Mary Bue sings about surviving sexual assault and leaving Duluth on her new EP

Mary Bue.

Mary Bue. Photo by Jason Huntzinger.

Who knows if Mary Bue would be a musician today if friends hadn’t dared her to do an open mic at Amazing Grace Café and Bakery in Duluth in the late ‘90s.

Though Bue claims to have been “so frickin’ nervous,” the café owner liked her performance and invited her to do a solo show. By 2000, the Princeton native had released her first album, Where the Monarchs Circled, and was sending press kits -- complete with 8 x 10 glossies -- to music venues. The 400 Bar booked her for her first Minneapolis gig, and Jim Walsh (then at the Pioneer Press) reviewed the show.

Her momentum hasn’t slowed since. Bue’s seventh release, The Majesty of Beasts, is a brief but powerful pop-rock EP that veers between fierce jams and wistful ballads. In addition to music-making, Bue is the owner of Imbue Yoga in south Minneapolis.

City Pages: What’s the story behind your song “The Shit I Left in Duluth”?

Mary Bue: I was sitting with Ellen Stanley -- she goes by Mother Banjo, she’s the executive director of the Minnesota Music Coalition -- and Ben Cook-Feltz. Somebody said, “the shit I left in Duluth,” a flippant statement. It might have been me. One of them said, “We should all write a song with those words in it.” I don’t even know if those two wrote that song, but I wrote it. It became prophetic, though, because at that time I wasn’t planning on moving. At that time, I wasn’t planning on getting a divorce either. Sometimes my songs do that. I write them, I don’t know why, and they become true. I should start writing about my dream life.

CP: When did your divorce happen? Has that influenced other songs?

MB: I don’t want to incriminate anyone. Things bubble up. There are always issues. This EP was recorded before I was planning on getting a divorce. Now I have a lot of songs that will probably include some of those issues.

CP: “Petty Misdemeanor” is about being a survivor of sexual assault. Why did you decide to put such a personal song on the album?

MB: In college, I did a lot of work around prevention of sexual assault. I felt pretty well-informed. Then it happened to me. I really kept it secretive. I hadn’t written a song about it. I think it was the day of the ten-year anniversary that it happened. I felt like, “I need to put this out there.” Especially with this political situation; there’s so much de-funding going on and so much denial that this stuff even happens. I feel like I’m strong enough now to help other people talk about it. I’m hoping it can be a helpful, healing agent.

CP: You recently did a residency in Taos, New Mexico. What did that do for you as an artist?

MB: It was amazing. We were given three months of uninterrupted time with no pressure to do anything. The patron, Helene Wurlitzer, her vision was to give artists a healing, restful place away from their busy lives so that they can create with no pressure, even if they just needed to sleep for three months -- which I did. I slept a lot.

I feel like a lot of people are drawn to the desert. There’s a lot of new age energy and healing-seeking people that go there, especially in Taos. It’s such a special place and it has a certain energy that is so different from Minnesota.

My casita had a grand piano in it, so if I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a song in my head, I’d just go play it. I recorded tons of song snippets, probably 30, 40 songs that I’ll workshop. Lots of journaling. I worked through The Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron). I did some painting. It was extremely reflective and really nice to get away and think about everything that’s happened.

CP: You’re also involved in yoga and recently opened a studio?

MB: Yeah, I did. It’s going to be a year old on June 11. That kind of fell into my life. I got certified in 2009 in Seattle and when I moved back to Duluth, I was teaching in a bunch of studios. I wanted to start teaching in Minneapolis and I came across this studio. After my first class, the owner of the studio wrote to all her contractors and said that she wasn’t going to keep the studio. I took a night and slept on it and the next day, I was like, “I want it.” I reached out to her and two weeks later I signed the lease and did some remodeling. During all of that was when I was getting a divorce and moving down here. It was a very intense period.

CP: The listing for the release show says it’s also a birthday party?

MB: Yeah, it’s my birthday.

CP: You must be young enough to still want to celebrate it. Some people get to an age where they just want to ignore it.

MB: I know. I’ll be 36. I feel like some people would want to shy away from that. I love life, though. I think it’s something to celebrate. And then I don’t have to clean up at my house. Just do it at a bar.

Mary Bue
With: Gabe Douglas, Timbre Ghost
Where: Icehouse
When: 11 p.m. Friday, May 12
Tickets: $10 - $12; more info here