RM: Thank you. I'm really proud of it. The band is wonderful. It features Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder , Bill McHenry , a drummer named Darren Beckett - someone I only recently met, a musician from Ireland who was a gold mine find - he's very soulful and earthy- and Matt Penman on acoustic bass, and finally, Pete Rende , who is a big part of what I do now. Pete plays a myriad of instruments on this record that include piano, pump organ, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, Pedal Steel. His music is a beautiful, textural backdrop for my songs and my singing.
AAJ: Well, you picked some great players.
RM: I've been quite fortunate, I know.
AAJ: Those are two of the best guitar players on the planet, Cardenas and Monder, not to mention the rest of the guys.
RM: I really think so.
AAJ: Are they playing together on most of the tunes?
RM: Yes. I can't ever get enough of that sound.
AAJ: These guys can get very textural-both of them. Where was it done?
RM: Sear Sound, in New York City. It's Walter Sear's place . He has a very impressive studio with probably one of the best mic collections in New York - maybe in the country. Maybe even on the planet. We were downstairs, using the board that was rebuilt by Walter himself. With a bit of budget, we were able to record the basic tracks in two days. It was luxurious to have that extra time.
AAJ: Did you rehearse it a lot?
RM: We rehearsed at my place a few weeks prior to the record date. I made a weekend of it upstate at the house, with a paella and late night poker games.
AAJ: Did you say paella slash poker?
RM: Yes! A lot of the pre-production work had been done by performing so regularly together over the years in NYC. So the weekend was more of a run through and an excuse for all of us to spend time together like that.
AAJ: You don't seem to gig a super lot .
RM: I haven't so much outside of the city in the last few years. New York is accessible, and all of the musicians are in town. I was not willing to put my energy into being on the phone to get things going outside of our area. Playing in NYC on a regular basis made it practical for us to develop the music and build an audience here. I've halted that recently to re-fuel, as it just felt like the natural thing to do. This particular record was a big process, and I've needed the time afterwards to lay low, practice and write. I'm looking forward now to get out and present the music and musicians, especially with the support of MAXJAZZ.
AAJ: It's a good thing you want to be on the road, because I would assume they're going to want to put you out there.
RM: I'm very dedicated to it. Not since my time in " Once Blue " have I been on the road in the way that I'm anticipating now. I've been working with the same booking agent and tour publicist Roadwork Music , two great women who've stood by me for about 5 years. We've been preparing for this for a long time. With the addition of MAXJAZZ I'm ready to go.
AAJ: Well, by my ears you're way more wonderful than a lot of folks that are hugely popular already, and you beat some of these folks to the punch a long time ago, but people didn't get the chance to hear it.
RM: It's been a long road to get to where I am now. I feel very strong about where I am creatively.
AAJ: Do you have loads more than the sixteen on the record?
RM: About 40 more currently that I feel are truthful and balanced.
AAJ: When you speak about writing the truth, I think about the lyrics.
RM: I do too, mostly...
AAJ: But you're writing the truth on the musical end too, if you ask me. Now, you could say the music emphasizes jazz with pop sensibilities or you can turn that around and say it's pop with jazz sensibilities. How did that evolve?
RM: The music's truth always seems to be there. It's the source. I am not worried about being self-conscious when it comes to harmony and melody. As for the music as a whole, without a doubt, the sound that we've created is a complete collaboration with all of the musicians. Everyone I've ever played with in NYC has added to it. My own influences are mutt like, I suppose like all of us who grew up in rural areas in the 80's. My household was quite eclectic, musically speaking. I had a pretty mean diet of pop, classical and jazz. My mother is a beautiful pianist and we would sing together most nights the songs of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and various Broadway musicals. My family was also very involved with our Acadian heritage, which is what I mostly am, so there was a great deal of Acadian fiddle music as well...and my grandfather Joseph Agape played a mean fiddle. After our Sunday family dinners each week there would be some sort of music session. My mother sought out a recording studio for me to be involved with when I was about nine years old. I spent my entire growing years there exploring sound and music. Growing up on 200 acres in Maine was a wonderful place to process it all organically.
AAJ: Please expand a little on the music studio thing.
RM: My mother was searching for an outlet that would allow me to grow as a singer when she came across "The Outlook Recording Studio". I began going for voice lessons and soon it became this great opportunity to record. Conni, the co-owner of the facility was very supportive of my singing. I was surrounded by musicians and sessions consistently. I started spending more and more time there as a teenager, of course, and made several recordings by the time I was 16. I have never been intimidated by the studio as an adult, and I believe that being exposed to one at an early age was responsible for that.
AAJ: Yeah, most people don't have a comfort level at a studio until after they've gigged and had bands and everything else.
RM: I watched the studio evolve from 16 to 24 tracks, using Studer/Trident equipment. It's gone digital now, which I know is the going trend, but a shame. I will always appreciate that I grew up using tape. I was able to get to a deeper appreciation with my first real studio experience having Joe Ferla at the helm. He engineered the first Once Blue Record back in 1995 (there were two, a second recording by Steve Addabbo in 1997), and my first solo recording, Thoroughfare in 1998. Joe recorded Middlehope to tape as well.
AAJ: Ok, now wait. How did you get from 9 years old in Maine to Once Blue? Did you just do music forever?
RM: I have.
AAJ: Did you ever go to music school?
RM: Yes, at the University of Maine in Augusta to study Jazz Performance. After a year there, I was ready to get to New York. I eventually came to the city by myself. I found an apartment in the Bronx and landed a production job at MTV.
RM: I was in an art-punk band that played in rock clubs throughout New York City. I was the background singer and keyboardist...not much of a keyboardist.
AAJ: So where were you playing? Like CBGBs?
RM: Exactly, CBGBs and Woody's , an assortment of rock clubs. I had to be in the city to do so and had to find a way to support myself. On my way to NYC from Maine, I had a short stint at SUNY New Paltz studying film production. At MTV, I began in the graphics department as a production coordinator, and later moved to on-air promos in the production management department. I met Jesse- Jesse Harris within a year or so of coming to New York.