September News: Video Premiere and Tour Dates 

September 30, 2021

There is a poem I love, by Adrienne Rich, with the line "You're what the autumn knew would happen." It's been swirling in my head lately. I like saying it to the leaves, to my kids, to whatever's in flux. Autumn knows things. She knows that we are still in tough times, that health is a collective state, and that there will be more change. I'm sending you autumn wishes, on a leaf, from my tree to yours.

September Newsletter Here

Ninja Adventures Begin 

Hi Friends! As a kid I loved obstacles courses. And as a grown-up kid, I still do. But I don't usually run them, because: grown-up. But that is going to change. I'm excited, thrilled and terrified to announce that I got the call from American Ninja Warrior and that training has commenced. I invite you to join me on this new adventure. Love, Rachel

Song-a-Day in February 

This month is "February Album Writing Month" for me and lots of other songwriters around the world. This is my first time doing it, and I'm writing a new song each day and posting it live. Each song is new and rough, and each livestream is . . . live. For all the songs from the month, visit my facebook music page at

"Home" recording with Vicki and Julie 

Vicki Randle, Julie Wolf and I made a home recording of  "Home" for the Little Village Foundation songwriter compilation album. The release concert is Sunday, Nov 29 at 4pm PST and features a dozen or so artists from the compilation singing one song each. Honored to be a part of this community effort while raising awareness about the need to support independent music venues during the pandemic. 

Sidewalk Sessions - SF Chronicle article 

Local // Heather Knight 
Noe Valley folk singer brings sidewalk jam sessions to grateful neighbors: ‘She’s a light’ 
Photo of Heather Knight 
Heather Knight May 6, 2020 Updated: May 6, 2020 4 a.m. 

Friends, neighbors and people passing by stop to watch folk singer Rachel Garlin perform from her garage for the neighborhood 

The J-Church Muni train no longer rumbles along Church Street in Noe Valley. Many of the shops and restaurants remain shuttered. The family-centric neighborhood no longer sends its children off to school or picks them up at the end of the day. 

Like many thoroughfares in San Francisco, that stretch of Church Street has mostly gone quiet. Which is why it’s so welcome when Rachel Garlin opens her garage door, sets up her black Yamaha keyboard just outside it and perches on her stool. 

The show is about to begin. 

“Hi, neighbors!” she calls out. “Thanks for listening!” 

It’s hard not to listen — or simply gawk. The charismatic 46-year-old has a chilled out, beach vibe on the outside, but inside her mind is clearly whirring. 

She tickles the ivories. She plays the guitar. She sings her own songs. She banters with surprised passersby. She hollers to people across the street and those looking down from their windows. She makes up tunes on the spot for drivers, dancing toddlers, dog walkers and joggers — so many joggers! 

For an hour a couple of evenings a week, she’s the neighborhood entertainer, comedian, cheerleader and soother all in one. And don’t we need all of those these days? 

“Having some fly-by music can be a nice accent to the evening walk,” explained the professional singer-songwriter in an interview. “It’s really about filling the air with a certain kind of sidewalk sound that includes people’s chatter and dogs and then a folk singer on the side.” 

Her regulars include Sara Bhat, a nurse in the intensive care unit at UCSF, and her 3-year-old daughter, Sahara, who can be counted on to dance on the sidewalk with gusto for the whole show. After all, it’s something to do. 
Garlin plays for an hour and sings songs she’s recently made up or from her latest album a couple of evenings a week from her garage. 

Garlin plays for an hour and sings songs she’s recently made up or from her latest album a couple of evenings a week from her garage. 

Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle 

“Some days are better than others,” Bhat acknowledged on a recent evening about being cooped up inside with a little kid who doesn’t really understand what’s going on. “She misses going to her friends’ houses.” 

Garlin made up a goofy song for Sahara about Velcro shoes and rainbow socks and sings it for her at each performance. 

Garlin also made up a song for a tough looking guy in sunglasses who stopped his huge black Ford Raptor pickup truck in the street to see just what was going on. He rolled down his window, pushed his sunglasses on top of his head and gave a sly grin. 

“I’m driving down Church Street in my big old black truck,” Garlin crooned at him. “I have my sunglasses on my head, and I just don’t give a...” 

Well, you know. 

She then invited neighbor Jane Marelich to play her accordion with her — from 6 feet away, of course. Marelich plays only Croatian songs, and Garlin plays no Croatian songs, so it was a bit of a work in progress. Like everything these days. 

Jane Marelich plays her accordion during a sidewalk jam session with Rachel Garlin in Noe Valley. 
Jane Marelich plays her accordion during a sidewalk jam session with Rachel Garlin in Noe Valley. 
Photo: Photos by Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle 

Some of Garlin’s sidewalk songs are improvised, but many are from her new album, “Mondegreens,” the word for a misheard song lyric. 

The garage music sessions aren’t a new thing for Garlin — but their purpose has become more crucial. In 2014, she and her wife, who works at Google, turned their garage on Church Street near 26th Street into a musical playroom for jam sessions with their kids. They now have three, ages 2, 7 and 9. There’s a colorful rug, a comfy couch and lots of instruments. 

“We wanted the front porch feeling of a neighborhood,” she said. “People would come out and share instruments and harmonize.” 

Garlin grew up in Berkeley — in a “very folk-music-infused home with a lot of live music and guitars getting passed around at parties.” That feeling existed at her regular Saturday morning sidewalk shows — until the coronavirus made sidling up to strangers, passing around instruments and singing in close proximity a bad idea. 

During the shutdown, she has shifted those sessions to weekday evenings as a respite after another long day inside. She sometimes sings through a mask, has a big sign on display about the importance of social distancing and has tape on the sidewalk marking how far onlookers should remain from her. 

“Now that we’re in this period of COVID and there are really strong restrictions against social gathering, we’re being very cautious and it’s a whole different concept,” she explained. “People can listen and share a smile behind their mask, and if they linger, there’s a shared understanding about staying 6 to 10 feet apart at all times.” 

In the windows above her makeshift outdoor concert venue hang homemade signs thanking first responders, health care workers and Muni drivers. Christmas lights are strung above the garage because even in the darkest times, there’s something to celebrate. 

Stephanie Soler thinks so, anyway. She’s a neighbor who never misses a show. 

“It’s such a joy,” she said. “She brings a little bit of life to otherwise empty streets.”