Issue # 135 Interview with Mary Ann Redmond
I got a SMOKIN’ HOT CD in from Mary Ann from one of our promoters & just HAD to make sure she got INTERVIEWED here (her CD, “COMPARED TO WHAT”, will be reviewed in the next issue) Be sure & followup with her – she’s one of the best jazz vocalists on the scene today, with REAL POWER coming through!
Zzaj: As I listen to my review copy of your new CD, I can’t help but wonder where all that high-energy came from? Please give our readers an updated bio of where you (originally) came from, where you’ve been (musically as well as personally) & where you see yourself 5 years from now.
Mary Ann: I’m from Richmond VA where at 15 I got to sing with my two brother’s top 40 band for a few years before heading off to college. I studied as a voice major at VCU for a year operatically and got to be in the 4th jazz band. Not a ringing endorsement, but nonetheless, it was a great school. I’ve been in bands ever since covering all kinds of music and writing my songs as well. As for five years from now, I hope to be playing, singing teaching and doing what I love. Also hanging out with Celine. haha. (see below)
Zzaj: Do you think your music is much influenced by your locale (D.C.)? Or is it more “universal” than that?
Mary Ann: I heard a jazz singer in Richmond when I was 18 named Earnestine Jackson doing Evil Gal Blues and Save Your Love For Me and was totally mesmerized. One of my 1st musical influences was Phoebe Snow I wore out her recordings. I loved the sound of Harpo’s Blues and I Don’t Want the Night to End. Other recordings like Aretha’s Jazz (that’s actually more blues ) and Etta James Time After Time are high on my list of favorites.
Eva Cassidy from Bowie MD, was my friend with a world class voice that , even after her losing her life to melanoma in 1996, still inspires me to just sing great songs. I try to stay away from things she’s sung because they are just perfectly sublime.
Zzaj: Do you do any touring, or do you stay pretty much local? If so, where will you be? If not, why not?
Mary Ann: Never say never, but I’m naturally a homebody with two dogs and I love waking up in my own bed. Also one of my dogs , an Aussie named Merlin, hates everybody but me. Oh, we’ve worked on his trust issues. He even has a couple sheep herding ribbons and his novice CD. He’s 12&1/2 but still is a jackass. But he’s my heart. His Border Collie sister , Mojo, loves everybody thankfully. For fun we take sheep herding lessons. You can find out where we’re performing at www.maryannredmond.com
Zzaj: Who are your musical “heroes”? From those, who has influenced your powerful vocal work the most?
Mary Ann: Rachelle Ferrell is an unbelievable vocalist. But I also love singer songwriters Jonatha Brooke, Patty Griffin , Ray LaMontagne, Shawn Colvin , and of course, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Aretha , Gladys, Etta, Eva Cassidy There are some local singers Tommy Lepson, Julia Nixon and Kenny Wesley that are total badaases too!
Zzaj: I noticed in your bio that you studied opera in your earlier years… has that earlier training carried over into your current work? If so, how? If not, what turned you towards jazz/blues?
Mary Ann: The reason I still have game today is totally due to operatic, supportive breathing and lifting the voice. The main difference between classical and pop vocals is a lot to do with where you create your break. But without proper technique, you can strain or injure your vocal cords.
A couple years back, I was lucky enough to meet Paul Langosch ( Tony Bennett’s bassist for 20 years!) and Jay Cooley ( keyboardist extraordinaire and arranger) and they took me under their musical wing that steered us in more of a jazz/blues direction.
Zzaj: Your rendition of a tune I first heard from Les McCann/Eddie Harris titled “Compared To What” absolutely sent chills up & down my spine… in your personal view, where does that kind of “soul” come from? Is it truly a spiritual thing, or more the “inside coming out”?
Mary Ann: It’s great song, isn’t it? I love to sing it because it still makes sense today.. all except for the “stinkin mutt” part. I’m not sure where my soul comes from but I’m glad you like what you hear.
Zzaj: Since our magazine focuses on independent players, please give us your experience in running your own label… how did that come about? How deeply are you involved in the production & distribution end of the music on the label?
Mary Ann: We are not signed. As for my own label, I’m an expert at selling CDs out of the trunk of my car like a bake sale.
Zzaj: Who have you performed with? & if there’s someone you haven’t performed with yet (that you’d like to) – who would that be?
Mary Ann: Eva Cassidy and I are on Youtube singing Tears in Heaven together. I’ve recently played with Nils Lofgren who is one of the most talented and nicest people on the planet. I co-wrote a song Love Me Anyway that got picked up by Johnny Hallyday last year and then he decided to do it as a duet.. with CELINE DION!! I KNOW, RIGHT!!? So her French version sold over a million copies and Johnny’s like 600,000. I’ll get paid in November and become a real snooty patootie. I’m waiting for Celine to call and ask to cover some more of my songs. We don’t have to gig together. Unless, of course, she insists. haha. My Version is on the new CD! Here’s Celine and Johnny:
Zzaj: I believe that music, poetry and vocal works have a real potential to turn the world into a better place… do you agree (or not)? If so, why? If not, why not?
Mary Ann: God I hope so. Music can be incredibly healing. And I believe our world could use a lot of healing. I love what I get to do with music so much..singing and writing. I’m so lucky to still squeak out a living with what heals me. And hopefully moves and or heals others too!
Zzaj: Many of our readers are aspiring artists themselves? Give them your insights on why music is worth pursuing as a career, please (or why it isn’t).
Mary Ann: As my mother used to say ” Don’t Encourage Her..” Those who are wondering if it’s “worth pursuing” , probably aren’t eaten up with it to the point of no return. Those who can’t be swayed are both blessed and cursed haha.
Truth at least for me was I had no choice. It’s not really a career choice but the beautiful gift in my life that keeps me happy and inspired. I’m so grateful.