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Mary Ann Redmond: On the Verge

By Published: January 20, 2003
AAJ: I also noticed that you studied opera. In "You Send Me," there's a line where you go on for bars and bars—you don't hear anything trickling out—and I wondered if you learned that breath control from opera.

MAR: I think part of it is that is my mom sang, and it's something that you have, but I studied at VCU in Richmond—I remember operatically, you'd have to sustain through the end of your phrase—and I'm sure some of it has to carry over. You learn stuff in spite of yourself. (laughs) So I'm sure it helped.

AAJ: I bet. And you probably don't smoke...

MAR: Well, I used to. I quit like 10 years ago. It was starting to bother me—like last night, even singing in a smoke-filled club (cough, cough). From everything I've heard, Streisand smokes, or smoked, and Aretha smoked, and you hear these things, but I'm losing my voice here. It's either keep it or not. Eat, or smoke. Okaaaaay... (laughs)

AAJ: Speaking of smoke damage, have you heard Joni Mitchell recently?

MAR: No, but I saw that review [very negative piece about Mitchell's new CD in the New York Times]. There's no need to lob rocks at anybody quite that hard, especially somebody who's given that much to the music. I mean, she's just brilliant, absolutely brilliant... it made me sad..

AAJ: Me too, even though I heard her last album and it was like, "Oh please, don't do this. Stop now. Let's not do a Sinatra, just stop now..."

MAR: Yeah. But even Sinatra in later years, the phrasing is still there. And Tony Bennett. God bless them. I know they were put here to do what they're doing, and they're going to have to drag me off the stage, sitting in my wheelchair or up on my walker—"Let me sing *one*!" Here she comes again, get 'er off the stage... I just love it. It's what I do. A lot of us who don't have the notoreity the big dogs do, we do it because we love it. It has its own reward, I guess. It has to, or we'd jump off a bridge. (laughs)

AAJ: As far as writing, your lyrics get right to it. I really liked the line, "Love is a crime and an alibi.."

MAR: (laughs) That's not my lyric. Mike Jones—he wrote that one. Too Precious is a brilliant song.

AAJ: Oops... but...

MAR: (still laughing) And that was your favorite?

AAJ: (trying to recover) Um... I also really liked, That's All.

MAR: A lot of people comment on that one...most people have been there at some point.

AAJ: And "Here I Am"—I mean, "Here I am/And there you go"—what more do you need to say?

MAR: Yeah. If you talk about psychological stuff, my first dad died when I was 7. And then my mom remarried, and my second dad was killed when I was 12. I'm sure a lot of what I write about is from a real old, abandonment-issue kind of place, you know, and it's all about the healing: how you pick partners that tend to repeat your old stuff, and how you heal out of that, take responsibility for it and go on. Get out of the victim thing. Writing songs about it does seem to clear it out a little bit.

AAJ: Back to the Wammies and that category thing...

MAR: How many of these suckers do I have to win before I can trade 'em in on a Grammy? It's like food stamps! (laughs)

AAJ: The Grammys are pretty weird this year, I noticed...

MAR: Really? Who...? (stops) You know what, I know nothing about the music business. That's probably the reason why I'm sitting my butt here in Great Falls for all these years. I'm also not competitive.

AAJ: And you also don't seem to fit in any bin at Tower Records.

MAR: People ask me what kind of music I do, and I really don't know what to tell them.

AAJ: Do you have a word for it? It seems to skate over all these different categories.

MAR: An old boyfriend used to call it "Confessional R&B with a pop edge." I think I write pop music but sing it like more of an R&B singer. But I've got blues and jazz—such a mix of stuff that I love—that comes out depending on what the song is. I really don't know... My favorite vocal CD of all time is Rachelle Ferrell's First Instrument—if you're a jazz fan, she's just a monster. When you hear her, you won't want to talk to me anymore. She's incredibly gifted. If I could sing like that, I would die a happy woman. She's got another octave.

AAJ: Where did that jazz award come from? There really isn't a whole lot of typical jazz on your CD.

MAR: "Prisoner" got a lot of airplay, especially on 102.3 KYS HUR, the old black station. "Since I Fell For You"—with all the lick stuff, the improvisation at the end—was on high rotation for a few weeks, which is a big deal for a local artist. That was the year that I won the Best CD, Best Jazz Artist, something else—I think they just don't know where to put me, either. Since then, I usually win best blues artist. I love singing blues, but it's certainly not all that I do.

AAJ: If they did nominate you for a Grammy, what category would it be in?

MAR: I'm goin' for Queen.... (laughs) I don't know. I'm not worried about winning another award. I love the fact that they've honored me, but it's really about loving what you do. I'd like to get on the next level and travel a little more and play to bigger audiences—hopefully, that will be in the cards.

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