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Interviews

Mary Ann Redmond: On the Verge

By Published: January 20, 2003
AAJ: Oh... that will be inevitable. Just buckle up and keep going.

MAR: Yes, ma'am.

AAJ: Now, here's a delicate question. The people I know who've heard your music without seeing your picture have said, "she's black, right?"

MAR: Yes, I am. (laughs) What do you mean I'm not black? You mean I've been singing like this for 27 years and I'm not black? You're the first one that told me, dammit. Now I'm going to have to start singing like Tiffany!

AAJ: God forfend. Does this ever become a problem?

MAR: When Prisoner first came out [1994], and was gettin' that radio play, we were booked to open for the O'Jays at the Carter Barron, a thousand-seat amphitheater, basically a black crowd. We went out and with the first song it was like, okaaaaay, who's this, and then we went into "Since I Fell For You," and as soon as I hit that first note, the whole crowd just started applauding because they'd heard it on the radio—and they were like, "Oh, look, it's a little white girl singing that!" I was a little nervous, 'cause I'd played for black crowds who were a little cool, but I've also been fired for having too black of a sound at some cracker clubs that wanted me to sing like Madonna. But that was a long time ago and I really think everything is healing so much, racially, at least that way. I'm hoping.

AAJ: Who are your influences? I hear a lot of Michael McDonald in there.

MAR: (Does dead-on imitation: "I can't forget/We're not in love anymore.")

AAJ: (On floor, laughing)

MAR: Phoebe Snow, I used to listen to her a lot—gosh—so many people—Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder—I love Aretha, love Gladys. A long time ago I had a development deal with Motown. Steve McKeever came out to see me play, and David Sonnenberg from Goth Communications—he has Joan Osborne now—got me a deal for three songs.

AAJ: What happened?

MAR: Steve got moved out of his position. Well, they signed me, even if it was a development deal. It's pretty cool that my only big record label deal was with Motown.

AAJ: What do you when you're not doing music?

MAR: Ride Hector.

AAJ: Hector?

MAR: Not my boyfriend. He's the horse that I lease about a mile away from me. I just love him. He keeps me sane. I do spin classes and Pilates, and go see other bands, and work—I love working. I write, and I play guitar almost every day. It's a dirty life, but somebody's gotta do it. (laughs)

AAJ: What do you consider your major achievement so far—musical or otherwise?

MAR: I think—gosh—I think it's figuring out that the most important thing is defining your own truth, whatever that might be. And it's tricky, because as you evolve, that changes. And then after that, being courageous enough to honor it. If you can live your life like that every day, that can be a pretty major achievement. My truth is being able to play and sing and squeeze some marrow out of it.

AAJ: What's your next project?

MAR: John Jennings and I are working on CD #4. Prisoner just got released overseas, and Here I Am is being picked up by a distributor company in Europe. We're also planning a tour for this spring to Chicago, Detroit, and Grand Rapids—it's a land we haven't been to yet.

AAJ: Where would you like to be in 5 years?

MAR: Preferably not sounding like Moms Mabley and not looking like Barbara Bush. But, other than that, I don't know—just happy and healthy and with my feet on the ground. Maybe I should have bigger goals, but I just want to sing and play and write and work with the people I'm blessed to work with.

AAJ: What would you like people to know about you?

MAR: Oh... my...

AAJ: Anything you want to tell them?

MAR: Ahhh.... gosh... I really hadn't thought about telling them anything. You have me stumped. I'm not really a "hey, look at me!" kind of girl anyway. I don't have that hustling, "come and see what I got" kind of thing. It's just not in me. I'd just tell them: Check it out, listen to the music, hope you like it, support live music, come see a show.

Mary Ann expressed what many vocalists often feel in her "Life is Short: Autobiography as Haiku" article, published in The Washington Post on Dec 16, 2001:

I'm singing a ballad at the pub. Right in front of the cramped stage sits this guy swilling his fifth half-price Corona. Apparently, with the savings, he's invested in a pack of Marlboro Reds. I'm stuck there with his smoke billowing up my nostrils, while he yammers incessantly about sleeping with some woman named Miranda. And I'm thinking..."I don't deserve this."

Four days later, I'm playing to a sold-out crowd at the State Theater. I'm singing the same ballad while hundreds of people are hushed and listening. It's incredible. And I'm thinking... "I don't deserve this."


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