Sounding Out Mary

Mary Karlzen doesn't want to be anyone but herself

That 1992 release, titled Mary Karlzen was "very lo-fi. We recorded it on a 16-track at Mark's house, did the vocal tracks in the bathtub," says Karlzen. "It was also very somber, which reflected the bad period I was coming off of." The Florida media liked what they heard, and Karlzen put together a band, recorded a follow-up EP, Hide, and went on the road. But outside the state she was still an unknown, which meant she could end up playing a club where the audience consisted of the bartender and a couple of his friends. So she found a Miami area filmmaker, did a video of a track called "A Long Time Ago" and started shopping it around. CMT and TNN both decided to give it a try, since the song had a bit of a country flavor, and eventually her videos ended up on VH-1, where Karlzen earned the distinction of having the most played indie video in the network's history. Then came opening slots for performances by Bob Dylan, John Hiatt and Jackson Browne, and the attention of Atlantic, which signed her for a CD, put her in the studio with such established hands as Aronoff, Tench and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and told her to go ahead and create Yelling at Mary.

"I'd wanted to use my own band on the CD, but Atlantic thought they didn't have enough experience," says Karlzen. "They only let me keep Mark Scandariato as a guitarist. Not that it was too overwhelming to record like that, because the people were so gracious. If I told them to play left handed, they'd do it."

The CD has been out in the stores for two months now, but Karlzen says she has no idea how well it's doing. "I let other people handle the business now," she says firmly. "I just do the music. I tried to do the business before, and it didn't work." She has noticed, though, that in towns where her CD gets decent radio play, she attracts larger crowds than she's been used to in the past. Where it doesn't get radio play, though, "it's just a handful, " she says. "It's like starting all over again, and it can be really difficult, because you just get tired of going to club after club and playing for four people."

Still, starting all over is better than not starting at all, and Karlzen sounds like she's settled in for the long haul, just waiting for that overnight success. "Yeah, I guess you can say that," she laughs. "I suppose I've decided I can actually make a career of this music thing now."

Mary Karlzen plays at the Urban Art Bar on Saturday, April 9. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $6. Call 523-0192 for info.

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