You can blame Alan Johnson for introducing me to this woman. I was over at his studio one night, and he handed me a copy of her album Twenty Minutes. I threw it in the CD player on my way home and was immediately hooked. Every song just pulled me deeper in… her voice is just incredible. When the CD was over, I hit replay. I bet I played the album five times that night. I was hooked. And that is where it ended… for a few weeks. Then I introduced myself to her on Facebook and before I knew I was sitting at Starbucks waiting for her to arrive for our interview. She went to a different Starbucks! It’s okay, she’s not the first… and she won’t be the last. (As a matter of fact, that exact same thing happened tonight!) Anyway, we talked for hours and I was so excited to learn not only about her music, but her balloon animals and her trips to the island of Hawaii. She is just a blast to be around, not to mention her voice when she sings. Incredible! It is beyond my pleasure to introduce you to Faith Marie!
So I love your name… Faith Marie… is that your real name?
Yes, it’s my first and middle name. No one will ever know my last name. (Laughs) And yes, you can even make out checks to Faith Marie… they will cash them. I have a last name, but only the FBI knows it. And my mom.
I don’t see any instruments there… just an awesome voice. Do you play any instruments?
I play a little guitar. A little piano, but not enough to accompany me when I have amazing musicians in the band I have. I look like a kid in 5th grade orchestra compared to guys that have been in bands for 35 years. I write basic chords and go, and they make it better. They laugh at my communication skills because I don’t speak the language of music very well… but they make it better. I play enough to write and then I hand it over to the real people so they can make it funky.
How long have you been singing?
Rock and roll or just singing in general? My first official performance was in a Dinner Theater production when I was four years old. Then I just sang in choirs and in school, and in church as we moved around. I accidentally got in a band… here we are.
So I LOVE your album cover. Who designed that?
PJ Yinger. Paul Yinger, but everyone calls him PJ. He does graphic artwork for Tom Griswold, as in Bob & Tom. PJ also played trumpet on the album. He plays in the band Polka Boy. And he’s awesome. Of course, he plays with us too. He’s great. I walked in with the “hey, I love this whole… French burlesque thing.” He had it… they took the photos and everything. They just got together and said, “How about this?” It was perfect. Sam Scott took the photos.
Are you really lonely?
(Laughs) I was writing with a guy from Utah, who had barely started playing guitar. He was trying to write songs. I felt like Neal Bowlen was making his new songs too complicated. I wanted him to simplify them and just concentrate on connecting with people and sticking with a groove. He played the riff and I wrote the song over it to prove my point.
I am not actually lonely. But I have had enough girlfriends that have been through the whole process of, “I don’t think he’s being entirely honest with me.” What was your first clue? I don’t think you wear White Shoulders.
Your album was recorded at Static Shack Recording Studios. How do you know Alan Johnson and what was it like working with him? (I love that studio by the way.)
Alan is awesome. Yeah, he’s so cool. He was at the Carmel gazebo. They have outdoor summer concerts. It was the summer before last I think. We played Lonely. It was the third time we had played it out, and I was about to move to Utah. We played it, and he approached us then. Alan asked me who wrote Lonely and I said me… then he asked if I had any more songs he could hear and I responded “how long do you have”?
He sat with me for three hours and wanted to hear every song I have ever written. Good and bad, he sat through all of them. He said there were twenty worth recording. He wanted to record me. He believed in me, and I have been screaming at the top of my lungs in this town for a long time trying to get someone interested. The band was great, and… we did it. It was originally five songs, but it eventually became six.
This is your second interview of the day! You were just interviewed on WITT 91.9 earlier today. How often do you do artist interviews like this?
Mr. Jim Walsh. It is public radio, it is a very eclectic station, and he was fun and great. He played four of my songs from the album, and two acoustically in the studio. It was fun… I enjoyed it. I like to be interviewed… I like to talk. I have words… they just come out. Sometimes they go through my brain…. Sometimes they don’t.
So wait a second… you make balloon animals? How in the world did you get into that?
Oh, I went to clown school. (Laughs) I went to a community college in Michigan, and dropped out to get married and go to clown school. It was down in Louisville, Kentucky. The school was Valley Station Clown School. I really stayed at a girl’s house, where she conducted classes.
Kids are scared of clowns. I learned that the hard way. I really like, honestly, the artistic medium of balloons. It’s fleeting. It’s not permanent, it’s a temporary art. Its good for a week and it depletes. That means job security. I dress up kike a fairy and twist balloons.
What’s the craziest balloon animal that you have ever created? Have you done anything just… just insane?
I had one that a wife was sending to her husband. He’s a hunter, and I made a mounted deer head with a hunter hat and a rifle. It was fun. Oh yeah, that was a fun one. I was in such a hurry and I never got a picture of it. That’s the one that got away.
There is a reality TV show on TLC called Unpoppables. The balloon world is smaller than you think. But my favorite balloon twister is in California. His name is Don Caldwell. There are a lot of artists out there who do amazing work. Don Caldwell changed my vision on ballooning.
When I was only eight years old I went to my dad’s company picnic. There was a guy twisting balloons there. It was some pretty boring stuff, like an apple twist. It just blew my mind. It’s an apple… and a balloon… at the same time! That was the end of it for me. My dad was in the military, we didn’t have laundry facilities, so we were at the laundry mat a lot. The vending machine dispensed balloons and instructions for 3 basic figures and a “super special balloon” (I think it was supposed to be an Octopus) I wore out the vending machine trying to get that “special” one… I never got one… I don’t think there was ever one in there… just marketing to get my quarters… and it worked!
Tell me a little bit more about your connection with rain. I hate rain!
You hate rain? That’s a shame. I had a chance to move, and my biggest problem where I was going is that it didn’t rain. Not sure what my connection is. My mom would be missing me and I was out in the yard lying in the rain. It’s like… ten thousand little fingers touching you at the same time. I’m not certain if it’s because I always battled with sinus issues and headaches… when the rain would break, I would always feel better. There was just something about the rain that makes me feel connected.
I don’t know… it’s what feeds the earth and it does me too. I like it. I like to run around in it. And clothes are optional.
You play a lot of shows. What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?
Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Ohio; there were 100,000 people there. We were on a barge on the river and it was patched down the coastline for the festival. The show was two years ago. The second one would have been about 40,000 at a Ribfest in Ohio. I played with Henry Lee Summer. He was actually late to that show. I had fun, though. The significance of Henry being late to the show was that I had to go onstage in front of his crowd and do a show to stall while he got there. It was my first under fire show with so many people. (I hope it went well… I was too nervous to tell).
What about the smallest crowd?
Well, my cats are kind of small. Smallish… one only a year old. But trust me, she has an opinion. Everyone is a critic. She doesn’t like high tones, so when I go for the high tones… to sell it and take it home, she screams and I realize I am overshooting.
Do you write all your own lyrics?
I do. There is a couple that I have co-written. Nothing like that on the new album. I wrote all that. Occasionally people bring me lyrics and music and ask for my help making them fit together so I try and edit the words to fit the melody for them.
Tell me about all of the other guys in the band.
Bryan England and Brian Goodwin… England plays guitar. Goodwin plays bass and sings. It’s the Bryan and Brian thing, you know. It gets weird. Its like Carolyn and Caroline, right? Nick Lemmo is a vocalist. He sings.
David Clawson is the drummer in the band. Our lovely sound engineer is Ricky Long. On the album I had Gary Mielke. Gary has his own studio and shares a space in the building where Static Shack is located. He did all the loops and the keys on the album. Jay Young is a sax player. He wrote all the horn charts. PJ, who we already discussed, is a trumpet player. Gary Graziano is a trumpet player as well. The horn players I worked with on the album are part of the ESB horn section… which travel with the band periodically. They come ala carte based on the budget of the show we are doing though we prefer to have them with us always.
Where are you originally from?
Let’s see… I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Spent my preschool years in Florida, Erie, Michigan and Pennsylvania, I was in Toledo, Ohio kindergarten thru 3rd grade. 4th thru 8th was split between Illinois, Washington State, Georgia, and finally I graduated in Bridgman, Michigan. I went from very large places to very small places quickly. Augusta was 1,800 students in 8th grade… Bridgman was 380 in the entire high school.
I sort of hate that question. If you ask me where I was born… I got that one. Ask me where I grew up; I have no answer to that. In… in a red van. (Laughs) I slept on the floorboard… it was more important than the seat. Plus, the heat was always on the floor. It worked for me.
What bands are you currently listening to?
I love Sara Bareilles. I can’t help it. I have a long history with Pink. I think she’s a great songwriter. I occasionally go back to visit my Crystal Gail collection. She’s a country singer with hair down to the floor. She’s AM soft country pop. I am really eclectic. I listen to all kinds of things. If you look at my playlist, it’s crazy. It’s all over the map. I listen to people you have never heard of to Pink. Anything but modern rap.
I am trying to think of stuff on my playlist. I’ll just look… now playing. That’s an audio book. That doesn’t count. Let’s go to my summer mix. There’s some Steely Dan. Some Train. Yeah, I’m all over the map. There’s some U2 in here… and some Monkeys.
You play shows all over. Is it possible to pick a favorite venue?
Well, private or public? Public, that’s hard. I really enjoy doing outdoor concerts, like the gazebo in Carmel. I really like that. But Mickey’s Irish Pub. The guys that own it are just cool. They always make you feel like home. Private, I like playing The Indiana Roof Ballroom. It’s on top of the rep theatre downtown. It looks like a courtyard. I really like that room.
We do a lot of stuff in Louisville, too. It’s really more about he people who own it and run it. I have been on some beautiful stages for people that I would rather not be there for. And of course the band is all about if they feed them or not.
I guess I would say that my favorite venue I have ever played is on the lawn at Mission Point Mackinac Island for the regatta every July. Drunken sailors at 2 in the afternoon… Beautiful
You are into body art. What kind of body art? (Not sure I should have asked that!)
Face painting… it’s kind of face painting . I have never been body painted… I have done some body painting… I have been face painted of course and it is mostly what I have my hands in.
Where do you find inspiration… in life and with music?
People. Standing in line listening to people talk. I am a storyteller. I was in a family that you had to be funny and loud to get heard, so I like to tell stories. When I see a good story… life is poetry and I want to tell the story. I have never been good at overly intellectual lyrics. If you are not telling me a story, I am lost. So you know… I’m not a big Doors fan. What is he saying?
You better not drive with your knees… that’s not safe!
Yes, I drive with my knees. I am so bad… my legs are very long. And the steering wheel is right there. I can merge with my knees. (Laughs) I can hold coffee with my right hand, turn the radio on with my left and merge into traffic with my knees. I don’t text when I drive. But I do drive with my knees. That song was not supposed to be on the album.
I said, “That song’s a little personal to me.” Alan wanted it on the album. I traded Storms for All of Me.
Do you have any thoughts on a tour this summer?
Many thoughts. I think about it all the time. I have done the album with a very successful cover band, and we do a lot of private stuff, it’s good in a way… and it’s bad in a way. The good part is we have a built in audience that hears the albums. We already have thousands of people listening to the songs. The downside is, for me to do a personal Faith Marie tour. I have to work around wedding schedules.
No, we do not do Spin Me Round… or Do You Want to Hurt Me. Or Love Stinks. You get the picture. We do however do Jessie’s Girl.
So I hear you know Chad Richards. He asked that I mention The Film Commune and the Indianapolis Underground Film Festival… How do you know that guy? Or better yet, do you even remember him?
I did film here in Indy, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Again, with the Static Shack. The last film I did was for Steve Marra. Steve’s office is in the building space that houses Alan’s studio.
It’s a big community. There is a film community here, and if I know Chad… I am bad with names. If he was standing here, and I saw his face I might remember him. But please refer to the song All of Me. Bad with names… remember lyrics. So don’t be mad at me Chad… I need a picture. I am sure you’re wonderful. I am sure we had many good times! (Laughs)
In your opinion, how has the Internet changed the way people absorb music?
Completely… there is no such thing as mainstream anymore. Unless it’s on a commercial, people don’t listen to the radio anymore. If the song is featured on iTunes, that’s a big song. It’s a different day and age. iTunes is making artists, not the radio. In the wide vastness of the Internet is a great resource and a deep deep sea that you can very easily get lost in.
That is why local music is so important. It has become a local thing again. If you don’t have a local following, you are a drop in the bucket. Unless you are on American idol, you’re not reaching the masses until you reach your neighbor. God bless coffee shops.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I cannot tell you that. (Laughs) Let’s just say that it involved the flu. I perform sick or healthy until I cannot. Sometimes that occurs in the middle of the show. We are not going into any more details than that.
You did a photo shoot in a Lotus. Did they let you drive it or did you just get to crawl all around inside for the photo shoot?
I did; it was for the movie. I was the quirky best friend in the movie. And yes, I drove the Lotus. It was part of the casting. “You’re funny, can you drive stick?” Yes I can.
You did some work at The Pop Machine a few years ago. I have only met Eric once, but he seems like he’s running a solid operation over there. Do you find that a lot of the local recording studios are in competition with one another for your business?
Here’s the thing… most of those guys are so busy, they are not even aware of other studios. I never felt a sense of competition between any of them. Everyone is just trying to do his or her best work. Music and mastering are both time consuming and engineers do not see the light of day.… you don’t have a tan. (Laughs) I actually was an engineer at the Pop Machine. I engineered Stereo Deluxe’s album.
Do you have a job outside of music?
I twist balloons. Did we talk about that? I twist balloons and I sing telegrams.
I work the first quarter at a friend’s dress shop sewing beads on dresses. The shop is called King’s Image. They are located in Castleton right behind the mall. They are great people. They have a lot of sparkly things. I would make a bad fish because I am attracted to shiny objects.
You were in Hawaii and took 2 photos? What the heck? I was there and took, oh, a thousand! What island did you visit?
I took 2,000 photos… or more. I didn’t post the photos. There are times that I don’t post things where I feel like I am gloating. Sometimes I get… weird about it. I had every intention of posting those photos. I had someone who was going through a rough time, and they couldn’t even afford your house. Here, let me post 100 photos of my vacation in Hawaii. That stopped me, and I never posted them.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully finishing my second or third album. The first one took twelve years… hoping the turn around is a little quicker. Otherwise I am going to get 3 before I bite the dust.
When this is all over, when your career has come to an end… what do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done? What’s your legacy?
That I told good stories. And I connected with people. Because I have no idea what my cat’s real opinion is.
In all of the interviews I do I always give the artist the last word. Go.
Buy the album… If you like it, then tell everyone… if you don’t… please don’t say anything