Mary Bue powers through band split, divorce with desert session, yoga

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Mary Bue (Photo by Jason Kokal) Provided

2016 was a crazy year for Mary Bue.

Among the singer-writer's life changes: recording a new EP, losing a band and a husband, moving to Minneapolis, and, finally, opening a yoga studio.

Bue is kicking off 2017 by heading down to Taos, New Mexico, for a three-month artist-in-residence program. While in Taos, she'll live in an adobe casita, with utilities and food provided by the Wurlitzer Foundation. The foundation places no requirements on the artists it hosts, and Bue says she is going into the residency with no definite objective. She hopes to replenishing her stockpile of song lyrics, and maybe finally find time to mess around with a new drum machine and looping pedal.

“I’ve been so busy the last number of years that I really haven’t been filling up my stores of poetry,” Bue says ahead of her send-off show Saturday at Icehouse with Alan Sparhawk and Molly Maher. “A lot of songs come from poetry, the lyrics. So I will definitely be writing poetry on paper ... I just kind of want to feel freedom, and I don’t want to put pressure on myself.”

Bue says she'll use the residency as a way to process the last year of her life, which has been eventful, to say the least. In May, she'll release an EP, The Majesty of Beasts, which was recorded in Nashville with a backing band that no longer exists.

“There was like crazy band drama, we’ll just say," the former Duluthian says of her former indie-pop group, "and my band broke up and I got a divorce."

She demurred from going into details about the split, but the band was comprised of she and her (now ex-)husband, Kyle MacLean, on guitar, along with keyboardist Zac Bentz (who remains in Bue’s current band), and another married couple, bassist Heather Dean Millis and drummer Scott Millis.

The band breakup and marriage dissolution may come through in the writing she plans to do during her residency, Bue reports, describing her in-the-works material “the redundant heartbreak stuff." 

She also intends to keep exploring environmental consciousness through her songwriting. “Veal,” off her 2015 album, Holy Bones, was a song written from the perspective of a calf destined for slaughter (Bue is vegan), and the upcoming EP’s title track is about the degradation of nature.

Bue cites yoga and her recently launched studio, Imbue, as grounding factors during the personal and musical upheaval 2016. She began teaching yoga once a month at a studio in Minneapolis while she was still living in Duluth, partly as a way of forcing herself a step closer to moving down to the Twin Cities full time. She applied for the Wurlitzer residency around the same time.

“I immediately felt, like, ‘I want it," Bue says of her south Minneapolis yoga studio. “I guess I was feeling this urge for change and just something different and exciting." 

She signed the lease two weeks later, took over in April, remodeled, and held the grand opening in June. Bue runs the studio with several other instructors, some of whom are also local musicians. Molly Maher, one of the openers at Bue’s Icehouse send-off show, happens to be one of them.

“Having a brick-and-mortar business is something totally new to me,” Bue says. “There’s a steep learning curve, but I believe in it and I love my teachers. It’s really a small studio, so I’m kind of gearing toward people that want a more intimate, personal experience, and very beginner friendly.”

Over the years, Bue has participated in two other artist-in-residence programs like the Wurlitzer Foundation’s.

“My first one was in a town called Seaside Florida,” she says. "And it was the town where The Truman Show was filmed, so it was like we got our own house and a bicycle, and we just lived in this sort of weird utopia Gulf Coast town, and the next one was in Big Cyprus Nature Preserve, where I lived in park ranger housing, which was super sterile and boring, but in the middle of the everglades, so it was pretty cool.”

The Wurlitzer Foundation’s artist-in-residence program grew out of Helene Wurlitzer’s -- yes, of the electric organ Wurlitzers -- patronage of visual artists. It now grants residencies to students and professionals in the fields of art, music, and literature.

Bue suggests more musicians could stand to get in on residence programs like the Wurlitzer Foundation’s, although she doesn’t mind if others continue not to take advantage, either.

“I’ve only heard of a few other musicians seeking these,” she says. “It’s funny I’m making a big deal about it when I kind of want to have a little secret that I can keep doing.”

Although Bue is taking three months off from performing for her residency in Taos, she will remain prolific this year. She'll tease tracks from her forthcoming Majesty of Beasts EP at the Icehouse gig. 

Bue partially funded the record by winning a battle of the bands at Nashville’s Welcome to 1979 recording studio, for which the prize was a free day of recording at the studio. She financed the rest of it by applying for a grant.

"And then right after that my band broke up," she notes, "so holy shit.”

In addition to the environmentally minded title track, the EP includes a song about a sexual assault Bue experienced about 10 years ago, and a pair of what she called “goodbye songs." Musically, it runs the gamut from psychedelia to Americana to punk-pop.

“There’s a song called ‘The Shit I Left in Duluth,’” Bue says (one of those goodbye songs), “which I wrote before I even knew I was going to move, which is also crazy. It was really prophetic.” 

Mary Bue
With: Alan Sparhawk, Molly Maher
When: 10:30 p.m., Sat. Jan. 14
Where: Icehouse
Tickets: $8-$10; more info here


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