Ohhhhh, Beggar’s Ride. They put out one of the first records we reviewed once we got to the area, so they’ll always have a special place in our heart. Lately, Claudia SanSoucie and Kate Maguire have been working on a new album, but there was a time, nearly four years ago, when we couldn’t get over their self-titled set. In fact, a song from it landed on our best-of list for the year. This Saturday, The Ride will be joining forces with The Boxcar Lilies at the Blackrock Center for the Arts for a show that will more than likely be the best possible thing you could ever see at the Blackrock Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. We caught up with one half the duo, Kate Maguire, recently to talk about the group’s upcoming record, the many perils of crowd-sourcing an album, and, of course, how much they love Brewer’s Alley.
Let’s start with some history. How did Beggar’s Ride come about? How long have you been a band, and how did you meet?
We met in 2008 when we were both members of the Baltimore Songwriter’s Association. We just clicked instantly. We both love harmonies, and we both prefer playing with at least one other person to playing solo. Things just really fell together pretty quickly.
You said you have been working on writing material for a new album. Can you tell us what’s gone into the songwriting process thus far?
This time around, we have really focused more energy on editing, revising, and seeking solid, tough critique. It’s tough to critique yourself while also trying to be uninhibited and creative, so we’ve reached out to other people — fellow songwriters, and two really great songwriting coaches. It’s invaluable feedback — does the song make sense? Is it working? Sometimes we get a resounding yes, but we also get confused looks and a big “no” once in a while. Or maybe someone says to try the song from a different angle, from another person’s perspective, and suddenly, it just starts to work. Playing the songs live is a big help, too. Seeing an audience’s reaction during and after a song can also tell you a lot. Having these types of feedback before you record your songs is so critical. Once a song is recorded, there’s no going back to fix it.
Also, can you name some challenges you’ve faced and some breakthroughs that have been encouraging.
In this busy world, the challenge is always to get people’s attention and time. For us, that means finding a place to perform live and actually interact with people, away from phones, computers, etc., and share an experience with them. It’s so great when it all comes together. For us, our main source of encouragement is meeting people at gigs, and having them tell us our music or performance had an impact on them. That is wind in your sails for sure.
You said you cringe at crowd funding, but you have warmed up to Pledge Music. Why is that? What makes that model better than others?
It’s expensive to record an album at a level of quality that is generally expected if you hope for radio play. There is a lot that goes into the process of making an album beyond the writing and it all takes time and money — booking studio time, musicians, mixing, mastering, replication, artwork and packaging — and that’s just getting the album made and physically into our hands. Then, we have to get it in other people’s hands. There’s promotion, radio play, booking gigs, getting reviews, etc. It is daunting, for sure. We cringe sometimes at crowd funding because we both have a hard time asking for money, but we do realize that fans do really enjoy supporting artists and this is a great way for someone to say, “yes, I want to contribute to your next album” or whatever it might be. Pledge Music has been one of our favorites from the start. You can include a charity in your fundraising, which is very appealing. Pledge Music is also focused solely on music ventures. It can be used to crowd fund, run a pre-sale, or both, and they really work with the artist to help promote the campaign. We still aren’t 100 percent sure if we will use a service like this, but we definitely feel more comfortable with their platform versus Kickstarter, because of their added involvement in helping you shape a campaign. The crazy thing is that in order to have a successful campaign, it requires again money and time — it seems the deeper you get into the business of making an album, the less you are an artist but rather the product. So yes, for us, that is a competing concept. The Boxcar Lilies are in the middle of a Pledge Music campaign — check it out: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/boxcarlilies.
Who will you be working with and where will you be working? How did you choose those things, too?
We’ll likely be recording in New England again. We both feel a special connection to New England and just love being there. Connecting with a producer is not an easy task. We went through word of mouth, listening to other artist’s albums, and finally, conversations on the phone with the producer. When it’s all set in stone, we’ll have more to share, but finding someone who shares our sensibilities and who we feel will take our songs and give them a sonic home that really brings them to life — that’s our goal with this batch of songs.
You’re playing with The Boxcar Lilies. How did you guys establish a friendship with them and how have you maintained it through the years?
We literally met The Boxcar Lilies in the utility closet of Club Passim in Harvard Square. This was functioning as a green room of sorts during an event they put on called the Campfire Festival. We came banging into the closet with our cases, etc., while they were trying to get ready for their set. We didn’t get to hang with them much that day, but we saw them again at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance, (NERFA) a regional trade show for folk music in upstate New York, and that was that. We had so much fun with them, and clicked with them instantly. They feel like lifelong friends, and we maintain our friendship with them by booking shows together, spending too much time on Skype, bouncing songs in progress off each other, etc. We keep threatening to find a way to do a short tour together or a project someday. We hope we can figure that out.
What’s your perception of the music scene in Frederick? What are some differences between here and other places, like, say, Baltimore? Do you see it growing?
Frederick is a great music town. In fact, it was at Brewer’s Alley that we played together for the first time. For years, Rod Deacey, Ron Goad, and Todd Walker have been running a fabulous listening room upstairs at Brewer’s Alley on Monday nights. And the Frederick Coffee Company has also been supportive and host to a showcase of original music hosted by Todd Walker. To have a space like this is so crucial to performing songwriters. The format is to bring in a feature act, but also have a handful of two-to-three-song sets leading up to and just after the feature set. It’s a great opportunity to try out new songs, build an audience, and to hear what other folks are doing. We don’t have much like that in Baltimore. We do have some great open mics, but nothing in a separate listening space like that. Marc Evans and crew run a great open mic at Peace and a Cup of Joe downtown on Thursdays, and Rob Hinkal of ilyAIMY runs a great open mic at Teavolve in Harbor East on Mondays. We hope the scene will continue to grow. There’s nothing like participating in live music, for both audience and performers. There are some incredibly talented people who constantly tour or write and put on great shows. It’s encouraging when people come out and support them. In a world of gadgets and experiences via a screen, it is always refreshing to see people engage on a personal level, engage with art and music. It has a much greater impact on our lives.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
We are both big fans of Lucinda Williams. We see her when she comes through town whenever possible. We both appreciate her willingness to bear it all, to be vulnerable, direct, and write such beautiful and meaningful songs. And we love her live shows, her band is killer. We always walk away from her concerts feeling inspired and rejuvenated. We also share a lot of more typical influences — definitely Joni Mitchell, Townes Van Zandt, Sandy Denny. It’s hard to top Joni Mitchell as a major influence. She’s a true artist in every sense. But, truly, the list is long. We both love a great variety of styles and artists, but a sense of rawness, honesty, and down-to-earthness seems to draw us in more than anything.
Where are some of your favorite places to play (cities/venues) and why?
Locally, we have really enjoyed playing the Cellar Stage run by Joyce Sica, some great house concerts series, Focus concerts (http://www.focusmusic.org/), and 49 West in Annapolis. These venues all have a strong tradition of supporting performing songwriters, and so the people who come to shows are really ready to listen and be part of a show. That’s always great. And we love playing in the Boston area. We have been well received and played at some larger rooms there that have really helped us grow as performers. Our favorite show to date was the Joni Mitchell 70th Birthday bash at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore. Such a great night — standing room only, lots of local musicians and an incredible audience. We still light up talking about it!
Could you give us some names of some great local original artists we might not already know? Who are you a fan of locally and who should we keep an eye on?
You can’t go wrong checking out the Bumper Jacksons, Eliza Doring and the Penny Black, Naked Blue, Daisy Castro (and the Infidel Castros, too) and ilyAIMY. There’s a lot of great musicians working hard worth spending your time and money on. Check out the Songwriter’s Association of Washington and the Baltimore Songwriter’s Association, too, to discover more folks.
And finally what can we expect from your show? What kind of surprises might you have in store?
We were not able to get permits for pyrotechnics and caged lions like we had hoped, so we’ll just be sticking with lots of great harmonies and some new songs for you. The Boxcar Lilies always put on such a great show, and we will join them on stage for a song or two, and maybe even a Neil Young cover. It will be a great night. We can’t wait!