Maureen and the Mercury 5

Posted by Dee-Ann On June - 29 - 2018984 views

photo by marie gregorio-oviedo

Maureen, born in Detroit, raised in Ohio, went to music conservatory in New York but she calls L.A. her home now. With guitarist Scott “Seatbelt” McLean and bassist Steve Whalen, sax / guitarist, Sylvain Carton (from France) and drummer T. Alex Budrow they go by the name of Maureen and the Mercury 5. They just added a new member – Jordan Bush – like Sylvan, he plays
Sax & guitar, but he also plays keys and harmonica.

How and when did you start?

We started because my Americana band, The Flutterbies was playing a small music festival and a harmonica player/blues singer/promoter Mark “Torch” Tortorici heard us and liked it. We became friends and he invited me into the world of Swing Dance and Rockabilly at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill in Los Angeles — he knew I had a dance background, had done some Salsa and Ballroom and said “If you start a Rockabilly band you can combine your love for Country & Rock music with your love of dance – Win-Win”. Then he basically mentored the band along with Rockabilly royalty Dave Bertize of Crown City Bombers. We lost Torch to a tragic car accident a few years ago but we still call Joe’s our home.

What’s your music style?

RETRO NOUVEAU — we love the tradition of Eddie Cochran and Elvis, and my vocals and stage presence have been influenced by Dusty Springfield and Ann Margret, but I am excited by the vulnerability and tough girl talk of Amy Winehouse and Nikki Hill combined with studio sounds and innovations in recording. Remember when Les Paul & Mary Ford started experimenting? We think we can appeal to the Rockabilly & Swing purists as well as a new audience of Rock & Rollers – and often get that chance when we play alongside Classic Rock & Metal Artists at the Ultimate Jam Night at the Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip (produced by Quiet Riot’s Chuck Wright)

When was your first encounter with the music you now love?

Funny story: my momma used to “vacuum in vintage” to loud swing music! LOL 🙂 Yup – momma would be there in her collectible underwear blasting Sinatra or whomever she was digging at the time and do housework every Saturday (Momma was a pinup in her day – always very fashionable and known for her legs). Dad was the best Cha Cha & Swing dancer at all the family functions – so I guess, I loved Swing music as a toddler, fought it through High School as I inherited Classic Rock and Singer/Songwriters from my older sisters but returned to it in college when I began studying dance and found I loved being twirled and dipped and tossed in the air as I came into my own as a Jitterbugger.

Who did influence you?

My momma; Dusty Springfield; Chrissy Hynde; Bonnie Raitt; Ann Margret; Amy Winehouse

Do you write your own songs?

Absolutely! 🙂 We usually play about 2/3’s originals and 1/3 covers for a 3-set night. Originals are also the best for music licensing for film – as a writer I have over 200 songs on American TV and in film (most notably the Oscar-winning “The Descendents” with George Clooney) and as a band we’ve already gotten placements for our songs DRINK HIM DOWN (Lifetime Channel), MR. LOVE LOVE, WHAT’S IT GONNA TAKE (“Born To Race”) and HE SAID SHE SAID (the latter which was requested even before our album release, for a new Comedy Central film called “Deported”). Musicians get so caught up in touring and selling records that they forget there is great money and exposure in film/tv licensing. Now we have a Broadway musical in the works, showcasing the music of THE FLUTTERBIES and MAUREEN & THE MERCURY 5, with additional songs written by Sylvain and me. 

Where do you get your inspiration?

Real life. You write what you know. I often write with Adam Daniel of The Flutterbies (my other band) but lately I’ve been bringing lyrics and concepts to Scotty and Sylvain and writing together. Then, we chart out the songs and teach the band and everyone puts his two cents in.

Tell us about your latest cd.

The title track GIMME MO! was co-written with Rock artist JESSE BLAZE SNIDER (son of TWISTED SISTER’S DEE), and the classic I WANT YOU TO BE MY BABY is sung hilariously in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, with guest stars NBC TV crooner DOUGLAS ROEGIERS, Japanese Rockabilly sensation EITARO SAKO and retro music royalty JASON EOFF on keys (The Outta Sites). Co- Produced by SCOTTY LUND (BLACK EYED PEAS, RIHANNA, DRAKE) and SYLVAIN CARTON (BEATS ANTIQUES). 4 of the songs were originally part of a DIY album as a proposal to my then boyfriend…..he said “no” – I wrote a few more heartache songs, a few new-found-fun songs and the new album GIMME MO! was born.

What are your do’s and don’ts on stage?

DON’TS: don’t play drunk, don’t wear too high heels (how can you dance??), don’t let drunk people use your mic, don’t eat garlic, don’t plan what you’ll say

DO’S: do keep the crowd dancing, laughing, singing; do let yourself get messy and unkempt – if it’s real, it’s worth it; do always sing from the heart and be in the moment

How about clothes, performance, musical quality or stage fun?

It’s ALL important – it’s all combined into a fantastic cocktail. you know how there are certain bartenders who believe that different drinks need shaved ice or cubed ice or crushed ice or one large cube or no ice at all? some martinis are shaken not stirred? instruments are always in tune, I always do vocal warmups, I wear clothes that are stylish and flattering and easy to sing and dance in, the boys ALWAYS heckle me like brothers – someone told us that we bring the party wherever we go. but my next favorite compliment is: “wow…you actually sing. you are a trained singer but you’re still rock and roll”. Truth is: I find “genius in simplicity” (Albert Einstein) and the vocal technique is what gives me stamina – not stage-y-ness. I will always be in a conversation with my audience and if my voice cracks or a cry, or I laugh at the way I’m dancing with someone in front of the stage – I’m present.

Do you like other styles than rockandroll?

I think there is great value in exposure to all kinds of music. I think latin styles can be really hot to dance to and I love our song MAMBO JOE and our Cha Cha MR LOVE LOVE. I check in with an opera teacher once a year to make sure I have healthy habits and love teaching my rock students opera because “you’ve got to know the rules so that you can break them”; OMG – French torch songs…..heaven. Chet Baker jazz….Old-timey “Oh Brother Where Art Though” stuff….Rock & Roll has had many influences and continues to morph. The only music I do NOT like is auto-tuned stuff. OMG….it makes my teeth itch. LOL

Is there an artist you would like to work with in future?

Nikki Hill, Imelda May, Chrissy Hynde, Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, J.D. McPhereson, Cheap Trick (I met Robin Zander). The Blasters, Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker… We just opened for BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY in Pasadena – so we’d love to play with them AGAIN! In the last 5 years, we’ve appeared in Los Angeles with DICK DALE, DEKE DICKERSON and BIG SANDY and at the infamous Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood with supergroups made of of members of QUIET RIOT, CHEAP TRICK, TWISTED SISTER, and KISS. In Paris, we made our own supergroup with NICO DUPORTAL, playing in concert with SANSEVERINO.  if any of those folks call – we will be please as punch to join them once more! What a blast!

Where would you like to play?

I want to play ALL the festivals in Europe as long as we have enough time to rest! I love love love FRANCE and look forward to going to Germany and England soon. We are getting massive airplay worldwide, most notably in Australia, Deutschland Public Radio, Japan, Canada, London, Spain, Italy and Sweden

Tell us a fun story about your band or gig.

STORY ONE: We got to open to a standing room only audience for Dick Dale and afterwards we walked Dick and his wife Lana to his car to make sure he got off safely….ended up talking for an hour about ghosts and angels and true love…truly magical night. The man just exhales music through his guitar without a second thought.

STORY TWO: We were the first Rockabilly house band for the late night TV talk show “After Dark With Julian Clark” and I was the first lady music director. It was briefly picked up by Amazon Prime and is still on the verge of greatness, though they’ve stopped production for a while.

Do you regret anything?

I regret not discovering how much I love rockabilly music – sooner. When I started in alternative rock & roll and singer/songwriter stuff, I was excited to sell songs to TV — I mean –  what a blessing to pay your 
rent with songs!  But I lost track of the blues and country music that is so much a “home” to me. And now Swing, Blues & Lindy Hop dancing is a huge part of my life. 

What are your future plans?

Aug 10th TIKI OASIS and AUG 25th VENICE BEACH MUSIC FESTIVAL with BIG BROTHER & THE HOLDING COMPANY on the bill as well. We just finished our 6 year residency at Disneyland, and our stage was torn down for construction, so we are awaiting news about a new stage to perform on. We’d like to do a Pacific Northwest Tour – no money yet to get the band over the pond, but we hope some festivals next year will pay for that – working on it. And….we continue to place music in films here in America. I am working on
making Catty Town & Rhythm Bomb the one-stop-shop for all 50’s/60’s music in film! And we are workshopping a Broadway musical that showcases our songs and we play ourselves on stage! We invite our fans to check back to our website in August 2018 for more news….

Finish this sentence: We will never ever…

How about this: we will ALWAYS carefully choose the coolest songs of our genre to cover, and write new songs to honor the growl of Scotty’s Gretsch and Bigsby, that says everything you want to say but can’t find words for; Sylvain or Jordan’s sax or harmonica that makes you wanna rob a bank; Steve’s bass that gives you daydreams of mischief and the alibis to go with each crime; and Alex’s unrelenting drums that tell you you’re alive right now and that’s all that matters.


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