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Romi Mayes
Some would say Romi has strayed from
bluegrass to the blues

Romi Mayes: Unscripted

With her new album Lucky Tonight, Romi Mayes digs deep and reveals her rock roots.

By Shelley Gummeson

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Romi Mayes has just come off of a tour. She has come home to a broken toilet seat and friends The Sheepdogs gear, in her living room. This is not to say that a Sheepdog broke the seat. There are occasional surprises like that but Romi doesn’t mind. “For all the years I was travelling around, staying on peoples’ couches, it’s kind of coming back around,” she says.

She’s at home for a brief time before going back out. First to the Yukon, then on to Whitehorse for BreakOut West, where she has been nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for Roots Solo Recording of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year. Then after that, it’s on to a European tour. Mayes and the road are good friends.

When you add fellow musician and buddy, Jay Nowicki [The Perpetrators] and a rockin’ blues, live album Lucky Tonight, there is good reason to maintain a relentless tour schedule. To Romi though, it’s more passion than work.

Some would say Romi has strayed from bluegrass to blues. The fact is, she has become more of herself and the result of this evolution is Lucky Tonight, a guitar driven album. The ever candid Romi explains, “I’ve always been a classic rock head. You know anything to do with the Stones, ZZ Top, CCR, The Band. Then I got interested in the blues. I don't think I've ever felt more comfortable on stage as I do now. Someone played a Muddy Waters album for me and it completely changed my life. I had to hear everything. I couldn’t play it, because physically my skills wouldn’t allow it, so I’d play in bluegrass bands. I have to admit, the whole time I played bluegrass and country, I didn’t really think it was that cool.” Romi laughs, “I thought I was good at it, I was pulling it off and I knew I was tight and able, but it wasn’t something I was super stoked about. It was something I was doing.”

Inevitably, her skills, maturity in music, and style caught up to her passion for what she likes the most. She says getting to play with Jay Nowicki has helped a lot because he’s such a hard driven rock ‘n roll-blues guy. Wondering what she could do to get more of an edge to her sound, she looked to Jay who showed her a few things and eventually she found herself playing harder than she used to. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more comfortable on stage as I do now,” she says. “Now I’m representing myself wholeheartedly.”

Lucky Tonight is a hard driving rock ‘n blues album that was recorded live in front of a sold out crowd in her hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Romi recalls the night. “The second we walked on stage, the room exploded. I thought ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be a good night’. Right to the last second it was pretty intense. We couldn’t have done it anywhere else. I didn’t even know I could sing like that really,” she laughs. It was all captured on the recording, which draws the listener into a raw and electrifying performance. “I think that Lucky Tonight is taking a crack at giving people another perspective of what music can still sound like,” says Mayes.

Romi Mayes
Romi Mayes tours relentlessly and the hard
work is beginning to pay off.

 

Along with her edgier sound comes a persona that Romi is a bit mystified by. When she was asked if she was as badass as the music portrayed her, she replies, “You know, that has come up a lot lately. People are asking ‘Are you really that person that people see on stage?’ You know, whatever you see on stage…” She stops to gather her thoughts, “You can’t find someone who has less filters than I do. I don’t have a stage persona at all. I would just like to get out there and hang out with the audience and just say what comes out of my mouth. It’s just me and Jay hanging out on stage. I don’t want to separate us from the audience. Maybe whatever is perceived must be true.”

Romi pretty much says what’s on her mind and is able to break down barriers by stating what everyone is thinking, but no one is really saying on stage, particularly women. “I think that there aren’t a lot of chicks out there that are just being ballsy and talking about sex, you know what I mean and getting a bit dirty with it. It makes me seem more badass because not a lot of women are doing it,” she concludes.

Romi Mayes is one of the hardest working women on the music scene and she does acknowledge that. “Honestly, I work really hard at what I do. Compared to some, I’m kind of a tougher chick. I’ve been around the block a few times. I’m pretty self assured and stand on my own two feet. So when I’m on stage, I’m really confident and ready to play. I think that’s what comes across.”

What does it take for a woman to be successful in the music industry? Romi Romi Mayes' Lucky Tonight
Lucky Tonight is nominated for
Roots Solo Recording of the
Year at the Western Canadian
Music Awards
immediately shares her thoughts on this. “Well first thing you have to do absolutely, is not consider yourself a women in the industry. I think the second you start trying to be anything, or just considering yourself a women in the industry you’re screwing up what would have happened organically. You know, you’re just rockin’ if you rock.”

Romi Mayes is in a good place in her life and in her music. She is not at all fazed by coming home after touring and seeing mail piled up on the porch, or getting notices from the city telling her to mow her lawn or be arrested. “I think grass is supposed to grow, isn’t it?” she laughs.

“I do feel this is the coolest stuff I’ve ever done. I love our show,” says Romi. “I’m proud of it. I like looking around at Jay and thinking ‘They’re going to love this,’ as the guitars are getting ready. I love the way things are. If I can keep them going that would be great.”

Like she says, “You’re just rockin’ if you rock.” Romi Mayes definitely rocks.

 
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