Natasha Ramirez Farr left behind the San Francisco Opera, a classical music career and established lifestyle to pursue an inner truth that could not be held down. She headed back to her hometown of Baltimore and sought out friends and musical partners. Her search led her to ex-bandmates, Michael Gehl (guitarist and songwriter), and bassist, Freddie Louden. Michael and Freddie had established a reputation of their own as prolific and unique players in groups such as Love Riot and Kelly Bell Band, garnering a Grammy nomination on the way. Between them, they have shared the stage with acts ranging from Wilco and Los Lonely Boys, to Richie Havens, Guster, Cindy Lauper and Blues Traveler. After a few test shows with various guest artists, the band, Vagabond Motel, was officially born. Newest to the group are members Ralph Reinoldi on guitars and mandolin, and Dan Esser on percussion. Experienced and professional, they round out the sound, adding dynamic range, versatility and rhythmic energy.
With Natasha’s voice ranging from lilting to gritty, songs came quickly. As their sound developed, they began working on the debut EP; first with engineer/producer Lawrence Bertoldi (Lungfish, Boister), then with Roy Wallman at KL Studios who suggested a textured rhythm approach and introduced the trio to percussionist, Will Williams and keyboardist, Rody Barthelmes. The sessions were mixed and mastered by Arnie Geher at Secret Garden Sound in North Hollywood, California. The resulting 6-song EP captures the beauty and subtle musical power of the group, as well as the immense personal drama that results from the decision to change the trajectory of one’s life, the fall-out from the actions that follow, and a cross-country move. The title track, “Restless”, was co-written by Ramirez and Gehl and is a semi-finalist in the 2018 Song of the Year songwriting contest. “The song, Restless, is not about a fear of fidelity, but rather not wanting to be boxed in by personal definitions and expectations.” says Gehl. Ramirez adds with a smile, “We are all a compilation of so many qualities, so many abilities. We might be musicians, creators, friends, family members, truth seekers. When we’re told there is something we can’t be, we naturally gravitate to that.”
Vagabond Motel shows many musical influences, from contemporary acts like The Avett Brothers and Alabama Shakes, to more classic ones like Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush and Paul Simon. “It’s a singer/songwriter approach, but we try to bring in our love of Americana, soul, funk and folk. In concert, we try to keep it lively and rhythmic.”, says Natasha. The exception is the U2 cover, "Where the Streets Have No Name". Recorded with just guitars and vocals, the song is stripped down to the point of prayerfulness. “I loved that the quieter we got with the arrangement, the more profound and personal the lyrics became. “It’s an intimate side, an emotional depth we wanted to be sure to include on the EP.” says Natasha.
If there is a common thread between us all, it is that we have the capacity to redefine ourselves. Natasha adds, “It is never too late to be who we want to be, who we feel we should be. When we are motivated and take action with purpose, we are stronger for ourselves and for the people we love.”
In 2018, Vagabond Motel expanded the band to include two great musicians: guitarist, Ralph Reinoldi, another former musician friend from Natasha’s early singing days, Ralph utilizes skillful mastery of his acoustic-electric hybrid guitars and mandolin to add depth and dimension. Dan Esser, percussionist, completes the package by creating a vibrant and rhythmically exciting foundation to the sound, from the cajon to shakers and everything in between, Dan brings it!
In 2021, the band released the song and video, “Not Broken”, a tribute to the essential work force and survivors of Covid 19. The group includes members of the essential workforce. The song and video garnered considerable local media coverage, including television and radio interviews on WMAR and WHGM as well as newspaper articles in the Baltimore Sun, The Susquehanna Press, The Aegis and The Reporter.
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