bill bodkin interviews rocker Malea McGuinness …
Strong female rock ‘n’ roll has returned in the form of Malea McGuinness. The Irish-Korean singer songwriter from Fort Hood, Texas, transports her listeners from today’s music scene littered with hyper-production, tepid songwriting and style-over-substance to a time when a woman with a guitar and a microphone mattered. Her sound is reminiscent of the mid-’90s post-grunge era of pop-rock, when formidable artists like Sheryl Crow, Jewel and Alanis Morissette put their stamp on the music world.
Classically trained, McGuinness has gone from burgeoning star of world-renowned musical conservatories to Broadway actress to work-hard-for-the-money musician. Her musical pedigree and hard work have paid off, allowing her to perform with national recording artists like Bon Jovi, B.B. King and Counting Crows. She’s spent the summer of 2010 opening for the likes of Kenny Loggins and Shawn Colvin.
B&B: Who were your early musical inspirations?
Malea McGuinness: The Beatles and music they played in church.
B&B: You studied at a lot of prestigious musical academies. Have you brought anything you’ve learned from them to your current musical career?
MM: Maybe a real appreciation for musicians and composers I would never have known about and taken the time to listen to and hopefully learn from — i.e., classical singers like Marion Anderson, Rosa Ponselle, Leontyne Price, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau. I used to sit in the library and listen to these really old records over and over. Something in these voices are different from what we hear today.
B&B: Talk about your days on Broadway – You were in a revival of The King & I with Lou Diamond Phillips. What role did you play?
B&B: How was the experience of performing in the biggest theatrical city in the world?
MM: Exciting and incredibly hard work.
B&B: Did your experience their help prepare you for the music world?
MM: Not really. It’s so different from what I do now. On Broadway, you are told where to move, when to move and sing, etc.. You are also singing someone else’s music and words — not a bad thing when it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein. Now, it’s all me — I’m my own director, whether I want to be or not!.
From The Great White Way to LA
B&B: You left Broadway for Los Angeles, reinventing yourself as a singer-songwriter, teaching yourself to play guitar and playing on the club circuit. When did you get the inspiration to move there and make it as a musician?
MM: Just kind of happened …
B&B: Did any one person/performer in particular inspire you?
MM: Not really. Maybe just all the music I loved was beckoning to me …
B&B: Was there any fear in trying to make this your career?
MM: Always! But I didn’t let that stop me.
B&B: You’ve played some pretty famous rooms in L.A.. Talk about some of your first shows at places like The Viper Room.
MM: Big learning experiences and a lot of fun.
B&B: Your recorded your debut album True Believer with producer Scott Hackwith (Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, The Ramones). How did this opportunity come-about?
MMcG: Friend of a friend knew a friend knew Scott, etc.
Albums, Touring, Being on a National Stage
B&B: Your sound is very reminiscent of the strong female artists from the mid-’90s. Who are your current musical inspirations?
MM: I love old gospel singers, listening to a lot of old folk — i.e., Leonard Cohen.
B&B: Do you have any opinion as to the resurgence of the Lilith Fair? Any desire to perform as a part of it?
MM: I had an opportunity to perform, which I did not take because it did not make financial sense. I am an independent artist with my own label and production company. Ironically, I was thinking of attending with some girlfriends, but the date was canceled. Now, I am opening for Shawn Colvin next month, who is one of my favorite female artists and one of the original performers at Lilith Fair. I felt this round lost a lot of its original intent for the festival.
B&B: Your song “Closer Than Air” is said to be have written about a close friend and musical mentor. Do you find that most of your songs are inspired by people/places/events in your own life?
MM: Yes, all my songs are inspired by events and people in my life.
B&B: This is a big summer for you, touring with Kenny Loggins, Crash Test Dummies and Counting Crows. How do you feel about performing with these major-league acts? Excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed?
MM: Just having fun!
B&B: How did the opportunity to go on tour with Loggins come about? Is this your first national tour?
MM: I was scouted out by an agent. I have performed all over the country over the past three years.
B&B: What is your favorite Loggins song?
MM: “Celebrate Me Home.”
B&B: What does the future hold for Malea McGuinness?
MM: No limits!