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This article was published 6/5/2015 (721 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
"What do you do when the world starts calling your name?" is the first line on the opening song (and title track) of Romi Mayes’ new album, Devil on Both Shoulders.
As she talks about her latest project in advance of a May 8 release party at the West End Cultural Centre, it’s apparent Mayes has had to face that question a few times since her last record, 2011’s Lucky Tonight.
The Wolseley resident, now 40, toured North America relentlessly when that album came out — going hard for nearly two-and-a-half years.
As 2013 became 2014, the rootsy, bluesy singer, songwriter and guitarist realized she couldn’t avoid making a new album.
So Romi launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund a new recording (fans and friends donated nearly $33,000, with another $6,000 coming from direct donations) and began sifting through snippets of songs and lyrics.
What she found surprised her, in several ways.
"I had four years between albums but I’ve never been so panicked about having songs," Mayes says. "I had a lot of beginnings but I didn’t have a lot of endings.
"Grant (Siemens, the album’s producer) came over two or three times a week just to work on moulding the songs. And fairly early on I started to see an underlying theme...
"I had to flush out a lot of demons on this record. I was angry about things that had happened in my life, there were a few things that triggered a lot of anger and unexpressed feelings, and I realized I was just sick and tired of false people and BS and injustice."
Devil on Both Shoulders, the song, is an acknowledgement of life’s dualities, Mayes says.
Another cut, Soul Stealer, is "about people who take more than they’re allowed.
"All of these things, though, are balanced by my never-ending desire to write about love and sex," she says, laughing.
The album was laid down in 14 days last winter at Winnipeg’s Private Ear Recording, with Siemens (perhaps best-known as guitarist in Corb Lund’s Hurtin’ Albertans) producing and Scott Franchuk engineering. It’s a tight, grooving production, showcasing more of a rock feel than Mayes’ previous albums.
Siemens played all the guitars as part of a studio band that included bassist Bernie Thiessen, drummer Damon Mitchell, keyboardist Marc Arnould and backing singers Alexa Dirks and Joanne Rodriguez. The entire group will play together at the album-release show.
Working with Siemens, a friend of 20 years, was an "awesome experience," Mayes says.
"We’ve known each other but we haven’t been best friends for 20 years," Mayes says. "He’s such a great musician that I get nervous if I have to do a show with him, so when we decided to do this I was on my toes, hoping to impress him, which was good because you want to be pushed to do your best."
A pleasant surprise in the making of Devil on Both Shoulders was the change in Mayes’ voice since she quit smoking last year. She discovered she has more power and range.
"I had no idea it was going to change that much," she says. "A lot of the melodies I’d written were beyond my reach before — but I found (in the studio) that I could hit different pitches and hold longer notes.
"The thing is that now I have to learn how to sing them live," she cracks.
Right after the West End show, Mayes and a touring band of Thiessen, drummer Jesse Millar and guitarist Jimmy Bowskill will head on the first of what she says will be "only three tours this year."