For a seasoned vet, Cindy McElroy is very clear about her musical intentions; she does not expect to change the world, she simply writes music for herself.
Along her own road, McElroy found an audience that also enjoys the music she performs. She released her debut solo album Colors of Blue recently and has been looking to branch out around the state. Originally from Drummond Island, she traveled to Arizona and back and now lives happily married in Williamston, east of Lansing.
Having taken the long road through different bands and musical situations, the trained singer has been looking at her solo options as of late.
Influenced by the likes of Ray Charles, The Beatles, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett and Emmy Lou Harris, among others, McElroy will bring Colors of Blue and her acoustic guitar to Bemo's in Bay City on December 16th, from 6-9 p.m., for a rare acoustic evening. The Review took a few minutes for a question and answer with McElroy to tell us where she has been and what she's got going on.
Review: What is your vocal inspiration as a trained vocalist?
McElroy: I love to do it. I have always loved singing since I was a very small child. My parents recognized that I had some ability and encouraged me to go with it. Both my parents had beautiful voices and I guess I inherited some of their talent. I took Classical Italian Voice for three years. I practiced religiously for at least two hours a day and one day my voice just changed. I thought it was in my head but when I returned to my next lesson my instructor mentioned it to me. It was really amazing.
Review: What sparks you to write and do you see yourself growing as a songwriter?
McElroy: I have to get emotional about something. I debated whether or not to put All About You on this CD. I don't want to do any damage, but a lot of people seem to like it so I left it on. I do see myself growing as a musician, but I think that my music is getting a little more sophisticated. At least I hope it is.
Review: Any plans to perform with a band of your own? What's the story behind the other three bands you were in?
McElroy: I would really love to have a band. I'm working on that. I just read an interview with Don Henley and he said that being in a band is like a dictatorship. I don't really see it that way, but I do understand it. I like things the way I like them, but I'm always open to a new idea and hate the thought of not letting someone put themselves into a piece of music.
My first band was General Electric. We were a '80s cover band and we all wrote, so we mixed our own music in with the covers. Nobody knew the difference. That was in Tucson, AZ, in the mid '80s. The 44 D's was a great band - three women in our 40's. We got gigs based on our name...concept eh? None of us were that well endowed but it was a great name for a girl rock band. We were totally rock and roll from AC/DC to John Mellencamp. We started seeing things differently and unfortunately it couldn't work out, but I was listening to a recording we did the other day and we were good. I miss that.
With The Buskers, we really wanted to be a concert trio. We made beautiful music together. Our voices blended so well that people couldn't tell who was singing which part and we could all sing all the parts. I was the only instrumentalist, which was somewhat stressful at times, and I wrote many of our songs. We tried to find people that wanted to play the kind of music we sang but it just never came together for us. Then some unfortunate personal issues got in the way. It's so much easier to be solo. Coordinating rehearsals can be a nightmare, but really we were very, very good. We still sing once in a while and are great friends.
Review: Tell us a little bit about singing the National Anthem at Tiger Stadium.
McElroy: I worked for Tom Monaghan (Domino's Pizza) on Drummond Island. The Tigers had all been there for a long weekend and also some of the retired Tigers. I played for a campfire/sing-a-long kind of thing and afterwards this lovely gentleman, Fred Smith, asked me if I'd like to sing at Tiger Stadium. I had to send a tape and photos to the people in charge and so it was arranged. The first time they actually played it on T.V. so the folks on Drummond could see me. It was scariest afterward when I found out I actually sang for like six million people. Yikes!! The bonus...I got to sit in the owner's booth. The second time it wasn't such a big deal, but I still had the best seat in the house. They rolled out the red carpet for me (and) even flew me to Detroit from Drummond Island. It was a great experience. I'd do it again given the opportunity.
Review: Tell us some of your favorite places you've played and what's made them special.
McElroy: I loved The Riverwalk Theater...just a great place and a great space in downtown Lansing. The 44 D's had a riot at Melon Fest in Howell...the people were a lot of fun. The chapel at my church has great acoustics. I used to play at Carmelo's in Lansing regularly. Some nights there would be 3 people and some nights the place would be packed. But the owners and employees were great people and always made you feel like part of the family. At the more established Fairs and Festivals the pay is good. I don't get up there very often but I'd love to play at Chuck's or the Northwood on Drummond again. It's home.
Review: What are your musical goals for 2008?
McElroy: I would really like to get a band together and actually there are a couple of songs on Colors of Blue I'd like to re-record with other musicians. I'd like to get out and play more, for certain.