We are pleased to announce our Pro Member Spotlight for June/July 2012: our very own Mary Lemanski.
Not just the Director of Operations for Songsalive!, she is a prolific singer/songwriter, and her new album is worthy of your attention.
“Speechless” is the new album by experimental songwriter, Mary Lemanski, with an obvious expression of non-expression: that’s right, this album is purely instrumental, and no vocals, which is a different direction to Mary’s usual vocal driven songs, and the art work on the cover embodies the message: a zipper over her mouth. Love it!
What a breath of fresh air to open the CD with a meditative, serene instrumental. I was instantly relaxed and taken on a global journey with the exotic sounds. Asian melodic soundscapes, trance-like ethereal pads, and my favorite, a flavor of Australian didgeridoo-like sounds: “Morning Sun” is definitely a high class and effective new age meditation track that could be played on any radio that embraces spiritual awakening.
Though this is where the new age, trance-like compositions end. The Cd is quite eclectic in sound. By track 2, “Emerald Isle”, I definitely hear Lemanski’s embracing of Asian sounds and culture. This song is reminiscent of a traditional Chinese street fair sound, filled with timpanis, marching drums and whistles. Not too long, it gives you a taste of all the elements.
My focus led me to track 4, “Looking Back”, which on the cover is listed as “composed at age 12”. I like to see an artist bring glimpses of their childhood. Let it be said that your best song is not always the one you wrote recently. This piece shows Mary’s childhood talent: naïvety (in a good way), and the almost melancholy “ingénue” is depicted. It’s pretty, and showcases her piano playing.
Track 5, “City Lights” has a taste of the boogie and blues of Chicago where she lives now. The keyboard playing (especially the jammin’ right hand) is super, and shows off Mary’s chops. The only aspect I would have preferred is live instrumentation for this piece, as “boogie woogie” really works best hearing live musicians jam together. Still, Lemanski’s composition and arrangement skills are excellent, building the musical elements in one at a time, and I can see her effectively arranging a live jazz band if and when that time comes.
Speaking of arrangements, the string arrangement in “Theme & Variations” is luminous and beautiful. Track 7, “Hippie Hop” is my favorite of the bunch, simply due to my personal favorites in moody contemporary electronic, ala Massiv Attack or post ‘90s Radiohead.
By this stage on the disc, I have concluded that Mary Lemanski’s album “Speechless” is an excellent ‘calling card’ for her to position herself as a film score or orchestral music arranger, showcasing her abilities to compose and arrange an array of eclectic pieces of music in many different genres, styles and instrumentation. If she doesn’t find a foot with the album on radio, then I certainly feel the plethora of diverse sounds will establish her songwriting credibility.
“Speechless” is a plethora of instrumental, experimental, sounds, global ethnicity and times, showcasing a talented and versatile composer who is willing to stretch the boundaries of modern CD disc making to more than just the average 10 pop songs. Mary can do that to, but it’s wonderful to see her give us more, and fearlessly at that. I would definitely encourage you all to purchase a copy
Check out Mary's Profile on Songsalive!
1. Where are you from, originally and what brought you to your current city, Chicago?
I’m originally from Springfield, IL. I lived there for 18 years before going to college at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. After college, I moved out to Tempe, AZ, where I studied audio engineering and received my MBA in e-Business. I ended up living there for 10 years working in radio, stage production, and re-mixing…minus 3 months when I went to intern at a record label and a music licensing company in Los Angeles. After the birth of our son, my husband and I decided to move back to the Chicago area to be a lot closer to both of our families.
2. What style of music would you say you do?
I write all different styles of music…from classical to jazz to rock to pop to hip-hop. The style of my latest release, "Speechless," is a mix of Classical and World music.
3. What do you enjoy best - songwriting or performing and why?
I enjoy performing, but I think that I enjoy songwriting more. I enjoy the creative process and building something entirely new that did not exist before. In performing, you get to share your creation with the world, but there is something divine about breathing life into a new song for the first time.
4. Who are your musical influences?
I have so many! I think I'm most influenced by Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Thelonious Monk, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, The Beastie Boys, Screeching Weasel, and The Ramones. Classically, Chopin, Beethoven, Danny Elfman, and John Williams inspire me. I also love artists that bend genres like They Might Be Giants and Beck.
5. Describe your favorite song you have written and why is it so special to you.
My favorite song on "Speechless" is "Bye Bye Choo Choo." My 5-year old son and I wrote it together. When he was younger, he used to run around the house singing, "Bye bye choo choo" to the tune of the main theme of the piece. I used it as the basis for the entire piece. It's interesting to see and hear the musical creative process of a young child, plus it's a great bonding experience to create music with my family.
6. What are your goals for the next 5 years musically speaking?
I’m starting to work on another album of pop/rock/alternative music. I'd eventually like to record an album of jazz songs, an album of children songs, an album of comedy songs, an album of pop/electro-dance/hip-hop material and another instrumental album. I'd also like to compose a collection of classical-oriented solo piano music. I want to continue to grow as a musician and songwriter/composer.
7. Tell us about your recordings and what's in store next.
I've released several EPs since 1999. In 2010, I released my first full-length CD, "Eclectic," and earlier this year, I released my instrumental album, "Speechless." I'm just starting to write new material for an album I hope to release in 2013. I'm being torn musically right now between writing pop punk/rock and piano rock...maybe I'll just do two albums or a double album.
8. Where can we buy your music?
You can buy my CDs, "Speechless" and “Eclectic,” and other merchandise at http://marylemanski.com/store/. You can also buy my albums at CDBaby.com, iTunes, Amazon.com, and more.
9. What are your views about where the music industry is heading in your community, or on a global level?
Chicago has an amazing music scene. I just read a study a few weeks ago, entitled "The Geographic Flow of Music," which said that Chicago is #2, behind Atlanta, for setting trends in music. There is virtually any style of music you can find being created here. I love it! I think the music industry in Chicago has nowhere to go but up!
As far as music on a global level, I think that the major labels are a dying breed, and that independent music will reign in the end. I’ve been saying that for 13+ years, and every year, it becomes truer. When I first started writing music, there were six major labels. At the start of last year, there were four. Now if EMI and Universal get their way, there will be three. They just keep eating each other up. There is nothing innovative or unique musically coming from the major labels right now anyway. All of the artists sound the same, particularly pop and hip-hop artists. They all are over-produced with robot voices...who really wants to listen to that!? Where's the emotion? Where's the music in that garbage? The independent labels and DIY artists will continue to thrive because that is where the innovation lies. Indie artists are allowed to try new things, and they can get their music into the hands of their fans efficiently and effectively because the Machine does not bog them down.
10. Anything pertinent you'd like to say about Songsalive!
Songsalive! is a fantastic organization for songwriters. Lots of great opportunities and ways to learn the craft and business! Gilli Moon really puts her heart, soul, and mind into what she does, and she truly cares for the songwriters she is helping. I’m proud to be both the Chicago coordinator and the Director of Operations for such a great organization! If you live in the Chicago area or are just passing through, check out the website at www.songsalive.org/group/chicago for more information on our events. Also feel free to contact me any time with questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.