When Marcia Ramirez was a senior in high school, she watched pop superstar Christopher Cross sweep the Grammy Awards (1980) with his hit single, Sailing. She could have never predicted that years later, she would be touring the world with Cross as one of his background vocalists. Marcia says she sometimes gets tears in her eyes performing. “I can’t believe I’m actually standing on stage singing Sailing with Christopher Cross.” She has been touring with Cross for nearly seven years now.
Marcia credits her adoptive parents for fostering the musical genes that were in her DNA. When she started showing interest in music and singing at a young age, they enrolled her in music lessons, starting with piano in second grade. “They really encouraged and nurtured that side of me, even though neither one of them were musical.” Marcia jokes, “They can’t clap on two and four!” In high school, Marcia took band and choir. She went to college to be a music major, but didn’t graduate. “I got my MRS degree instead.”
Shortly after starting a family, they moved from the small town of Nashville, Arkansas to Nashville, Tennessee so that her husband could pursue his dreams of being a musician. While he was on the road, Marcia was a stay-at-home mom to son Derek (who is now an award-winning guitar player, as well as one of Music City’s most in-demand session players and producers). After putting Derek to sleep at night, she would take out a four-track tape recorder and work on songs she had written. That marriage eventually fell apart, and Marcia went to work at various clerical jobs to make a living. And then she got her first big break.
Marcia got a call from her friend Steve Mandile, who told her Pam Tillis was looking for someone to sing harmony and play piano in her band. He told her, “You can make more money working one night playing a gig for her than a whole week at a secretary position.” At the time, Marcia didn’t even own a keyboard. “I went to a music store and rented a keyboard and set it up in my little apartment. I learned the Pam Tillis songs that I could, and I showed up at the audition and I got the job!” She spent the next couple years touring with Tillis.
In 2000, Curb Magnatone Records offered Marcia a staff writing deal, which was perfect for her schedule. “I could write and still be at school functions with my kids when I needed to.” Marcia says that was back when staff writers could make a decent salary, and Music Row was in its heyday. “It was a fun season, a very creative time. It was almost like a college campus down there.” Marcia was required to write 12 copyrights a year (12 songs on her own, or 24 co-writes). She scored a major cut with her song You Belong in the Sun (co-written with Jim Beavers), which Jo Dee Messina recorded on her Greatest Hits record.
Over the years, some of the artists Marcia has performed with on stage include Patty Loveless, Rodney Crowell, Lee Ann Womack, and Tanya Tucker. She has dozens of album credits for her background vocals and has appeared on numerous TV shows, including GMA, The CBS Morning Show, and The David Letterman Show.
It was while she was singing with her friend Kim Parent in a Steely Dan Tribute band, Twelve Against Nature, that she caught another break. Pop legend Christopher Cross happened to be in Nashville and went to hear the tribute band on his night off. That was the first time he heard Marcia sing.
Several months later, Cross sat in with another tribute band that Marcia and Kim were singing background vocals for. “Christopher kept looking over at me and Kim during the show, and we wondered if we were off pitch or something!” After the show, Cross said he was thinking about adding girls to his band and asked if they would be interested in doing some shows with him. Marcia says, “You see that on TV shows and think ‘that doesn’t happen.’ You don’t pick two little country girls out of 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville.” Two months later, Cross invited Marcia and Kim to join him for two shows at Epcot. They didn’t hesitate. “We were like, two nights at Disney World with Christopher Cross? Yeah, we’ll be there!”
Since then, Marcia has traveled around the world with Christopher Cross’s band, performing in Japan annually, as well as Germany, France, Italy, the UK, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. She says the best part of touring is connecting with the audience. “There’s nothing like the rush you get from being on stage and feeling from the audience their love up to you. There’s an emotional reaction there that everyone feels.” Touring also gives her the opportunity to meet up with old friends. Marcia admits there’s not much time for sightseeing. “But I look at it like recon. I make notes of places I want to come back to with my husband.” Australia, Italy, and France are on her vacation bucket list.
Marcia describes another milestone in her career as “one of those events that truly is a God thing.” Rewind to 2009, when a song Marcia co-wrote with Lisa Henrich and Patricia Conroy was pitched to Reba McEntire. Reba took the song into the studio, but it did not make the record. “We were crushed because we thought it was perfect for her.” Then a few years ago, Reba was back in the studio to record a faith-based album. “She remembered that song and tracked it down through the publisher. Six weeks later, she cut it.” God and My Girlfriends got radio airplay even though it wasn’t released as a single.
God and My Girlfriends is also on Marcia’s newest album, Abba’s Child. The title track of the album (co-written with Kim Parent and Rob Harris) was inspired by a book Marcia read by Brennan Manning.
“The main message of that song is that we cannot find our identity in any title in this world --mom, songwriter, singer, wife, whatever -- because all of those titles could go away tomorrow. But if you put your identity in being a child of God, that’s the one thing that will never change.”
The song God and My Girlfriends has become a springboard for a new women’s ministry that goes by the same name. “At the time I made the record, I had no idea I was going to be starting a women’s ministry and how the songs were going to tie in with that. God was just setting it all up.”
Marcia feels led to help women of all faiths and backgrounds have healthier relationships – with their Creator, friends, and themselves.
“Women need each other, but society sets us up to compete with one another. We are told to compare ourselves with other women – the clothes we wear, our weight, occupations, homes. When you are constantly comparing yourself to someone, then you don’t connect the way God wants us to connect.” So far the ministry has included speaking engagements and a weekly live discussion on Facebook, with future plans for a book. “Our goal with this ministry is to work on relationships because that’s where transformation comes.”
As Marcia looks ahead to the next ten years of her life, she plans to slowly ease out of touring. “It’s sad that I have to say that I’m too old to do this anymore (tour Europe in a bus for a month). But that’s OK because it means God has something else He wants me to do.” The God and My Girlfriends movement aligns with her goal of leading a successful non-profit that helps women. “So we are baby-stepping our way there.”
For more info on Marcia's music and ministry, check out the links below:
FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
Marcia always packs a real coffee mug and electric warmer when she travels.
Marcia recently celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary with husband (and guitar virtuoso) Mike Waldron. Together, they have 3 adult children: Derek, Kari, and Sam.
Musical Influences: Carole King, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Karla Bonoff, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt; also 70’s rock and pop
First concert: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Favorite coffee: Caliber Coffee (Donelson)
Favorite restaurant: Maggiano’s