Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Sound Circuit

The process of finding small town success


MaryBeth Doran plays Vaudeville Mews on Nov 21.

MaryBeth Doran plays Vaudeville Mews on Nov 21.

MaryBeth Doran is familiar with the bright lights/big city approach. After graduating from George Washington University, Doran packed up her things and moved to New York City, where she eventually helped form the band Milly Beau. The soul pop five-piece signed to Greenhouse Records, where they released two albums. But eventually, Doran felt life pulling her toward a solo career. And so, in late 2012, Doran and her bassist/boyfriend Ben Mars picked up and left N.Y. for a return to the Midwest (Doran is from Minnesota, and Mars is an Iowa boy by birth).

“There are some days where I think I made exactly the right move, and some days where I really question that,” she said. “But I felt the same way living in New York. I experimented with starting this new project there, and I did have some ‘industry types’ who were interested, (but) none of those opportunities felt right because they all wanted to mold me into their thing, and the whole point of doing this was to figure out what my ‘thing’ was.

“New York can be a good place to find that out, but I didn’t feel like it was right for me, because there, everyone is always telling you what you should be doing. Whereas in the Midwest, the mentality is a little more supportive and encouraging.”

Now, from their little farm just outside Adel, Doran is finding her thing. She and Mars are in the process of recording her first album at the farmhouse. Recording in the comfort of a home setting is something of an experiment for Doran, and, so far, she’s liking the results. Her soulful voice and charming on-stage presence have quickly won her fans here in the capital city. But — just as much in her music as in her lifestyle — the change in pace takes some getting used to.

“It calls for a lot of patience,” she admitted. “When you don’t have a source of outside funding, everything moves at a dinosaur’s pace. Milly Beau was on a label, so (everything) was covered. It was a small label, but we’re still talking 40 grand. Now, my dad will ask me, ‘Where is your album at? Are you doing anything?’ And it’s like, I can play you a three-hour set of original stuff right now. I’m doing things. It’s just a process.” CV

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