Question Time With Maggie Gently
San Francisco-based Maggie Grabmeier first hit the Nest radar with The Total Bettys, unleashing an EP, (Connect with the Couch, 2015), and two LP’s, (Peach, 2017 and This Is Paradise, 2018), before embarking on a solo career under the name Maggie Gently. Building steam with a self-released EP, 2020’s A Good Cry, her debut full-length Peppermint comes out 3/18 on Refresh Records, and features three singles so far, “Hold My Hand”, “Worried”, and the brand new “Steady”. Sharp-eyed observers will note her fierce dedication to repping her community even extends down to the t-shirts worn in her videos. Let’s start with “Steady”, and then get into the questions.
The Owl Mag: starting with an icebreaker, tell us about your new Fender…
Maggie Gently: I love my new guitar! Major shouts out to Fender and my manager Britt from Common Ground Collective for hooking this up. This is my first new electric guitar since I got my last one (a black Ibanez Gio) as a sweet 16 present. And I’m 29 now, so yeah that was a long time ago! This new guitar is a candy apple Player Plus Nashville Telecaster for those guitar people out there, and so far it’s totally dreamy.
TOM: Peppermint test pressing! Shoutout Grace Coleman…
MG: I couldn’t be more grateful to Refresh Records for giving me the chance to press vinyl for the first time. It was so special getting that test pressing in the mail and putting it on my turntable. It’s the culmination of years of work, honing songwriting and recording styles, and Grace Coleman has been there every step of the way. I trust her completely with my music, and she really is the secret ingredient in Peppermint and all my music (and for tons of other musicians’ recording projects as well). I also want to give credit to the musicians who played on the album and brought their ideas and talents to the project: Sinclair Riley on bass, my brother Joey Grabmeier on drums, and my producer Eva Treadway, who played lead guitar and guided me through the process of finishing these songs and making them sparkle. Also for the first time I worked with engineer Brian Ishiba out of his studio in LA to record drums and vocals (and he’s also playing in my live band!), and this is definitely the beginning of a long friendship and musical collaboration. It feels so wonderful to click with other musicians creatively, and I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many talented and generous people who really left their marks on this album.
TOM: new label-Refresh Records, thoughts on…
MG: Working with Refresh Records has been so wonderful. The crew over at Refresh is driven, creative, and so professional. They’ll also be selling my new merch, all designed by the incredible artist Maria Fulan. I’m just really proud of everything that we’ve accomplished together! It’s truly amazing how much work goes into releasing an album, and the people at Refresh make it look so easy.
TOM: “Steady” is the third video from ‘Peppermint’, along with “Hold My Hand” and “Worried”. Thoughts on their creation…
MG: The “Steady” video is particularly near and dear to my heart because it was shot and directed (and edited and dreamed up) by my good friend Toni Tru. She took some time out of her busy schedule working on her women’s history documentary series to make this music video with me, and I could not be more grateful. The shoot was really fun: we filmed outside the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco and at Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland. Up to this point, I’ve made all my music videos with the help of my partner and family, (and none of us are filmmakers or really have any idea what we’re doing), so getting the chance to work with a professional like Toni was such a gift.
TOM: New LP ‘Peppermint’: songs you wish to highlight?
MG: That’s a tough one! I like the way the songs on Peppermint speak to each other; I tried to balance out the real hurt that punctuated my first EP Good Cry while speaking to my healing process and bringing voice to a hopeful vision for my own future. In that sense, I think “My Favorite Song” (track 7) is a nice example. It’s about sacrificing things, not taking more than you need, and appreciating what you already have. There’s something freeing about imagining a small, happy future with someone you love.
TOM: New LP ‘Peppermint’: songs I’ll highlight…observing the maturation of your song craft has been fascinating. From The Total Bettys forward, your ability to drop a pop-punk banger has never been in question, but now we’re seeing new sonic shades and depth creep in. While still exploring the confessional, there’s been, for me, some jaw-dropping moments where I literally stop and back up the song and start all over. Specifically, the in-between single “Where My Time Went”, new single “Steady”, and “That Noise”, which, to me, is a hidden masterpiece…
MG: Thank you! “That Noise” is my dad’s favorite song on the album, too, and I really love talking about it. I really appreciate you saying that the sound is maturing. I’m turning 30 this year and thinking a lot about growing up and creating the kind of future I want to live in, and I hope that my songwriting is coming along for the ride. I think those three songs do have an element of mourning lost time, but also a feeling that everything in my past is culminating in this strength I didn’t know I’d ever feel. I really appreciate you picking up on that!
TOM: Pandemic creation is the elephant in the room, and everyone’s pandemic was different. What were and how did you cope with the challenges?
MG: I think like everyone, my creativity came in waves over the pandemic. It’s been a long few years and some of the time I was really creative and generative, and other times I could just sit around and try to feel normal. Some of the highs and lows of the past few years had to do with the pandemic, and some stuff just happened alongside it. It’s definitely the backdrop to a lot of my songwriting (and my experience with music, performing, and community in general), but also life was still happening. Music has helped me cope in a big way – both my own music and the music other people were able to make in this hard time. It’s amazing how resilient we’ve been, and I think there’s a huge wealth of creativity and creation that happened throughout this dark time.
TOM: Current artists you feel an affinity with, or wish to tour with?
MG: I’m feeling really proud of my Bay Area music community for all the awesome music coming out. Shouts out to Bad Tiger, Nightjars, Boy Scouts, Sour Widows, and tons of others. I’m also getting to know the Refresh Records roster which is amazing. And, as I’m getting ready to tour in March, I’m getting to know tons of bands in the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, and Southern California that I’m lucky enough to play with – including my brother’s band Joy Weather from Los Angeles.
TOM: How did last two years warp and/or reinforce your sense of community/family?
MG: This is a good question. I think it clarified and distilled a lot of things. I missed a lot of the relationships that only existed in the live music realm, and I’m so excited to start rekindling those and meeting other people in the Bay Area and beyond who have been committed to local music all along. Plus, I’m so grateful to my friends and chosen family in SF; this pandemic really proved how strong and how committed to caring for each other we all are. Even though things were hard and scary, I think I have the greatest group of friends, family, and community helping me through life. It’s something I definitely don’t take for granted.
TOM: Live-streaming… (caught your performance at The Complex for BFF.FM). A big takeaway for me with the forced exodus away from touring was that a new world was opened up for many. Considering those with disabilities, and kids in out of the way areas, is there any plan to integrate streaming as a part of your touring going forward? Is it technically viable, and could even a modest ticket be a worthwhile add on to merch? (considering the paucity of both sales and streaming revenues…)
MG: I think accessibility is a huge issue in the music scene, and I hope that we all start thinking about how to make our music more accessible in general. I think partnerships like BFF.fm and the Complex are so great because they provide all the equipment and technology to put on a really awesome livestream/recorded show, and they give growing artists like me the opportunity to perform with great production value like professional audio and visual. Over the pandemic I’ve done a few livestreams from my apartment, but places like the Complex and Twin Peaks Sessions I think are a big part of the music scene’s future. It’s generous and fun and it opens up the live music sphere to a lot more people. And beyond all that, I hope accessibility at in-person shows improves too. There are so many opportunities to make people feel safe and comfortable when they experience live music.
TOM: Tell us about your band…Is your new touring band the same one you recorded with?
MG: I can’t wait to tour with these people! My bandmates are all wonderful people and awesome musicians. This constellation of people has played one show together so far, and we have a few more on the books, and already I totally trust them musically. Also, I have a feeling we’re going to have a lot of fun together on the road. My brother Joey Grabmeier (Joy Weather) plays drums in the band, and he also recorded drums on all the Maggie Gently releases. Sinclair Riley (The She’s, Pllush) is the band’s bassist, and likewise she played bass on the album and my EP and singles. On lead guitar is my good friend Brian Ishiba (Joy Weather). He recorded parts of Peppermint, but this is really the start of us playing live together. This is all of our first tour in a very long time, and I am so excited.
TOM: With your tour officially announced, are there any particular dates or venues you’re excited about? (I would imagine the Noise Pop appearance at Bottom of the Hill on 2/23 and Treefort in March rate pretty high. Any others?
MG: I haven’t been traveling around much in the past few years, and I’m so excited to see a lot of places both new and familiar! Our Bottom of the Hill show next week is going to be such a blast – Noise Pop is like my favorite Bay Area music holiday. And our tour kickoff at Eli’s in Oakland with Sour Widows and The Band Ice Cream should also be tons of fun. We’re playing with some really cool bands in Portland and around Washington, and I’m really excited to play three shows in Washington. And then our first time playing Treefort! I know lots of bands who have played the festival in years past, and everyone says it’s such a great time. I’ve never been to Boise, and I’m really looking forward to it. Then in Las Vegas we’re playing a mini-festival with a killer lineup of mostly locals. And two of my bandmates live in LA, so the LA show will also be like a homecoming for them! All in all, I want to shout out my tour booker Kevin Briody from Lost + Found for putting together such a great run of shows. I guess I kind of named all the shows, but I’m just so excited for the whole experience.