Oysters, Blues & Brews. Have you heard of it? The event is going down Saturday at Barley And Hops. It benefits Mission Of Mercy. The entertainment? Ms. Mary Shaver, who knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to the blues. We recently caught up with her to talk about her connection to The Nighthawks, the importance of playing at Blues Alley and, of course, who some of her favorite local artists are. She begins rolling and rocking around 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon. You’ll be there, right? I mean, for a $30-for-all-you-can-eat day … what are you waiting for? You can learn more about Shaver here.
So, take us back to the beginning. How did the Mary Shaver Band did get started? How long have you been together? When/where/how did you meet?
The Mary Shaver band disbanded in October of last year. We were together since 2000. Prior to that I was in a rock blues band for 10 years. I also currently work with Bad Influence and the Smokin’ Polecats. I met Keith Grimes through a booking agent/mutual friend. We started working together in 2000. We brought Raice onboard pretty quickly, and had Wayde Matthews on bass. Spencer Leckliter ultimately replaced Wayde when he passed away.
Where are some of your favorite venues/places to play around the country and why?
I love big stages and outdoor venues like Baker Park. Being outside and making music is usually fun, weather permitting. I also like intimate venues like the Birchmere and Bethesda Blues and Jazz.
I see on your website that you are working on a new record. How’s that going? What inspired you to get into the studio and start working?
It was not an easy decision to break up the Mary Shaver Band and go into the studio. I was comfortable with MSB, yet I was feeling a pull towards my rock blues roots and I wanted to play electric guitar. I took some time to just clear my head musically and even take guitar lessons. The songs started coming and they are more rock than ever. I’ve departed from my blues/soul sound, but the sound that has evolved in the studio is what I’ve always dreamed of. It’s got a harder edge, but I’m not so old that I can’t still rock.
I also see you worked with Nighthawks drummer Pete Ragusa in the past. How did that relationship come about? What was it like working with him?
I had known and respected Pete Ragusa for a long time. We are both from PG County. I knew he had some production experience and I chose him over Chris Biondo, who had worked with Eva Cassidy, because at that time, I wanted a blues rock record. Working with Pete was a dream come true. He truly showcased my voice on “No Time Like Now.” He was instrumental in helping me achieve my recording goals then. I’m in the studio now with Marco Delmar and we are recording at Bias Studios, where Mary Chapin Carpenter did all of her recordings. Marco is helping me carve out my new sound, or maybe it’s my real, true, deep-down sound. Any way you look at it, this recording was something I needed to do artistically. It goes beyond ego or money. I am doing it because as an artist, I feel the need to grow and music is such a huge part of who I am, that I just couldn’t ignore the voice in my heart. The new material speaks to all that I went through to get to this point.
What’s your impression of the local music scene, both here in Frederick and in D.C. and Baltimore? Do you think Frederick is thriving and growing consistently, or is it not really on your radar?
There are many fine local musicians in all genres from Fredericksburg to Hagerstown to Baltimore, and even further out. One of the reasons I like Frederick is because I am well aware of all they do to promote music and all artistic platforms. I’ve been a part of the events on Carroll Creek. I’ve played at several Frederick bars past and present. Frederick has a thriving arts community and I hope I’m always a part of it. I love Frederick and Frederick knows it. I’m at the Weinberg this Saturday after the Barley and Hops benefit for the Frederick Film Festival, where I’ll be doing a Women In Blues set with Big Boy Little Band featuring Steve Jacobs.
Can you tell us a little about some of the band’s best moments? Conversely, can you tell us about some of the band’s lowest moments?
I”m going to talk about MSB (Mary Shaver Band), because that was my band and the nearest and dearest to my heart. Some best moments were playing at Blues Alley – the moments onstage where we were all in the zone and playing our hearts out, and the love and admiration I still feel for Keith Grimes, Raice McLeod and Spencer Leckliter. Some lowest moments were when Wayde Matthews died, when I broke my foot and I was on crutches and couldn’t perform as I wanted. Also when I realized that I needed to discontinue the band because this new music seed had germinated and I knew I needed to try and find that on my own.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Forever Etta James. Her voice – the way she felt the songs cannot be captured by any other singer in my eyes. Eva Cassidy, because she had the voice of a lifetime. There’s nothing else to say if you’ve ever heard her sing. Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, Ann Wilson, Lowell George and Paul Rodgers. Lately, though, I’ve been obsessed with the Black Keys and WINC out of Winchester. They are playing mainstream music of practically every genre and I’m absorbing it all as I work on the new material. Yes, that’s a departure from the blues and soul I did for 15-plus years, but it is a departure that was and is artistically necessary.
Can you name some local artists we should keep an eye on who we might not already know about?
I don’t think most of the ones I know about are a secret. I love King Soul. The Nighthawks and Mark Wenner will forever rock my world. Flatfoot Sam. Bad Influence, I really love. I’ve got a lot of respect for Liz Springer and Lana Spence. You could throw in Nadine Rae, Skyla Burrell and Lisa Lim while you are at it. I did background vocals on Lisa’s CD.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at Oysters, Blues and Brews?
Me with the Smokin’ Polecats with special guest Scott Mattern on guitar. We play from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s a benefit for the Mission of Mercy. I know a part of the proceeds goes to the Mission. Expect a lot of blues and even more fun. I’ve been working with the Polecats for well over 15 years. They are friends and good musicians.