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Band of the Week: Interview – Wil Maring

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When heartbreak comes calling, a talented few turn the pain into a creative outlet.

That’s how The Calling, a new CD by independent artist Wil Maring, was born.

After 17 years of musical collaborations with her then-husband Mark Stoffel, the two decided their marriage and professional partnership was at an end. So Maring, determined to soldier on musically, rallied her soon-to-be-ex and past band mates from “Shady Mix” to come together one more time to record this CD.

The result is beautifully crafted, introspective folk/country/pop CD that speaks to the heart.

But don’t think The Calling is a three-hanky number. This album from Maring, a previous winner of the prestigious "Chris Austin Songwriting Contest" at Merlefest, is a manifesto of strength, appreciation of history and lesson in perseverance.

Just before leaving for a tour to California with her new musical partner, virtuoso guitarist and fiddler Robert Bowlin, Maring took a look back at her musical journey, the CD, and the road ahead.

Tell us about how you came to the musical place you are at now.

My first band, Shady Mix, was stared in Southern Illinois. We were active locally and regionally from about 1989 to 1992. Then we moved to Germany from 1992 to 2001. We returned and started to play again regionally and locally (from 2001 to recently) but my husband just didn’t want to continue. I knew I had to.

How is the music you perform on The Calling different than what was performed by Shady Mix?

It doesn’t differ a whole lot. I was the main singer for that band. I guess the way it differs is that when we were in Germany, we were more of a cover band.

Was it frustrating as a songwriter to perform all covers?

Yes, definitely. I had to make the decision that when we came back I would be a songwriter. But then we came back and my husband just didn’t want to play music professionally anymore. He wanted a day job and security. That led to us having personal problems because music was my main thing.

Tell us about the process you underwent to write The Calling.

Most of the songs came out of that period after I’d come back from Germany and we got a farm here in Illinois. That is when it became apparent my husband didn’t want to be in music anymore. We were at a crossroads and each chose a path.

It was a very rough time for me, but a lot of times you have a lot of inspiration or at least have a lot to say when you come out of those periods. The hardest part of making this album wasn’t the writing. That came gradually. The hard part was recording it with my husband and the (band members from Shady Mix) and knowing this would be the last project we’d record together.

Tensions were very high at that time…It was difficult. My husband had been my main [musical] partner for 17 years or so.

So he played a large role in this album?

He was the engineer, he played on it, we recorded it in our house….

It’s amazing to me that the two of you had the strength to put the album together.

I had to do it. I felt this record had to be finished. And once he starts something, he’s the kind of person who sees it through to completion. I felt pretty lost for a while, though. A lot of people tried to help me, encourage me, tell me I could make it….I didn’t believe it myself, so it took a while to gain that self confidence back.

Has it gotten easier to move ahead since the album was recorded?

I still feel a little lost with the recording stuff. In the meantime, I’ve met a lot of nice people. Robert knows a lot of people; he knows how to record stuff. We are trying to pick up and continue.

Musically, we hit it off. The guitar player I had in the band had a very stressful job and wasn’t interested in traveling or playing original music. He likes fiddle tunes. He just said this wasn’t his cup of tea.

That all came to a head at the time when Robert was looking for something himself. Rather than being a sideman for a lot of famous acts (including B.B. King), he wanted to do this. He has a lot of music in him, a lot of original music. The duo is the perfect outlet for us.

People often define your music as bluegrass. How do you define it?

It is not bluegrass. We use bluegrass instruments (including the stand up bass), but I would say it is folk pop or country pop.

Do I understand that you’re moving more toward Celtic music?

I wouldn’t say I am moving toward Celtic but it is part of my influences. I listened to a lot of it growing up. My music has a little bit of Celticness in it without my trying. I connect to the way melodies move around (in that genre), how the chord structures move.

What’s next for you?

We are getting gigs, promoting this record. The next natural thing would be for us to record an album together. People who come to our shows like The Calling but they want music that reminds them of the duos we perform.

Hear Maring's music at www.wilmaring.com

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About Nancy Dunham

  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    I had a dream about Wil Maring last night. I don’t remember much except that she was sitting with a bunch of my friends who were all excited to meet her. I came in and started chatting with her like old pals.

    When everyone was surprised that I seemed to know Wil, I answered that we went way back and that she’s even my myspace friend.

    She is actually my myspace friend, but our relationship goes no farther.

    Glad to see her getting some print here though.

  • Nancy

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that Wil really needs to get more print. She’s an unbelievable talent and a terrific person, too.

  • Sherry

    What a lovely sound. Thoughtful, beautiful and oh so innocent.