The sound


By Michael Swanger


Debut album is dream come true for busy mother-musician

Soccer moms have nothing on Mary McAdams. As if being a full-time mother to two girls and a wife isn’t enough to keep McAdams busy, the 44-year-old Ankeny woman is revving up her other full-time job as a musician with the release of her self-titled debut album, which she celebrates the release of this weekend with a big concert at the Temple for Performing Arts.

“This is a calling. I said ‘no’ to it for a long time and it kept saying ‘yes,’” McAdams said of her music. “I think it’s what I’m put here to do.”

Like so many other working musicians, McAdams has struggled over the years to find the perfect work-life balance. During the early ’90s, she stopped performing to get married and to raise a family. Following the birth of her second child in 1999, McAdams resumed her music career, and for the last eight years she has been playing shows locally. When she isn’t playing gigs, she hosts the monthly jam at Ritual Café, teaches songwriting to children in grades K-8, sits on volunteer boards for arts groups and organizes weekend songwriting retreats with fellow artists.

But with the release of her new album, which she describes as “folk with a beat,” and plans for subsequent tours, McAdams said everything is up for grabs.

“We’re in an adjustment period. Mom is getting really busy, and things are being dropped. Dinner isn’t on the table, the laundry isn’t getting done, the home isn’t getting cleaned anymore and there are CDs everywhere,” said McAdams, who divides her day between music and family. “It’s really exciting because it’s what we’ve been working for the last eight years.

“We’re also checking in with each other [husband and children] to make sure no one is getting neglected. After the CD release show, we’re going to have a family meeting so everybody can lay out their needs on the table and figure out how things are going to get done because mom’s not going to be here as much.”

To help her accomplish her dream of recording an album worthy of taking on the road, McAdams hired veteran Des Moines musicians Jon Locker (bass), Tony Bohnenkamp (drums), James Biehn (guitar) and Jared Hall (keys). She credits Locker, who produced, engineered and mixed the album at Sonic Factory Studios in Des Moines, for recruiting his friends to perform the album’s 10 original songs.

“I thought the album would be me and my guitar,” McAdams said. “But as we were laying down scratch tracks, Jon said ‘I really hear this, this and this.’ I said ‘I don’t know who can do that’ and he said, ‘I do.’”

From that point the project changed for the better, McAdams said, adding that Locker as a producer “has the instincts and personality to deliver them.”

“I could cry telling you how excited I am about the record, and I don’t want to take any of the credit. I just wrote the songs, and then I hired good people and got out of the way,” she said.

McAdams said the addition of electric instruments might surprise some of her fans who are accustomed to her acoustic performances, but the messages of the songs still resonate.

“The people who listen to me want to hear the words and the message and maybe need something. Hopefully I can deliver it,” she said.

McAdams said she performs best when playing in venues that are designed for people to listen carefully to the music. So when she and her husband were shopping for a location to host her CD release show that will include the musicians on the album, they dreamed big and secured the Temple for Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines.

“My husband said ‘We eloped and you didn’t get the wedding of your dreams and you need to ring this bell,’” McAdams said. “Even if I sell every ticket, I won’t break even. But this isn’t about making money; it’s about marking time and acknowledging a dream come true.” CV


Caption: Mary McAdams’ CD release concert will be held Friday, Sept. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Temple for Performing Arts’ Temple Theatre. Admission is $5.


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