To stay at the top of her game, Molly Elswick has had to play it pretty tough. Slipping into her Miss Molly persona on-stage night after night, she's talked the talk and walked the walk while carefully forging a respectable career on the blues-rock circuit. But now, poised on the brink of another new year, Miss Molly says that it's time for a change: Houston's mistress of on-stage whip cracking wants to soften up a little.
"This last year was kind of heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time," Molly says, choosing her words carefully. "It was kind of a private awakening for me. I need to take it more easy on myself."
Back in the second half of 1994, everything seemed ready to fall into place for Molly. There were, as usual, the steady gigs around town. But there was also a marriage to Andy Adams, a bartender at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, and the release of her second CD, In the Garden, recorded at the Satellite. A lucrative year of touring in support of the CD followed. Funny thing is, now that the year is finished, Molly finds herself starting all over again. First, she had to work two new members into the band in '95: drummer Clyde Dempsey and biochemist-cum-guitarist Jim Henkle. "People seem to come and go in a band," Molly says. "My problem is I tend to fall in love with them all."
As far as her personal life goes, Molly and her man split up -- you know what they say, the first year of marriage is the toughest. The decision to divorce was mutual. Molly, who's not the first person in the music business to find out that being on the road can change perspectives, notes quite simply that certain marital expectations on both sides weren't met.
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Looking back on her tumultuous spring and summer, Molly says she's a hell of a lot stronger for it all. There was a time, though, when her tough, self-assured stage persona didn't carry over to the real Molly, and that took its toll emotionally.
"I've always demanded more of myself," she says. "But I don't want to be so mean to me. Believe it or not, honey, I'm just not so sparkling and witty all the time."
So next year, Molly plans on spending some time with herself for a change, which should help keep her mind at ease. She'll eat up any free days fishing near her place on Lake Conroe, or reading accounts of real-life serial killers, or maybe deer hunting. (One of Molly's New Year's resolutions is to have a 16-point buck's head hanging over her mantle by the end of '96.)
"I've got this other, surreal fantasy life [as a musician] going on, but now I'm having a real peaceful, wonderful life," Molly says. "It's real strange, but you can say I came away from [the past year's events] with that peace you look for, that place inside of you where it's okay."
Molly is hardly looking for sympathy -- or even empathy. After all, it's not like she's lost her mind or anything -- just her stability at times. Now, it seems Molly has relocated her inner peace, and it's a good thing, because she has other things to occupy herself with in '96. She's working on demos for a new CD and writing fresh material with Dickie Malone, her manager, business partner and musical mentor. The effort is just beginning to take shape; it sounds, Molly says, a bit like "Chrissie Hynde fronting a surf band ... from Texas." Also on the menu are a few serious ballads in the tradition of In the Garden's "Hold It Like It Was Your Own." There's talk of recording the new CD in Austin, or Los Angeles, or perhaps Memphis, with a release date set for sometime next spring.
Of course, at the foundation of it all is the stage, which goes with the territory, Molly says. Like many other Texas artists, she can't afford to sit back and rely on radio airplay to get word of her and her music out. Not that business isn't good for Miss Molly Inc., which is turning a healthy profit. So far, her self-titled 1993 debut has sold about 12,000 copies, while In the Garden is approaching 8,000 -- hardly reason to break out the champagne, but not a bad start for an independent effort.
With loyal fan support in the Houston area and elsewhere in Texas, Molly can live just fine for the time being from her live performances, while working to turn her career up a notch. And with her mojo running smoothly these days, she's even ready to clean up her mouth, realizing that a good hard stare from the stage is just as effective as belting out the "f" word.
"Sure, I've done that for a long time," Molly admits. "And that gives me the right to stop."
Miss Molly and the Whips perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, December 31, at Leo's Mexican Restaurant, 3600 Washington Avenue, with the Hadden Sayers Band and Cowboy Up. Tickets are $25 and $35. For info, call 861-5440 or 868-9835.
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