Local singer-songwriter Maura Rogers started songwriting in college at Baldwin-Wallace’s noted music theater program, and she also worked for Great Lakes Theater Festival after college. She’s been a fixture on the local music scene for the past decade.
For Always, her latest album with her backing band the Bellows, she spent 11 days recording tracks with locally based producer Jim Wirt.
“Every note played on this album perfectly expresses the honesty of the songs,” says Wirt in a press release about the album. “Maura's voice is idyllic, unlike anyone I've ever worked with. It was a treat to be a part of this album."
The album represents the follow-up to 2015's In Light, and the band’s lineup now includes guitarist Al Moses, bassist Quinn Hyland and drummer Jeff Babinkski in addition to founding members Meredith Pangrace and Rogers. The album takes influence from classic rock acts such as Fleetwood Mac and indie acts such as Brandi Carlile and Sharon Van Etten.
“I hope to grow as a songwriter with each album, and I approached this album more as a band leader,” says Rogers. “I wanted to incorporate the accordion and voices and that became my new approach. I’ve always been a huge Brandi Carlile fan and have watched her evolve as a songwriter. She writes about really deep things and makes them accessible to the listener. That has continually shaped me as a songwriter. I tried to move beyond that approach and listen to more bands. A band like Fleetwood Mac is inspiring because it has powerful women and men and they all contribute to the songwriting, and it’s a democratic process.”
Rogers says the new lineup masterfully executed the songs on Always.
“Quinn [Hyland] brings a whole new element of rhythm and energy,” she says. “We held auditions, and she stood out by far. She can sing and do harmonies, and I wanted to incorporate that into the songs. Al [Moses] is this legendary blues guitar player in Cleveland. He’s friends with mutual friends and has seen us play and wanted to sit in with us. I had seen him play and couldn’t believe he was serious. He’s such a talented player. He’s a player that listens to what everyone else is doing and adds wonderful layers to that. And Meredith [Pangrace] has worked really hard on the accordion. The more she felt confident and the more she learned, the more it became part of every song. Jim Wirt pulled out the strengths. It’s a different album altogether.”
Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Noelle Richard directed the music video for the first single, "92 Days." The video came out today.
To make the video, Richard issued a casting call for “transgender, non-binary, gender queer, gender-non-conforming community members, as well as their supportive allies.” More than 30 volunteers showed up to have their portraits filmed.
"This video celebrates the varied ways in which we queer and trans folks reclaim our bodies and visually communicate our identities,” says Richard in a press release about the video. “When I first heard ‘92 Days,’ it resonated with me [a transgender/non-binary person] as an anthem for authenticity and self-determination. Presenting intimate portraits of my queer community, as well as those who love and support us, shifts focus onto our beauty, resilience and joy, countering the frequently tragic narratives of queer people seen in mainstream heteronormative media."
Rogers initially hesitated when it came to doing a music video, but she says that working with Richard was a real joy since Richard made the song into her own statement.
“I wanted to go beyond us and see what the song would mean to somebody else,” says Rogers. “Noelle had a vision for '92 Days,' and I always thought the song was about being trapped in my body. [The resulting video] made me think about different ways people could feel trapped. I thought about people in the LGBTQ community and how it would be good to give that community a voice. Noelle had the idea for the moving portraits. People have told me they're really moved by it, which is great.”
The album drops on Friday, April 26, and an album release party will take place on Saturday, April 27, at the Music Box Supper Club.
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Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]