ABOUT US

In 2016, Ira Marlowe committed to writing and recording a new song each week to help support the Monkey House. You can HEAR THEM ALL or better yet, become a Monkey House Patron and get a new song in your email each week (plus other perks) for as little $5 a month.

When songwriter Ira Marlowe moved to California in 1988, he discovered a vibrant scene for musicians and songwriters at San Francisco's "Owl & Monkey Cafe”.  After the Owl closed in the mid-90’s, the vacuum was filled by the delightful Bazaar Cafe in SF’s Richmond District.  When he opened the Monkey House in June of 2012, Marlowe followed in these footsteps, creating a cozy East Bay home for songwriters, comedians, storytellers, and other thoughtful and entertaining performers.  But he added some some elements usually missing from the coffeehouse scene: a stage, a great sound system, stage lights, even a black velvet curtain.  He wanted a room that felt more like... show biz.

In January 2017, Marlowe landed a job teaching songwriting for UC Berkeley's Music Department.  He also offers private and group songwriting instruction at The Monkey House.

 

In 2014, Ira won the job as songwriter-in-residence for the Tony award winning San Francisco Mime Troupe and has penned the songs for their three productions: Ripple Effect, Freedomland, and Schooled.  After taking a break last year, he will be writing the songs from the 2018 production.

In 2016, Marlowe wrote BROTHER TIMEa musical screenplay about two aging musicians who hire a good-looking young kid to front for them.  When the video goes viral, they find themselves in deep with a deadly music mogul.  (He's currently taking a break from trying to shop it...)

His most recent project is THE UNSEEN WORLD, a stage musical involving parallel dimensions, schizophrenia and a mythical invention by Nikola Tesla.  He's busy with the joyful machinations of attempting to mount a 9-person musical comedy/drama on a 6' x 12' stage.

Marlowe's songs have been described as "four-minute movies", known for a rare combination of lyrical wit and emotional impact. He grew up listening to his parents' folk songs and show tunes and bought his first guitar at age twelve.  In high school, he converted from folkie to rocker and soon started penning songs that landed somewhere between Townsend and Daltrey and Lerner and Loewe.  These days, the label "folk-rock" is useful as a ballpark description, but Marlowe's writing swings from funny to sad to poignant to political -- sometimes within a single song -- and this has always made him a tricky fit for a music industry driven by marketers.  Yet his range as a songwriter -- along with his unique voice and the sheer entertainment value of his shows -- make him a delight to audiences wherever he goes.

Burnt out after a series of fizzled major-label record deals, he was performing in 2005 at the Bazaar Cafe when he chanced to meet the director of The Learning Company, the world's largest producer of education software for kids.  Hired on the spot to write a series of songs for their new release, Marlowe took an anything-goes approach to his task and started having fun again.  Soon after, he started Brainy Tunes, his own kids' music label, which in the past five years has released six CDs and won the coveted Parents' Choice and Mr. Dad Awards, selling thousands of units, mostly to schools and libraries.  But though he loves writing kids' music and gets a kick out of performing for children, he never felt at home with the smiley, squeaky-clean persona required for the job. Having recently found a partner to handle to business aspects of Brainy Tunes, Marlowe has returned headlong to writing and performing for those big kids known as adults.  

When Marlowe was fourteen, his father scoffed at his plans for a career in music.  “Son,” he cautioned, “many are called, but few are chosen.”  Now, after decades in music -- strolling with his guitar between the tables of a Howard Johnson’s, singing at a circumcision, being spit at by a spoiled-rotten four-year-old -- he finds, to his great surprise, that he's more excited than ever about music.  These days he’s no longer that concerned about being chosen.  He knows he's lucky to still feel called.

Listen to the music and you might understand.