Molly Gene on her One Whoaman Band, farm life, and split personality
Molly Gene One Whoaman Band began performing solo five years ago, when she got a foot-drum. Since then, she's burned up roads across the U.S. and more recently Europe bringing her stompin', wailin' and hollerin' "Delta Thrash" songs, raunchy, raw, and real in her gravelly, booze-soaked vocals sung from the gut.
Molly Dyer hails from Warrensburg, Missouri, where she grew up on a farm. Her stage name/persona is Molly Gene (her middle name) has two records out, Folk Blues and Booze, and Hillbilly Love. She releases a live album in the next couple of months featuring her newest footdrum. She performs the Deep Blues Festival at Bayport BBQ on Sunday, after which she tours the U.S. extensively.
Gimme Noise had an opportunity to talk with Molly Dyer by phone while she was packing for her tour, at her parents' home in Warrensburg, Missouri.
How did you get into performing as a one-woman band?
Molly Gene: When I got the foot-drum five years ago, that's when it all started. I was living between here (Missouri) and the Florida Keys. My dad went down there and I went with him, then I went to college there and was in a band. After college there was nothing left for me there so I moved back up here. I was playing guitar, harmonica and the foot-drum and started calling myself a one-whoaman band. Then I discovered there was a whole genre, an underground scene of one-man bands I didn't know about! It was easier for me to book shows and not have to split pay, and be more organized! It was a lot easier to do it by myself.
You grew up on a farm. Please talk about how it inspires your songwriting?
MG: Yes, I've been here my whole life, except for the Florida Keys during college. I was going from one laid back environment to another that were completely opposite (laughs). I feel most connected to the farm. The environment and the atmosphere -- I look out my window and see the cows and the pond... there are the sounds and the smells. That's really inspirational for me, and Pabst-hillbilly-type. (Laughs)
Molly Gene and Molly Dyer (both myself) are two different people. She's kinda of badass -- puts moonshine on her cereal for breakfast. And I'm embroidering while listening to the Carter family on the back porch (giggles). Its fun to bring out the wild and crazy Molly Gene. We're kind of the same and kind of different.
I noticed that when I saw your video diary! And saw your show last year at Patrick's Cabaret. Would you talk more about your stage show? Your music really does sound raw, and raunchy, coming from the gut. It's bad ass!
MG: Yeah! It evolved over time. When I first started, I played acoustic guitar -- a lot of Bob Dylan and a lot of folk music. When I got the foot drum, it made me want to plug in. I started playing a slide guitar and discovered the Delta blues... I like to call it "Delta Thrash!" - I and a friend made that up for a genre. Its like Delta Blues but thrashing, not metal, but kinda!
My first tour was with Bob Log III. He definitely has a stage persona. He's not going to the grocery store with that helmet and the telephone. I feel it's really important to put on a show and entertain people.
I love your song titles, like "Hillbilly Love," "Smells Like Low Tide" "My .22" etc. You have a great sense of humor. I want to know more what you think about when you write your lyrics.
MG: Sometimes I'll hear one of my songs, and be like, "What is that? How did that even happen?!" Its like I'm a different person for this moment in time. I think a lot of it is growing up on a farm and having these different influences. Shooting guns, eating frog legs and stuff...
I wrote a song recently with the 10-foot Polecats called "Turkey Snappin' Mama." My grandparents on my dad's side had a turkey farm, before my time. My grandma was the turkey slaughterer on this farm and was this badass lady. She was this small, sweet lady, but then she'd just go out, take two turkeys at a time and just smack their head on a wall. "Oh yeah! I got doubles!" She was just crazy! (Laughs) How can I not write a song about that?!
And it was fun writing that song with the 10-foot Polecats because that was with people; I miss that whole process being a one-woman band. But at the same time its fun being a one-person band because you can improvise more.
You're touring a LOT I see . . . what do you like best and the least about touring? What do you look most forward to?
MG: I like places where people are appreciative and hospitable. It was pretty amazing when I went to Europe -- the difference between there and the U.S. The thing I don't like here is -- I don't have a booking agent -- I'll approach clubs and they'll be like, "How many people can you bring?" They're really saying, "How much money can I make off of you?" Over there it was like "Thank you for playing. Thank you for working." Because this is my job. "Here's your dinner, here's your hotel and here's your money." I'm like, "What?!" Here, it's a constant struggle. We sleep in our van every night. We go days and days and days without showering. Over there its no problem. You get insurance over there, 75 euros a month. I'm like, 'I'm in the wrong country!' (Laughs)
Who are you looking forward to playing with at the Deep Blues Festival?
MG: I really like William Elliot Whitmore. I was listening to his music before I was a one-person band and he was like famous to me. And Possessed by Paul James . . .I got to play with him in Switzerland. Restavrant. I heard James Legg won't make it . . . I really like him. I love Left Lane Cruiser. I'll love the whole festival!
Your slide guitar -- did you learn from someone or are you self-taught?
MG: As far as Delta Blues, I love Mississippi Fred McDowell and I like Bukka White a lot.
I got into slide guitar because it's the kind of guitar I got from my cousin. I still play it. It's a Univox hollow body with a whammy bar. The action is really high. That's ideal for a slide guitar. This is before I listened to a lot of slide guitar. There would be a Led Zeppelin song I'd try to play on it. I just came across these blues artists and thought, "Wow, these artists are singing real things, and feeling real things and none of it was fake." And that totally impresses me. Its rawww.
You play with a coke bottle slide, or metal?
MG: I play with a metal slide, its heavy. I got a glass slide in Paris. I'd try it because I was breaking a lot of strings. But it feels too light. So I put on really thick strings and use the heavier slide. I just have to change strings every couple shows.
I started guitar when I was 15 or 16. I'm 24 now. One band was in H.S. I was in a band called Serotonin; we did classic rock covers like Led Zeppelin, Buffalo Springfield and Jimi Hendrix. I wish I had recordings. It was really good. I was in a band in college. It's was a chore to get people together to practice. We were a cover band. I wanted to write, and was writing my own music at that time it was folk music. After that I was always doing this.
What is it like living in the van, how long?
MG: I got it in October, and in November I toured with Scott H. Biram and Joe Buck. That was when I quit my other job cooking in a vegan restaurant. I was in the middle of tour and called my boss, "Hey, you're gonna lose your favorite pancake maker." (Laughs)
Since November I've been hitting it hard. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard, it was a big transition but didn't feel like it. My brother made this awesome bed in the back. Its really comfortable, with this big piece of foam on it, we put all of our equipment under it.
My manager is also my boyfriend. So it's just me and him in there. We're both pretty laidback people and at the same time we're both pretty business-minded so we do pretty good together. We make a good team. So it's not to bad. I just get really stinky, and I never thought I'd pee in a cup! Go to the gas station, get a Big Gulp. "I'll use that later!" (Giggles) These things happen. I've gotten pretty good at it.
What are favorite places you've seen or surprising things that have happened?
MG: I really liked going out West. I hadn't been further west than Colorado. This was my first West coast tour in November. We went through Montana and Wyoming . . . I was like "this is the Wild West!" You see nothing, for miles and miles. You see cars pulled over and people taking a piss because there's nowhere to go, just mountains and fields! I love that! I hate cities. When we play a city, we're in and out. It was really cool to see more solar energy over there, a lot more people recycled. There were more older cars on the road. It wasn't the usual, "Out with the old, in with the new." I felt like people took better care of things.
Then there was Midland, Texas. It looked like the trees were growing plastic bags! There was so much trash, so much shit everywhere. I was like, "These people need to go out West! See how it's done!" That's where all those oil refineries are. It's all just money out there. They don't care. They'll throw anything out the window.
Is it complicated or tricky being a one-person band?
MG: It's kind of just one thing. I feel like they all need to go together. I don't think about it much while I'm playing. It's hard physically, I feel like I'm running. Sometimes I'm like, "Why did I make this song so fast? My leg hurts!"
Molly Gene One Whoaman Band. 4 p.m. Sunday, July 1, 2012 at Deep Blues Festival at Bayport BBQ.
NOTE: Festival is Sold Out. If you miss her on Sunday (or want to see her again!) she is also performing with one-man band Crankshaft at Eagles Nest Lounge in Robbinsdale on July 13.
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