Quick Q and A with Mary Fahl

It’s pretty common knowledge that Mary Fahl has one of the most exquisite voices in the country … oh hell, in the world … or in the universe.  Mary’s voice has been described as “a powerful, beautifully proportioned contralto” by Variety and a “voice for the gods” by the Boston Globe. One could probably say that Mary could sing the phone book if phone books really exited anymore, but the truth is that Mary’s choice of music is every bit as important and relevant as her voice.  Whether she sings her own compositions or traditional ballads or interpretations of ancient songs from centuries past, it’s all good.  A performance by Mary Fahl is to be experienced and treasured and it’s no wonder that her fans have stood by her side and applauded her efforts for so long.

To learn more about Mary Fahl, visit her website.

Here’s a video of Mary singing one of Joni Mitchell’s classic songs, “Both Sides Now.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of musicians over the years and I think that you may be the most eclectic one yet.  That’s a good thing!  I find it interesting that your musical tastes were formed by your siblings’ record collections ranging from Dylan to Pink Floyd and Joni Mitchell to Dusty Springfield. That’s quite a range.  Can you pinpoint what it was about each of those artists that resonated so deeply within you as a child?

Well first of all, they were all the “real thing”…it was their true artistry that resonated with me… It’s no accident that these names are still around today… They are timeless.

When you were old enough to buy your own records, who did you gravitate toward and did you become a musical tastemaker for your siblings?

I doubt I had much influence on my siblings’ taste… They were too much older than me and were pretty much gone out of the house by the time I could afford to buy records… I do remember ordering a bunch of great stuff from Columbia House… remember that “club”? You’d get 12 free albums if you joined and I ordered two Neil Young records, the Beatles’ Let It Be… just lots of amazing records that I played over and over again. As I teenager, I gravitated towards a lot of British Folk — Sandy Denny, Richard and Linda Thompson, that sort of thing… and I like some of the softer prog rock like Renaissance… I think you can hear all that in my voice.

I’m truly fascinated by the fact that you recorded your own tribute to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” (From the Dark Side of the Moon).  That was a massive undertaking and I applaud your courage for attempting such a unique recording.  Have you tried playing your version of the album while watching “The Wizard of Oz” to see if it syncs up?  😉

I’ve never tried syncing my version to The Wizard of Oz, but I tried it once with the original Pink Floyd record and wasn’t too impressed… I think you need to be extremely high to “get it”.

Have you run into any heavy duty Pink Floyd fans who came to know your music through that album?

The hard core PF fans were very wary of me at first, but I’ve managed to win over a number of them.

You have included some world music in your repertoire.  What brought you to those songs?  Was it difficult for you to learn how to sing in various languages?  I’m especially referring to “Ben Aindi Habibi” which I understand was written in the 11th century!

Yes, it’s from 11th century Moorish Spain… The song is in an archaic language called Mozarabic — a beautiful patois of Spanish and Arabic. I had to learn it phonetically — which is how I learn all foreign language songs… It takes a while, but once you learn a song in a foreign language you never forget it… and I love the delicious quality of foreign phrases — they are so much fun to sing. It’s like immersing yourself in another world.

You studied medieval literature in college.  Do you feel that your studies influenced the way that you think and write your music?

Well, the same romantic impulse that compels me to sing  also drew me to medieval history… and sometimes – as with “Ben Aindi Habibi,” my two loves converge…

I’d love to know more about your project with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra earlier this year.  I understand that composer Daryl Kubian composed “O For a Muse of Fire” with your voice in mind.  What was that experience like?

It was amazing to sing with an orchestra… and Daryl wrote such a gorgeous piece of music… it was absolutely sublime to be in the center of all that…

You’ve now been performing as a solo artist more years than you were part of the October Project.  You’ve obviously got more creative control over what you do now and that must be an empowering feeling.  But, on the other hand, you are without the camaraderie and shared experiences.  What are the most profound lessons you’ve learned about yourself over the course of your career?

I’ve learned so many lessons… but I supposed the most profound one was the realization that I could do it by myself… that I could stand alone on a stage with just a guitar and some great songs people would resonate with it and come back again and again… I never would have believed that until my husband pushed me into doing solo shows… I was terrified at first because people were so used to hearing me with a full band. I didn’t think I could pull it off — but somehow it worked and now I play solo all over the country. I guess my husband had more confidence in me than I had in myself.


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