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Mary Ann Redmond: On the Verge

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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I think the most important thing is defining your own truth...and after that, being courageous enough to honor it...My truth is being able to play and sing and squeeze some marrow out of it.
Mary Ann Redmond's powerful, passionate voice inspires critics to poetic heights. Dan McClenaghan, reviewing her Prisoner of the Heart CD for this site, wrote: "she can belt it out to shake the walls down or caress a lyric like she's petting a cat." Goldmine admired her ability to go from a "fragile whisper" to a "riveting roar." Others use words like "soulfulness," "sass" and "spine-tingling," and compare her to everyone from Judy Garland and Etta James to Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, Aretha and Tina. Guitarist/singer-songwriter Redmond has been popular for a decade in the D.C. area where she lives,headlining at Wolf Trap and working an average of 200 nights a year. She's on the verge of her national breakthrough after years of roaming the musical range, when her peers honored her with 14 Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies) for Best Female Jazz Singer, Best Female Blues Vocalist, Best Pop-Rock, Best Roots Rock/Traditional R&B, Best Urban Contemporary.

Redmond is no cookie-cutter vocalist, singing about things she hasn't experienced: she writes songs that come straight from her gut to settle in yours, with melodies that stick in your head and grooves that start up your feet. Her latest CD, Here I Am, is a stunning, versatile mix—and available, like Prisoner of the Heart, through amazon or Redmond's Web site.

In our phone interview in January 2003, Redmond turned out to be as real as her music: earthy, warm, honest and funny. It was a refreshingly diva-free zone.

All About Jazz: I played the CD for some friends and they all want to know the same thing, WHERE *IS* SHE?

Mary Ann Redmond: Awww, that's nice. I'm ready. I've never been one to seek out fame and fortune and all that, but I love what I do. It's fun. So I'm blessed.

AAJ: So you're ready for the big national push?

MAR: Well, I'm ready to work a little harder. I think that's basically what it entails, and my friend Jeni Haight—my operations manager and best friend in the world—has just been sort of running amok—like, "we're going to do this if I have to drag you up the mountain sort of thing." And I've got my other friend John Jennings, who produced Mary Chapin [Carpenter] and helped with my last record, Here I Am—he's just incredible—he's going to be doing the next CD. We've got the songs sort of sketched out for that, but we haven't been in the studio yet. We'll see what happens with that.

As for me, I'm always working and staying afloat—it would be nice to actually have the money in the bank before the rent payment is due, but either way is good. It keeps life exciting the other way, you know, hand to mouth—keeps you motivated. (laughs)

AAJ: You said something about songwriting being like psychotherapy you don't have to pay for.

MAR: Yeah, when you write songs you get to work through your issues—it's all healing. I truly believe life is about how much crap you can pull away and how real you can be and truth—honoring your truth—but it's not always easy, and I don't always get there...but I'm workin' on it.

AAJ: I'd love to see you perform.

MAR: You ever come down to DC? My best gig is the State Theater down here. The guy who owns it, he's so nice, keeps asking me to call him and rebook it, he's been asking for March or April, but they're probably booked by now—maybe May or June. It's a gorgeous old theater. Post-interview update: The Mary Ann Redmond Band will be at the State Theater on March 15.

We're supposed to be up in New York soon—some interview with the House of Blues radio. I'm gonna go up there and talk to the peeps, see what they want to know—see if there's anything I can tell them. I wanna be booked there but I don't know... it's like, who do I have to sleep with to get a gig around here? (laughs)

AAJ: Oh, THAT old song...

MAR: It doesn't work when you're 43, it's more like, "Well, do you have a niece? Can you send up your daughter?" I don't have a daughter, but thanks for pointing that out to me.

AAJ: ...and have a good day.

MAR: Yeah, have a nice day. I'll just take my spinster ass outta here and sit by the fire with my cat.

AAJ: It's inevitable that you'll end up in places like the House of Blues once you stop staying in that little burg you've been in.

MAR: I'm ready. Right now I've got the coolest place that I'm renting—it's a log cabin on 2 1/2 acres, with a stone fireplace and a Jacuzzi upstairs that has its own hot-water heater because it's just so big... it's hard to get me out of there. It's lovely, it really is fun. Before this I lived with some roommates who were kind of party animals, and just to be able to walk around nekkid is a real good thing—to have your own space.

AAJ: I wouldn't want to leave that, either. Meanwhile, I was reading about all the different Wammies you've won. You said you were going for polka and metal next.

MAR: I don't remember saying that, but it's pretty funny.

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