Several months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mary-Kathryn at the Nashville Convention Center during GMA week. She has a quiet radiance in her presence and a soulful countenance that at once engages and comforts the listener. Meeting her was the perfect prelude to exploring her music.
That quiet radiance and soulful countenance I saw at first glance was musically translated and projected into multi-layered visions of sounds, melodic musings, rhythms, and prayerful words that were at once an invitation and invocation for soulful surrender.
“I wanted to create a spiritual experience through music,” Mary-Kathryn explains in her bio. “I know there is a God who wants to bring us into a better place. I care about all the people on this planet, and my dream is that we could all love one another. We also need to care about our world and be good stewards of it. I try to make music that reflects this vision.”
Music With A Mission
Mary-Kathryn has referred to herself as a musical missionary. She mixes world fusion music with pop sensibilities. As I listened I felt like my spirit had swept me away across an Irish sea, through Native American ceremonial grounds, to Middle Eastern temples, across the Jordan to the Holy Land, always returning to God’s place of love in the heart and soul.
Her music blends sounds, rhythms, and instruments from a variety of cultures. Many have called her style “New Age Christian.” It applies in the sense that hers is a new vision where God gives her freedom to “wholly” worship. Her mix of cultural influences in the music makes worship more accessible.
I recently had the chance to ask Mary-Kathryn five quick questions, and she was more than gracious to share her views. In the future, Mary-Kathryn will talk more about her journey as an artist and singer. She will talk more about how Brett Manning has helped her further develop and refine her unique voice. She’ll also talk about her experience will going through boot camp with Tom Jackson whose work as a Live Music Producer has helped shape live performance skills for many top singers, including Taylor Swift, Casting Crowns and Jars of Clay.
Mary-Kathryn writes or co-writes the lion’s share of her material, and has found her ongoing work with Brett to be very rewarding.
Q + A
SSO: When you think about working with Brett Manning how has his approach impacting your singing, your writing, and your performance skills?
MK: Brett’s method as a teacher is so creative that it provokes the creativity in his students. He not only teaches new techniques, but he teaches a new way of thinking. He helps his students get free! For me, it has completely raised my confidence level.
SSO: What is your first memory of music that sparked your desire to sing?
MK: My first memory is probably my mother singing hymns with her sisters and her friends. The magic of harmonizing with others was captivating to me.
SSO: What do you feel are three of the biggest mistakes singers and singer-songwriters make when starting out, and what can they do to avoid these errors?
MK: Mistake number one is thinking they don’t need professional vocal training. So, get a good vocal coach. Number two is not taking a little time to warm up before singing full on. To address that, you need to vocalize. The third biggest mistake is over-singing because they can’t hear themselves well enough on stage and refusing to invest in some good ear monitors to resolve the issue. The simple solution is to just do it!
SSO: What are your favorite music venues, and what is it about them that works best for you?
MK: As an audience member I really like The Rutledge (in Nashville), small-room-wise. The right sound guy can make that room sound amazing. My favorite large room venue (in Nashville) would have to be The Ryman.
SSO: What do you hope your audience takes home with them from your music, and what do you take home from doing a live performance?
MK: My hope is that my audience will find freedom as they listen to my music and watch my performance. For me, there’s nothing greater than sharing my art with a group of people and hearing them say afterwards that it took them on a journey, and changed them somehow. What I take away is the satisfaction of knowing that I put everything I’ve got into making it wonderful for them; that somehow God was able to use me to reveal Himself to each person in the room.
Mary-Kathryn has recorded five CD’s to date. Her latest is appropriately entitled, Dreams & Visions. Recurring themes of love, peace, faith, prayer and worship permeate Dreams & Visions. Although most of her songs are sung in English, she’s also performed in Hebrew as well as the Sou-Sou language from West Africa. She also uses spirit-led vocalizations that remind the listener of Mid-Eastern, Gaelic, French or American Indian tongues.
“As with any language that is sung, you don’t have to understand it to enjoy it,” Mary-Kathryn shared in her bio. “The sound and the Spirit are what matters, and the music is just as important in communicating the message as the words are. The music itself is speaking. These sounds are saying something-they are prophetic in nature. They are like voices singing along with the lyrics.”
Mary-Kathryn was recently among those under consideration before the final group of the last New-Age GrammyÂ® nominees was revealed. For more information on this engaging artist visit www.Mary-Kathryn.com or www.myspace.com/marykathrynmusic. Also, check out this clip CLICK HERE from one of Mary-Kathryn’s sessions with Brett Manning.
“Our culture tends to live in the here and now and to ignore the vast well of deep water that is the spiritual,” Mary-Kathryn declares. “But there is a mystical aspect to who God is. He is mysterious, and there are ways that He wants to speak to us individually that other people may not understand, if we will only listen.”