MP3 Mary Ott - From My Room
Ott Of This World Music-
Cosmic Rock For Planet Earth
10 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Acoustic, POP: with Live-band Production
I grew up in a beautiful part of Minnesota, right along the Mississippi. I started taking piano lessons with my Dad at the age of 5, and starting taking guitar lessons at 7. After 2 weeks on the guitar, I got my very first paying gig. I was hooked !! All through grade school and High School I performed in choirs and various singing groups. By the time I was 18, I was a working musician. I did weddings, club gigs, private events. You name it, I’d go play there.
I moved to southern California to finish my college degree, and as soon as college was done, I moved to Los Angeles to test the waters of a real career in music.
People always ask me, what kind of music do you do? And it’s a valid question. I Call MY music Cosmic https://www.tradebit.com the Cosmic part? Because I write alot about spirit and things like meditation, spirit guides; kind of unusual song themes. Growing up I listened to all the GREAT Bands and Singer/Songwriters of the time ,Fleetwood Mac,Heart, James Taylor,Joan Baez, Crosby,Stills, Nash and Young.
Today in 2006,I have come to know and believe that what I do musically, with my songs, does have an impact on people. They write to me all the time letting me know how one song or another has touched them, or made them think differently about something. It feels good to think that my music is having an emotional impact on people. That''s what I''m here to do and hopefully have alittle fun along the way too. Hope to see you out there at my next gig. Be Well, Mary Ott
INTERVIEW OF MARY OTT by: MARC BISCHOFF
Recently I had the opportunity to interview my old friend Mary Ott at her mountainside home/studio, with it’s back yard stretching straight into the lush forest of the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. She likes to laugh a lot. What follows are some questions with Mary about her music that revealed some new insights, dusted off some old memories, broke out some laughter and shook loose some tears. Enjoy. We did.
WHAT STARTED OUT AS 20 QUESTIONS WITH MARY OTT…
Q: Let’s start with some questions regarding your approach to songwriting in general. Do you write only when inspired or do you sit down and say, “Today I’m gonna write a song”?
Mary: Um, both. Sometimes when I need new material, I actually force myself to sit down and say (laughing), ‘Today I’m gonna write a song’. And sometimes it’s pure inspiration.
Q: And how did the majority of the songs on the last CD (Dream Mountain) come about? Did you write those just for that CD?
Mary: No. Actually, maybe half of the ones for the last CD were older tunes that people were requesting be on a CD, that I had never recorded.
Q: By request?
Mary: Yeah, like ‘Big Time’ was an older song that had never been recorded and people kept saying ‘which CD is this on?’ And, so, I actually pulled some older ones out.
Q: What comes first for you usually, the music or the lyrics?
Mary: What comes first to me is the music and, so, I have to try to suppress that and work on the lyrics, because the music’s always there. I mean, several different forms of the music can be there. I have to try to turn that off and work on the lyrics, so I don’t have a sloppy lyric.
Q: Smokey Robinson once told Bob Costas that the words were more important than the music in a song. Paul Simon said the opposite. What do you feel is more important in a song, the music or the lyrics?
Mary: I think the words.
Mary: That’s what I struggle with, is to have something…I mean, I want to have something to say. You know, it’s not just about a dance beat or…there’s a lot of music art forms out there that have nothing to do with the lyric. But, for me, I actually want to be telling a story, or have something to share. Yeah, if a gorgeous melody goes along with it, I want that too… but definitely the lyrics are more important to me…”
Q: Have you ever dreamt any lyrics or melodies?
Mary: Yes, a lot.
Q: Did you dream any of the ones from the last CD?
Mary: Maybe, I’d have to look at the lyrics.
Q: You can’t remember?
Mary: I’d have to look at the song titles, ‘cause I do remember where I’ve written songs. You know, (laughing), the 101, 405, 110….
Q: Do you really?
Mary: Oh, yeah, I’m just a hazard on the road!
Q: I know, I’ve driven with you….When you dream, are you dreaming the whole song, or just the melody?
Mary: The whole shebang…I mean, I have dreamt full on orchestral things and I have no idea how to capture that.
Q: When you come up with the lyric or melody line, what do you do to save it?
Mary: I get out of bed. I pick up a guitar and I quick try to capture the music. I find the key that it’s in, write that down, and then whatever lyrics I can remember.
Q: So, you actually write out the music?
Mary: No, just the chords, but I can write out the music. Sometimes, if I’m that awake, I will sketch out the melody.
Q: When you come up with lyric ideas, even if you don’t dream them, what do you do with those?
Mary: Oh, I write them down.
Mary: Oh, anywhere. Old napkins, scraps of paper. Preferably I have my notebook on me, but that’s not always the case.
Q: Do you keep the napkin then?
Mary: No, I transfer it into my notebook. (Laughing)) Why, you trying to auction it off?
Q: Yeah, auction it on the web site (https://www.tradebit.com).
Mary: (Laughing) Maybe I should. I have some of them, ‘cause they’re tucked in my notebook, but no, generally I transfer them.
Q: Do you like to write lyrics that tell a specific story, or do you prefer to leave some of the interpretation to the imagination of the listener and why?
Mary: Well, there again, both. I mean I’ve done things that have told a specific story. Sometimes it could be a stranger, sometimes it could be somebody I know that’s crossed my path and it inspires a song. It’s been a full fledged story that I’ve made up, by this person inspiring, just thinking ‘Wow”, that person deserves a song…and sometimes I do leave it ambiguous on purpose. I can think of one song specifically, ‘I Want To Be Remembered ’. People think it’s about something else than what it really is.
Q: What is it about?
Mary: It’s really a love song to music. Just the place that music has been in my life. And people think it’s about my husband.
Q: But you want to be remembered by the music that you make?
Mary: Right. It’s a love song to the craft of music making, but I left it ambiguous.
Q: Which leads to my next question. Do you write from your personal experience or not?
Mary: Yes, I do, most of the time. I mean, I would say 85% of the time. Sometimes it’s pure fiction. Like that one was totally fiction, the song just flashed into my mind. My husband Mark even said to me ‘Wow, where did that come from?’
Q: You were getting ready to write the other day when we hung up on the phone. Did you finish that song?
Mary: I did. It was just about a made up couple…from the sky (laughing)….
Q: You play piano and guitar. Do you write mostly on guitar or piano and why?
Mary: It’s changed over the years. There’s been literally years, albums worth of material that I’ve written on the piano. And the for some reason, I’ll get drawn to the guitar and I’ll write a whole bunch of songs… whatever, eight, ten songs… on the guitar. I write differently on each instrument. I like to switch off.
Q: How do you write differently?
Mary: Different chords come out. Because I’m not that great a guitar player. I’m not really a better keyboard player, but on the keyboard I can play in different keys, in different modulations…Things occur to me on the keyboard. I mean, I’m not gonna play in A-flat on the guitar, but I do a lot on the keyboard. So it just lends itself to different things coming forth. I go back and forth on purpose.
Q: Which instrument do you prefer when playing live and why?
Mary: Guitar. I like to move around. I don’t like being behind that wall of keyboards. It’s not a great way for me to communicate with people. Especially the way I play, alone. It’s not like being with other band members to interact with or watch. If I had a full band it would be nice to sit down behind the keyboard, like I did when I first came to L.A. I did some live shows with an eight-piece band.
Q: Will you do that again?
Mary: I’d love to do that again. It’s fabulous.
Q: What would it take?
Mary: (Laughing) Money! ‘Cause I like paying people. I like people to get paid…
Q: Your latest CD of new material, ‘Dream Mountain’, has some songs on it that display a change in writing or production and arrangement style from your previous work. Specifically “Rent Free”, “Who’s Laughin’ Now” and “One More Night”. Does that have anything to do with the fact that those songs were co-written with your husband Mark and what did he bring to those songs?
Mary: It absolutely has everything to do with the fact that those were co-written with him because it’s his music. I create lyrics and a melody to go with musical…little riffs or chord ideas, something that he has been playing around with and I tuck around the corner and go ‘Oh, can we use that for a song for us?’ So, that’s why they’re different, because his musical pallet is much richer than mine.
Mary: Yeah, ‘cause he’s coming from a jazz & fusion kind of background. Chords I don’t even imagine!
Q: Can’t be found on the keyboard?
Mary: (Laughing) Yeah, nowhere!
Q: You can’t sing it if you can’t play it…
Mary: (Laughing) His progressions and stuff are totally different. My stuff is just more basic…
Q: So, on those three songs, he wrote the chord progressions and the riffs and you wrote the melodies and the lyrics?
Mary: Right. And I help with structure, because he, there again, is much more free form. I’m just going, ‘There needs to be a chorus here…we’re already seven minutes into the song…You know, so I stop him. I put structure to the song. I let him create whatever music is happening from him. I just cut it short, so there actually ends up being a verse and a chorus and a bridge. Otherwise it would just be much freer than I’m comfortable with if I was doing it. You know, a lyric. That’s fine if it’s all instrumental.
Q: Do you find that’s what makes them good songs. The difference in how you each approach your music?
Mary: Yeah, I love it. He’s written a couple of things of his own that have lyrics, but he’s not confident or comfortable writing lyrics.
Q: The song ‘Rio’ has a definite tempo change within its arrangement. How did you go about creating that tempo change smoothly?
Mary: That’s not something that I consciously do. Um, I am a trained musician, but (laughing), I have no idea…I would like to say, ‘Oh, yes, I envisioned this’, but I don’t write that way. It’s just much more instinctual. So as far as getting it on the CD, that was Mark’s job. We used drum loops for this CD, so I picked out three or four different ones for the verse and three or four for the chorus, and then he helped to mesh them together as far as making a transition in the tempo changes. There’s only one track on that album that has a live drum, ‘Rent Free’.
Q: ‘Rio’ is also unusual in that it has a classical guitar solo in the middle and an electric guitar solo that takes the song out. It works great. Whose idea was that?
Mary: (Laughing). Well, I’m always trying to get Mark to play an acoustic instrument. I mean, anything with a classical guitar, I’ve been bugging him for that for five or six years. But, honestly, the electric thing, I’m sure, was his idea. He truly came up with all those parts, which I just absolutely love.
Q: It works great.
Mary: I did want the outtro to be wilder. You know, that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to be a song about,’take the vacation, take the time’…the electric guitar just seems like it’s more of a potent kind of thing…You know, ‘Let’s go!’….
Q: Many of the songs or lyrics on this CD seem to reflect an attitude of ‘Life is short and I’ve decided to live it on my own terms from now on’. Is that an accurate description and what is the theme of this CD if any?
Q: And why are you crying?
Mary: (Laughing)…Was that question on your list? Actually, yes, ‘Dream Mountain’ happened after our major car accident. So, some of those songs… specifically ‘The Softer Side’, maybe ‘Matter of Time’… just kind of came out of the experience of the car accident. Just realizing, ‘God, life is really short….’
Q: And for people who don’t know, what did the car accident involve?
Mary: ‘I was driving and my husband and I were coming home from our mountain house and were hit head on by some kids on drugs coming home from a rave party. My husband’s fine and I’m fine, but he was very seriously injured for a time. It just really does slap you upside the head, figuratively and physically. It just makes you realize you can lose people every day. And you do. You know, ‘Rio’….Take some time to have some fun, take time to do whatever you think you want to be doing. Take time for it. Even though ‘Rio’ was written before the accident…
Q: Where is Dream Mountain?
Mary: It’s just in my head. I thought it would work out as a neat title ‘cause we had just bought a mountain house. It was a dream come true. It all kind of worked as far as what was going on in my personal life, but as far as that story, it’s just a metaphor.
Q: You once said that you thought “Big Time” was a song that worked well live, but you didn’t initially want to record it because you thought a studio version of it would come out sounding “cheesy”, for lack of a better description. What made you decide to go ahead and record it and how did you come up with a studio version that you were happy with?
Mary: (Laughing). Cheesy is the right word. I had several songs like that. People like them, so I guess I shouldn’t use the word cheesy. I just think they’re more simple, so simple that I’m kind of embarrassed to record them, even though I’ve written them. ‘Summer Lovin’ is another one, just a bluesy little thing that people just love, but I’ve never recorded it. Same with ‘Big Time’. Mark just came up with just such a neat kind of forties vibe that I just loved the recording on that. I’m really happy with it. It doesn’t feel cheesy at all. I felt kind of obligated to do it because people just kept asking for it.
Q: How did the technical recording of this CD differ from your last one? Were they recorded in the same studio?
Mary: “They were radically different. ‘From my Room’ was recorded in a studio in Culver City over a course of six months, which to me is a tedious amount of time. I don’t do well (with that)…There were live musicians, which I love. That is my favorite. ‘Cause then you get that kind of energy that you can’t fake. The energy from live people playing transfers, even if it’s digital. So that was very nice, but the rest of the process was very long. ‘Dream Mountain’ was all done by Mark and I, except for the one live drummer, over the course of three weeks. Right here in our home studio. It would be nice to have the best of both worlds, to have our own studio big enough to use live musicians where the clock is not ticking.”
Q: Is that a goal?
Mary: Oh, definitely….overlooking the ocean (laughing)…Oh we have big dreams…
Q: Is it Mark’s job to get this?
Mary: It’s my job, too! I’m just not moving along with it too fast…
Q: Which CD is “Just Around the Corner from Lonely” on and where did a great title like that come from?
Mary: Originally it was on the ‘Somebody’ CD back in 1992. It’s now part of the compilation CD. (‘Early Works’, which can be purchased through Mary’s web site). The title came from part of a conversation that I had with my Mom right after my Dad died in ’91. She told me about this poem she had written and she had ‘around the corner’ and ‘blue’…she read me the poem over the phone. I actually sobbed…So, I quick jotted down some of the lines from the poem and re-wrote it. So, I gave my mother co-writing credit ‘cause I stole her poem idea and re-wrote it to make it a song.
Q: Did you give your dad co-writing credit? He was the inspiration….
Mary (Laughing) That’s right! He died for it! Talk about dying for your art…
Q: Excuse the pun…
Mary: Oh he knows…he’s got a great sense of humor…
Q: Where did a great title like “Three Shades of Mimosa” come from?
Mary: Well, there again, most of my songs come from real life experiences and I was sitting around the table with a group of great friends one Sunday (including the interviewer and his wife) for eight hours over about six or eight bottles of champagne (laughing)….
Q: New Year’s day, right?
Mary: New Year’s day, that’s right! New Year’s day. And that title came from Marc Bischoff, from you.
Q: It just popped out?
Mary: Popped out.
Q: He’s kind of a wise guy then?
Mary: Yeah he is…I was refilling glasses with champagne for Mimosas and everyone had different shades of liquid because of the different amounts of orange juice left in their glass and you said ‘Oh, three shades of Mimosa…write that down’….So, I wrote that song on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I love that song. I love it.
Q: How about the lyric “I got my imagination and my MasterCard”? Where’d that come from?
Mary: Well, this was back when I was single and us girls used to hang out a lot. The ‘Sisterhood’. We used to go dancing and stuff. That line came out of a Friday night, cruising with the top down on the boulevard. I mean, ‘She’s goin’ out’! That line came up while I was writing the song.
Q: Is that a good feeling when you get a good lyric that fits the song perfectly like that?
Mary: Oh yeah, it’s a great feeling! But a lot of times it doesn’t even strike me until the second time that I read the lyrics. Things come to me and I just try to write them down fast so I don’t lose them. ‘Cause they just kind of happen and then I just shut the door. Like the other day I was going through my notebook, ‘cause I really need to write, thinking I really have some good lyrics in there.
Q: What do you mean when you say you ‘really need to write’?
Mary: Oh, well, sometimes it’s just I’ve got shows coming up and I really want new material, ‘cause that’s fun for me. I need new stuff just to keep it interesting for me. And also for people coming back to see me, I like to have at least ten or twelve new songs every season. Sometimes it’s emotional, too, that I need to write. That I’ve got stuff that I’d like to work out mentally, emotionally, whatever, by putting it on the page.
Q: What do you mean when you say ‘every season’?
Mary: What I consider my playing season, usually from March to October. Lots of festivals in the fall, around harvest time in California. Wine country…
Q: Spouses and friends aside, what artists have influenced you and why?
Mary: Well, going back from childhood, groups like Heart, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor. I grew up in a tiny little town, so there weren’t any concert venues. I was really a product of radio. Whatever I could get on the radio.
Q: Who else?
Mary: Now I love people like Sheryl Crow. Annie De Franco really inspires me.
Q: Inspires you as a musician and songwriter or as an artist who has done what she’s done independently?
Mary: Both. I mean, I think she’s brilliant, lyrically, musically, what she does…but yeah, she does inspire me, too, with her whole attitude after the record labels came calling and she’s like, ‘No thanks, I’ve got it goin’ on by myself’. I love that!
Q: What about an artist influences you. For example, you said Heart. Was it the whole package, the fact that they were women singers, you liked the melodies…?
Mary: Oh, that was the whole package. ‘Cause I really envisioned myself being a female rock artist. I was drawn more to pop-rock. There was a time, ten or twenty years ago when people called me a folk artist and I was offended. I finally just embraced it and said ‘Alright, alright, whatever you want to call me is fine.’ But I expected to be a rocker…I don’t mean heavy metal, but…Heart, the lyrics were fabulous, musically, just the whole look was gorgeous. Fleetwood Mac, again, there were girls in the band that were doing the songwriting.
Q: Good songwriting…
Mary: Good songwriting….I just saw Annie Lennox on an old Saturday Night Live…There again, someone that’s powerful, really gives a performance….
Q: So, when you write, do you consider the fact that you’re gonna have to be performing that song live? Does that influence any of your songwriting?
Mary: It does, ‘cause, like when I write with Mark, I’m know I’m not going to be able to perform them. Because it’s his music, which I just can’t seem to deliver...That’s one of the reasons that I’m hesitant to write more with him, ‘cause I know I’ll end up with ten songs that I’m frustrated that I can’t perform.
Q: How would you describe your self and your music now? You wanted to be a rock artist. You just got a fan letter that described you as their favorite folk artist.
Mary: I think I’m a little more like a folk version of Melissa Etheridge, actually…Folk rock, with that kind of power vocally. Some people say musically, but I don’t know if I really can say that about my own stuff. A guy up north that books me a lot calls me pop folk. I don’t have any problems with that. ‘Cause it is. Among true folk artists, I don’t get booked at those festivals. I ‘m too electronic. So, I consider myself folk/pop/rock/country. But there again, if I take my stuff to Nashville, I’m not country. To those people I am not country, to the folk people I’m not folk…(Laughing)…That’s the difficulty!”
Q: Well, so much has changed from the time of the groups that influenced you. If the Eagles started out today, they’d be on country radio and then they might never be able to develop into the great rock band that they became, ‘cause they’d get pigeon holed.
Mary: Yeah, which has always been a sadness for me. People feel the big need to put a label. There was less of that in the seventies, the sixties…for people just to be free, to be creating whatever kind of art was coming out of them and leave the labels for the next generation to decide what they were…
Q: In the seventies, I remember hearing the Eagles and the soundtrack to ‘Saturday Night Fever’ on the same radio station…
Mary: Right! That would never happen today!
Q: Has anyone ever compared your vocal style inflections to Trisha Yearwood?
Mary: Maybe one or two. I get more Joan Baez, Joanie Mitchell, I get Linda Ronstadt….”
Q: If you could pick one of your songs that would be guaranteed massive, mainstream radio airplay worldwide, which one would you choose? And you can’t give us the “They’re all my children and I love them equally” answer, either…
Mary: ‘You Never Said Goodbye’. I don’t have to think about it. I think that’s a huge hit, but the world doesn’t know it yet. I think that’s a huge hit song. I don’t even have to think about that. I love that song. It was written a very long time ago. I wrote that back in 1988. I think it’s brilliant.
Q: That was written from personal experience?
Mary: It was. Some of my stuff I love, but I know it’s not powerful enough as far as the writing, as far as the critics or Nashville people would say….They’re so into the whole song writing machine, rather than just having things be sweet little tunes once in a while. Whereas, I think ‘You Never Said Goodbye’ is one of those tunes. It’s perfect.
Q: And that song can be found on?
Mary: The compilation CD. That song was actually on a different CD originally. When I first wrote that song, it was a dance tune. It was a fast tune in a different key. It was one of those years that I was writing on keyboard. I got it back on guitar. I started playing the chord structure slower and realized it was better. So it was a whole transformation. It kind of rediscovered itself as a slow tune. It’s so much better as a ballad.
Q: Have you ever co-written with anyone other than Mark?
Mary: Yes, one other person. Another personal friend in my life, but I felt… I haven’t been able to do that. I’ve had invitations to do that, to co-write with strangers, I just…I hate to say shy, ‘cause I’m really not shy…it’s just, songwriting’s a very personal thing…I just…I guess I don’t feel that comfortable getting that naked in front of strangers (laughing)…That is the truth! It’s a very vulnerable kind of place… It’s a very personal place for me. I just can’t share with Joe Shmoe going to coffee to write songs. Maybe I’d be a better songwriter if I could. More prolific.
Q: What role would you say creativity plays in your life?
Mary: Everything. From cooking meals to decorating houses to music, creativity is what it’s all about for me. To be free to create every day. Have a life that you want in every detail.
Q: Do you think that having an audience is a vital part of the creative process?
Mary: For me, yes. I know there’s a lot of people that aren’t built that way. That can create and record in their room and put it out to the world or not, and it’s fine…but for me, communicating with an audience is heaven. Getting on stage is actually where I’m the most at home. Every single time it’s magic.
Q: Did you ever go through a period of stage fright?
Mary: I did not.
Q: Some of the audience members were frightened, maybe…
Mary: (Laughing) Exactly! I picked up a guitar and did my first paid gig two weeks later at age seven.
Q: What was it?
Mary: Either a wedding or a funeral or something. I don’t remember. It was something in church. I just remember gettin’ paid! It was great. I loved it!
Q: Anything else you’d like to say to people checking out your web site?
Mary: Just that when I’m gone…maybe my husband will write a song for me or something…that people will just go, ‘You know, she put some nice music into the mix’ ….
By Marc Bischoff
Mary''s Reviews: From The Magazine: Country Music International: "From My Room"
Californian based singer/songwriter Mary Ott delivers a gorgeous, sparkling record that showcases her crystalline voice, her inspired songcraft and a refreshing approach toward musical arrangement.
A delectible track, the opening, “From My Room” is a skilfully arranged array of passionate vocals, great guitar and neat keyboard passages. The melody is simply enchanting and instantly accessible without crossing too far info pure pop territory.
“Smack Dab in the Middle”, a co-write with husband Mark Segal, also delivers the goods.
Effectively blending strong emotional vocals with a gentle modern pop musical track.
“The Web Unwinds” and “Goin’ Nowhere Fast” seem to unfold like a dark-hued flower, shimmering in the tremulous daylight of the artist’s echoes.
The production is flawless on “He Believes”, which sounds joyous and silky. Mary and co-producers Mark Indictor, Mark Segal and of course the pickers, have come up with a rare rhythmic urgency on “Revelation City”.
Though not exactly steeped in country, the musicianship and song quality make this an album any fan of good music should make time to hear.
Reviewed by Alan Cackett in the September 2001 issue of Country Music international Magazine