Romi Mayes' voice has been called whiskey-sweet, a torchy twang, rowdy
enough to incite the most scandalous of bar brawls, yet sensitive enough
to track down and return the knocked out teeth to the proper recipient
the following morning.
The blues-roots-country-Americana singer is a celebrated pillar of the local music scene. You
just have to look at the list of artists who play her annual birthday
and songwriter extravaganza shows to see that when Mayes comes calling,
musicians are quick to say yes.
Mayes says she is drawn to the
blues because it's so honest. "Life is pretty awesome but I'm more
inspired by the core of what makes the world go 'round which are the
challenges and the hardships," she admits.
Mayes started performing at a
very young age. "I kind of thought everyone loved music the way I did,"
she says with a laugh. "I would sit in my bedroom listening to the radio
and lip-sync in the mirror to Joan Jett and Zeppelin. I would rock out in
my room with a hairbrush in my hand, just like the '80s movies."
Read: Romi Mayes celebrates "Lucky Tonight" with hometown show
It was when Mayes was working at the Blue Note Cafe in Winnipeg that
she had her 'aha' moment. "There's a man named Bobby Star and he was on stage playing. He called me up and said he was going to get me to
play some songs....I said 'no way', there was no way I was going on
stage," she says.
"So I got up on stage and I played three songs that I had
written. They were pretty intense. The room was in this pin-drop moment
which is unusual for the Blue Note. The accolades were amazing and that
had never happened to me before. I went to bed that night saying 'oh my
god that's what I want to do'."
her 20 year career, Mayes has spent a lot of time on the road. "I don't think that anyone would really understand it from my
perspective, unless they know what it's like to leave their child for
any kind of job," she says. "But my position was really tricky because my daughter's
father lives in B.C. and I realized it was becoming more painful to go
than to stay, and not tour for a while. I'm beat from the road, anyway."
Mayes had been thinking of moving to Vancouver, but recently
changed her mind. "I love Winnipeg," she proclaims. "I moved back 10 years ago to raise
my daughter and when we decided to move to the coast, I kept
having these pangs of doubt. So, we're staying."
But she's not
standing still. Besides continuing a busy performance schedule right
here in Winnipeg, Mayes also started a booking agency. "It's for bands who
are a few steps behind me, bands that need a little help. The big
agencies won't take them, and I've been there before. And they
themselves don't have the energy, or they don't have the time or
they aren't good at booking themselves. And I thought since I'd have the
time, I'd start this booking agency."Hear Romi Mayes with The Smoky Tiger at the Windsor Hotel on July 6. Before then,
catch her on SCENE on Air with
guest host Matt Tenbruggencate. The show airs every Saturday from 5
- 6 p.m. on CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.
Related:Booking agents increasingly essential for working musicians