Winnipeg blues-guitarist Romi Mayes knew she was loved by her fans. In fact, if there was just one thing that became abundantly clear over the course of five studio efforts, she knew her fans were a dedicated bunch that had afforded her the opportunity to pursue music as a career.
And for that, she was thankful beyond what words can express.
But after having performed upwards of 200 shows per year for longer than she can remember, the promotional cycle behind 2011’s Lucky Tonight had wrapped up, Mayes did the seemingly unthinkable:
She went home, and she stayed there.
Arguably more alarming? Mayes enjoyed the downtime.
“Being on the road was all I knew how to do. I knew that if I had an album to promote and wanted people to hear it, I had to be out on the road,” she says. “Because of that work ethic, I was fortunate to have amassed a good-sized fan base, many of whom have stayed with me over the years.
“But then I just got tired, slowed down and stayed home,” she laughs.
Though she continued her love affair with music, Mayes shares that coming out of her pseudo-retirement was largely driven by her fans.
“I wasn’t recording or touring, but I started getting people writing me from Sweden and Germany asking when I was going to be putting out another album, and how they could help. They started talking about maybe starting a campaign to raise funds to get things moving forward. Their enthusiasm floored me.”
Once she had the opportunity to once again take in exactly how much her music meant to people, Mayes decided to launch a crowd-sourcing campaign to help raise the necessary funds to realize a new full-length record.
Although she fell just shy of her goal of raising $40,000, Mayes says she was humbled by the response that her IndieGogo campaign received.
“How dare I complain about not having hit my goal?” she rhetorically asks. “That was perhaps one of the most humbling experiences of my life, to have my fans put their hard-earned money down for me to move forward with a new album.”
Asked if she was concerned that people would accuse her of merely looking for a handout while minimizing personal risk in a new record, Mayes says the thought had definitely crossed her mind.
“I definitely struggled with my personal and moral values before the campaign went live. I was rather concerned with the perceptions of others, but then realized that this is where the business is at for some artists these days. Once I realized and appreciated that, I felt more confident in the decision to move forward with the campaign.”
As funding for Mayes sixth studio record came together, the important matter of the material to be featured on said album bubbled to the surface. Admitting she actually did little in the way of writing in the few years leading up to the making of her new album Devil On Both Shoulders, Mayes says it took producer Grant Siemens to inspire her new songs.
“After four years off, I stepped back and realized that I didn’t have 10-12 songs that I was really happy with. There were bits and pieces of tracks that I loved, but it was almost as though I had lost confidence in my ability to finish the material. I needed someone to push me.
“That’s where Grant [Siemens] came into the picture. He started coming by my place two or three times a week and, ultimately, helped me finish the songs that I had started. Grant was really encouraging through the whole process, challenging me to write the best songs I could. In the end, he certainly did pull the best out of me; the songs on Devil On Both Shoulders are the best material I have written in my career.”
Noting that Siemens brought the “J.J. Cale” to her “Rolling Stones” throughout her new album, Mayes says that the producer’s focus on finding the right groove in each of the songs has translated into the live show as well.
“Having toured as a part of a duo in the past, I had certainly considered taking that route with this new album. There is a different vibe running through these new songs, however. The new record sounds bigger and is more impressive than my previous work, which I felt merited a full band to help bring these songs to life on stage.”
What: Romi Mayes with guests Carly Dow & Jesse Matas
When: Wednesday May 27, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton