I can attest to this experience because it’s happened to me more than once. What I’ve learned is that this is not the time to become intimidated by the surroundings or the people that you’ve hired to help you bring your project to fruition. So you have to ask yourself, “Have you been doing your homework?” By that I mean have you been working on the songs outside of the studio? Were you vocalizing each day so that your voice could respond to the demands you are making on it? Are you dragging yourself into the studio after a long day of work (like I used to.” And do you know your material? I know these questions may sound sophomoric but it is vital that you keep your instrument strong (your voice), and that you know your material inside out so that you have the freedom to improvise and control the session as you, executive producer must do. More importantly this is the moment where you should be having fun not worrying about what people are thinking about you and your material. It’s also not the time to start begging out because your voice is tired, or you’re unhappy with the way it sounds. You must be prepared; otherwise you are wasting your time and financial resources. Final thoughts? Over prepare so that you can soar in the delivery of your vocals it’s what the world is waiting to hear.
I look forward to hearing your comments and experiences in the studio booth.
“Sing your song sing your life.”
XO
Mara

Week 6: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “Who's playin’ on your CD? 

Week 6: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “Who's playin’ on your CD?
Hey there fellow producers, we’re week six into our record production. We’ve picked our songs, our producer, but now it’s the crucial time to select some musicians. Sure, a lot of what we do today can be produced without musicians using Protocols, Garage Band and the like, but there is always a need for real musicians to add the human quality to a project.

My own experience in selecting musicians was not great and that is because I didn’t have the complete story of my CD together meaning; genre, songs, etc. But after stumbling through all that I started stumbling through musicians. A lot of them were well-meaning but they didn’t know how to play or deliver the Latin/Pop I was looking for. Nonetheless into the studio I went with several musicians who not only didn’t “get it” but lied because they needed the money. Here’s the solution, let your producer find the musicians for your project. More than likely, they have worked with many musicians and can make the calls to the right musicians, in addition to negotiating the fee for their session work.

A word to the wise, draw up “work-for-hire” contracts for the musicians and have them sign it before stepping into the studio. The work for hire contract protects you, the writer of your songs from having someone say they contributed to the song and other problems that can and will ensue. CYA. Once the musicians are hired, have your producer send the musicians an MP3 of the songs they need to work on and have prepared for the session. The recording session is not the time for rehearsal. Once the songs are recorded, finish the paperwork and pay the musicians by check! You will need these receipts for tax purposes at the end of the year. And remember, musicians bring their own flavor and expertise (hopefully) to the sessions, be open to the creative juices that start flowing when people are jammin’ to your music.
Let me know how your projects are going! Next up: “Where and how do I select a recording studio?”

“Sing you song; sing your life.”

xo
Mara

Week Five:Diary of a Female Music Producer – Do the songs you’ve written compliment your CD’s theme? 

Week Five: Diary of a Female Music Producer – Do the songs you’ve written compliment your CD’s theme?

Okay, so last week we were learning how to negotiate with our producer(s) about sound quality, style, production and the like. This week you’re back in the studio with your “final list” of songs to be recorded for the project when all of a sudden you realize some of them may not fit the “story” behind the project. What does that mean? I can hear the crackle of stress via the internet. I went through a similar experience with my producer as I sat and reviewed each song, the length of each song, but more importantly the meaning behind the songs. When we listened and lined up the songs one song in particular simply did not fit the genre of the CD (which was definitely Latin/pop and commercial.) So we knocked the song out of the project, however I simply was not happy with just having 6 songs on the CD. I know that my producer and I had negotiated for 6 songs but I started pushing…I didn’t win the argument and let it go. That weekend, I was home going over songs I had previously written and there it was, the title track that my project needed, “Open Windows.” I didn’t know it at the time but my cd was lacking the title track, the song that would tie it all together. I played it and quickly realized it didn’t have a bridge, so I sat down and wrote a bridge.

My producer was out of town that weekend but my engineer and I met and put the tune together. When Michael Weeden (my producer) came back he was not happy that another tune had replaced the one we took out. But, I was adamant about the song and keeping it in the project (even though it was not in our original contract.) We renegotiated and I decided to give him revenue out of the back end of the deal, meaning “sales revenue.” He quickly put his talents to brightening up the aural quality of the track. If you listen to it you’ll agree that it matches the title of the CD and ties all the other songs together. I want you to take a long hard look at your list (less is more) and then put the songs in sequential order. Do they tell a cohesive story? Do the songs tie into a theme? Is there enough variety in the tempos and styles of the songs? These are the QUESTIONS TO PONDER NOW, not when you are in the studio paying big studio recording bucks. Do all, or as much preproduction work at home, on your laptop or anywhere except the studio! Where are you now with your projects? Hit me up with your questions, and happy recording.
Remember, YOU are the executive producer, the pilot of the aircraft that is giving “lift” to your music! Go get em’!

XO

“Sing Your Song, Sing Your Life.”

Mara

Week 4:Diary of a Female Music Producer–Negotiating with your producer, or “Who’s Song Is It Anyway? 

Week Four: Diary of a Female Music Producer – Negotiating with your producer, or “Who’s Song Is It Anyway?”

     So you’re finally in the studio, and you’re working on your first song and your producer has made some changes to the instrumentation and or structure of your song; and you don’t like it. This could be a sticky point for a lot of artists and it’s one where you should take a pause, step back, and give a listen to the changes that the producer has made. I’ll give you an example of a similar situation I went through with the song “Simple ” We had started with what I thought was going to be a ballad. One weekend I could not make it to the studio and I asked the producer to continue working on the song so that we wouldn’t lose momentum on our schedule. The following weekend I came back and it was a completely different song, by that I mean that it now was an up-tempo, techno song. Of course I freaked out, and could not stop saying how “different” the song was. It was a completely alien song to me. This made me uncomfortable because I didn’t know what to do, however I confronted the issue and asked the producer how he felt this new song fit into the whole genre of the CD. After a simple discussion of the direction of the CD, my original vision, and their creative input I relented and let the song stay in its new form. Remember that in my previous blog I discussed about songwriting and sharing rights on songs. So this put a new twist in our negotiation. The reason why bring this up, again, is because you’ll find that throughout the creation and development of your CD this situation will come up. This means that you constantly have to keep on top of updating your paperwork; meaning, resending your updated paperwork to the copyrights library in Washington DC and redefining the percentage of ownership that your producer now has on the song they’ve modified. Sometimes this negotiation can break deals, but if you have a desire to collaborate, and trust the person you’re working with, you have to dig deep and ask yourself, “is this new song version true to my original vision for my CD?” If it is, then continue moving forward with production, if it’s not, then the song has to be reworked in a manner that reflects what you originally intended for your project.
    
     Many people will feel intimidated by producers they’re working with and simply because they may have worked with well-known artists, or have won Grammies, but no matter the reason you still are the executive producer of your project. And it’s important to speak up when things are not going the way you planned. It’s also important that if you agree to collaborate, to remain flexible, and keep an open heart to their creative input to your vision. In the end it all amounts to trusting one another, and if your gut tells you what you are hearing is true to your vision, then keep going.
I look forward to your questions and comments!

XO

“Sing Your Song, Sing Your Life.”

Mara

Week 3:Diary of a Female Music Producer–“Now That You’ve Hired a producer, how do you get started? 

Week Three: Diary of a Female Music Producer – “Now That You’ve Hired a producer, how do you get started?”

You selected a producer, but before you start working together here are some key points you should consider before you start your collaboration. Before you start working with any producer you should have a preproduction meeting where you discuss your songwriting styles and the direction and focus of your CD. What I mean by that is “what is the overall genre and musical style of your CD? “What is your target market?” “What is your vision?” “Will you be writing songs together?”
If this is the case then copyright paperwork has to be put in place to protect the ownership of the song. By that I mean if you each contributed to some aspect with her lyrically or musically to the song, how much writing credit is being split? This means completing copyright paperwork that will define the ownership of the song, lyrics, musical performance at the percentages of input that the collaborators contributed. This topic alone would take volumes to explain and I encourage all of you to Google the Copyright Library in Washington DC. There you can download massive amounts of free material that explains how to copyright a song. After this has been determined and all the paperwork is in place, including his contract, the number of songs he will produce, and the cost, it’s time to begin your project.

If your producer has created a track for you to sing on, or you’ve created a track and your producer has given you a demo track, does detract deliver your initial view or vision of the song? This is critical and will give you a clear indication how the rest of your project will go. If at this point you see that you and the producer are not on the right track to delivering “your vision” of your song, then give the producer and opportunity to redo the track. If at that point it is still not your vision dates time to get a new producer. This may sound harsh, but this is where a lot of songwriter collaborations fall apart. Do not be afraid to start hiring process over again. Do not be afraid to admit that it’s the wrong collaboration. This will save you a lot of money, heartache, and bad feelings between you and the producer. Like everything else remember you are in charge of this project, and you have the right to hire the right person to help you bring your project to life. Be brave!

I look forward to your questions and comments.

“Sing your song, sing your life!”


XO
Mara
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CD Single release - "BOOM BOOM"

CD Single release - "Recuerdo Bien"

Recuerdo Bien "Recuerdo Bien" Performance at Milk Bar New York 46.9 MB