Monday, 23 September 2013

jess & maz: our version of goodbye

Not really goodbye. Just goodbye for now.

Here we are covering Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love and Nick Cave's The Ship Song at her Going Away Soiree.

Saturday, 21 September 2013


I performed my own material in front of a crowd of (mostly) strangers last night for the very first time. It was a good bye party for Jess. My heart hasn't stopped racing.

Overall, I think it went well. My guitar playing left much to be desired which is what happens when I'm so nervous. My hands just don't work. So my rhythm was sloppy and my dynamics were shit and I played way too fast. I was up half the night beating myself up for it. But the people loved my song (I played a new one called "Dear Henry" ). The response I was a bit stunned when it was over, a little dazed, and a professional musician who is also an acquaintance (Sarah Burton - she's great) pulled me aside before I could say anything and said, "Did you hear the cheers and applause? Did you hear it? That was for you and your amazing song. And no one here is just being nice."

Another woman asked where she could buy my record. When I said I didn't have one yet she said "Hurry up, then! I need to buy that!" A bunch asked where they could come see me perform. One woman said, "I need more of you. I know that sounds weird because we don't know each other but I need more. I'm in love with your voice." When I thanked her she said, "It's weird having you thank me. You're too good to have to say thank you." There were so many nice things said. I wish I could remember all of them. I'm so grateful to everyone who took a moment to talk to me.

I'm not bragging. I'm making a record so I can read this again when I feel like I want to give up or when I feel too frightened to play in front of anyone. I'm typing this out in an attempt to make it real because it seems like a fuzzy dream now.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Original #2

Here's my latest demo featuring the incomparable Chris Bennett on lead guitar. A million thank yous to my producer (husband) for the countless hours he dedicated to bringing this to life.

Counting Stars (soundcloud) or via the youtube link below. The sound quality on Soundcloud is better; youtube compresses the hell out of sound files!

Written in memory of the women who comprised Dr. Charles Pickering's human computer (circa 1885), especially Williamina Fleming.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

cover w/very special guest

My special guest is Dillon (or "Dilly", as I call him). Dillon was a guitar student of mine for many years when I lived and taught in SK. Though we've kept in touch, we haven't actually seen each other since June of 2005. Dillon visited me in TO while he was on holiday and had the idea that we make a video to reprise our years of making music together.

The video is here:

And it was only take 3...not 42! :-)

Saturday, 24 August 2013


The gig on the 17th with Andy Griffiths went very well. I was a total wreck all day until we got to the venue. Hands started shaking at 9am, stomach would not stop flip flopping. It was awful. Once I was able to survey my surroundings, I calmed down quite a bit. Having my sister and husband there to entertain/distract me helped too.

Another good distraction was making friends with the lovely and talented Harpin' Norm who just happened to be sharing the banquette with me. He was full of advice, stories and anecdotes to help me work through my stagefright. He was a huge help. I had no idea who he was, aside from the chatty gent sitting next to me, and then he asked if he could play harmonica with me on Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Andy and I both said yes (he's played with Andy lots before) so he did. I was blown away. What talent! And so encouraging and lovely. I'm happy to know him.

The first set went great. It was so much fun to look into the audience and see my sister's giant blue eyes staring at me, big smile, two thumbs up, dancing in her seat. I screwed up the first line of the song because I broke my own rule of never making eye contact with audience members but I just smiled and continued on. No biggie. I sang lead on "Yer So Bad" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and then did harmony vocals on "Throw Your Arms Around Me". There were some brief but wonderful moments when I felt like "hell yes, I'm doing this! I was born to do this!" Those felt nice especially in contrast to the "ohmygodwhatamidoingthisisterrifying" feelings I had too!

At the end of the set Sean reminded me to "always remember how you feel right now." So I sat there and was totally mindful of how I felt. I was happy, at ease, a little euphoric. My body felt relaxed and warm. No stomach ache, no shaking hands. Totally at ease. I felt really good. Despite that, when set 2 began I got extremely anxious all over again. By that time, a few more friends had shown up (it's always easier singing for strangers) but I did my best to pretend I was fine.

I sang "Cuts You Up" and when I finished a guy at the bar screamed "GOD, YES!" It was great. ha! We then did "Better Be Home Soon" which didn't go super well. I wasn't used to Andy's phrasing so my harmonies all went to hell. Whatever. I lived. No one threw rotten tomatoes at me. It was fine. Later we did an impromptu version of "Free Fallin'" for which I could not remember the backing vocals but it all worked out in the end. Not bad for on the spot at the end of the night, I guess.

Overall it was wonderful. Great having my people there, wonderful reception from the audience, a great experience all around. I left there trying to figure out how to make it happen again soon! It was just what I needed.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

almost famous (haha)

This is me singing last week with Tin Roof Rusted. I'm so grateful for the experience.

Last night I walked into a bar to see a friend's band play and two women ran up to me and said, "Oh, YOU'RE here! Please tell us you're singing tonight!"

I had no idea who they were so I automatically assumed they had me mistaken for someone else. They explained, however, that they heard me sing with the guys the other night and were hoping for more. Too cute.

Saturday, 27 July 2013


1.  I sang with Sean's band the other night. The band's singer and primary songwriter is hugely supportive of me and wants to help me get out there in any way he can. So he added a wonderful duet by Weddings Parties Anything to the set list to give me a chance to get up and practice being on stage. I was nervous but not sick about it.  I actually didn't get nervous about it until Reid told me where in the set our song would be. It came and it went and it was fine.  I couldn't hear myself but the boys said I did well (what else would they say?) and Reid has it on the set list for next time too.  I'm so grateful for the experience.

While singing, I couldn't look at the audience so I mostly looked at Reid.  People probably thought were a couple.  ha.

2.  A lovely singer-songwriter shared a bill with Sean's band a few weeks ago.  We got to talking and he took an interest in my music and my stage fright and asked if I would send him my youtube channel.  I did and he immediately responded with a request that I do a video with him and that I sit in on a few songs at an upcoming gig.  I said yes to both.

3.  I've started pricing CD sleeves for my upcoming demo release and Sean and I have been working on photos for that and for my new website.  It's starting to feel real.

Friday, 19 July 2013

yes! was great.  I didn't choke.  I was nervous but didn't choke.  We actually had a great time, worked really well together and are already talking about "next time".

And I can't wait.


The guitar player in one of Sean's bands is one of the best players I've ever heard.  Ever.  My plan has been to work on my music and playing out for a few years and then work up the nerve to ask him to play with me.    he plays almost every night of the week and does lots of session work.  He's a busy guy and he's an amazing guy so I didn't want to bring anything to him that wasn't really ready (for his sake and mine). He beat me to it and offered to play with me.

I'm overwhelmed and delighted and terrified.  We're meeting today and I'm sick about it.  I didn't sleep much last night, our meeting is 5 hours away and I'm already shaking.  I don't want to ruin this opportunity.  I don't want him to think I'm awful.  And when I get this nervous I am awful.  My hands don't work and I fumble around on the guitar like I've never held one before.  My voice goes flat and gets squeaky.  I forget words and I choke.  I just choke.  It's terrible and embarrassing and it has happened too many times for me not to worry it will happen again. It still happens sometimes when I'm playing for my husband.  Bad.

So part of me wants to tell him it's too soon but another part of me can't wait to get it over with.  I don't know what's best.  I guess I won't know until it's too late.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


I'm currently in the process of applying to play a songwriter's festival in Florida in January.  One of my dearest friends has made it one of her goals to get me there and her enthusiasm and support has been infectious.  So, despite the fact that I haven't played a single solo gig yet, I'm applying.

The main stage has been host to some major acts (Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Mullins, Amy Ray) and the smaller stage is meant for the not-yet-knowns.  But even they have a CD or two and a tour under their belts.  In other words, I'm really not ready.  I know I won't get in this year but I'm doing it for the experience of applying and to get my name in their heads.  I plan to apply every year until I get in.

So I need to create an EPK which means I have to get some demos finished, have some promo pictures done and get some dates on the calendar (and build a website and get some reviews) if I want to be considered.  So we're working hard over here.  Again, I understand how blessed I am to have a husband who not only loves and supports what I do but who is an amazing photographer and musician/producer/mixer who can help me get these things done.  So lucky.

So we work.  And I'm excited.  And my stomach sinks and flips when I really think about  what I'm about to do.  But I'm doing it because it's time.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

house concert

So I went to a friend's house concert where several seasoned and amazing musicians played a few songs each.  There was some really incredible talent in that room.  Effortless, beautiful talent.  Especially Jory Nash who totally amazed me on a bunch of different levels. Amazing.  And Jess McAvoy blew everyone's heads off. She was so powerful, so brilliant.

At the end, the hostess opened the floor and, much to my own surprise, I played a song. I messed up and I was a nervous wreck but I did it. I was shaking and playing too fast and too sloppy (it didn't help that I was playing on a horrible sounding uke) and at one point I even stopped and asked the crowd to stop clapping along!  ha!  But I DID IT!  I did it.

Now I am trying to beat down the demons in my head telling me how horrible I was and that anyone who said I did well was just being nice to the pathetic girl who followed all that great stuff.  Trying.  Trying.  It's not easy.

I don't think I'll sleep tonight.

This is what I played for the people (only not as well):

I've been a very bad blogger.  And with so much going on!

First, I was invited to play castanets at the Captain Dirt & The Skirt CD release party at Lula Lounge a couple of weeks ago (on their tune "Spiders in the Storm", to which I danced at their Halloween soiree last year).  It was great fun and a joy to share the stage with Kristin and Lyndell (and Gary Craig and Sahra Featherstone - WOO!) once again, even if only in a small way.  Every chance to get on stage is good practice, me thinks.  I was even again to look at the people in the audience and smile and make eye contact.  That was a big step for me!  Unfortunately, there isn't any photographic evidence of the performance except this one (that's me behind the talented Kristin Sweetland).

A couple of months ago a women emailed me after finding my kijiji ad offering guitar and uke lessons.  She wasn't looking for lessons but was hoping I'd play uke at her Hawaiian themed block party.  I enthusiastically said yes!  It seemed perfect: I'd be playing in front of people but not with the pressure of being on stage or really "performing".  Just casually walking around, strumming and "creating atmosphere" (in the words of the party giver).  And they were going to pay me.  Yay!

Two weeks before the gig I began to panic.  Loss of sleep, sick stomach.  Panic.  When the weather reports called for nothing but rain I prayed the party would be cancelled but, alas, it was not.

The day of the gig I was calmer than I expected.  I meditated, I exercised, I taught my students, I took a few doses of Rescue Remedy and aside from some slight butterflies, I was really ok.

I got to the gig and the people were...special.  Let's just say it was very very clearly noted that I was the hired help and must not cross the line in the sand.  Whatever.  Anyway, I was decked out in Hawaiian attire, had my trusty Kala in my arms and I was ready to go.

With 150 people, a downpour upon canvas tents and simply being outside I could barely even hear myself.  But I wandered and smiled and played and played and played.  My hands didn't freeze, I didn't forget my songs, I didn't panic when people looked at me.  I was totally fine.  One wonderful gent named Greg even made a few requests, all of which I knew, and we played and sang together in harmony.  Greg (and his wife Heather) was the highlight of my evening.  Just lovely, welcoming and kind.  He really stood out in that crowd, know what I mean?

I played my two hours, was given some lovely compliments, was paid (extra, even!) and I was gone.  I was so happy and relieved that not only was it finally over but I DID IT!

Part of me feels like it wasn't any big accomplishment because I was just background noise.  No one was really looking at me.  But why should I take this away from myself?  I never would have done this a year ago.  This was a big step for me.  So...YAY ME!  Yeah!

Sean was away so there were no pictures of my awesome Hawaiian outfit but here I am with a flower in my hair and the other is of my uke laying on my saronged lap.

The last really awesome super cool thing is a guitar player I admire more than words can ever express has offered to play with me (live and on my demos).  The man is amazing.  If my fairy godmother came down and said she could make me play like anyone, I would likely choose him.  He is simply amazing.  My plan was to get my chops, work on my stuff for a couple of years, really hone and fine tune it and then ask him if he'd consider playing with me.  But the other night at his gig he just offered.  I wanted to squeeze his guts out.  Instead I just thanked him and tried not to cry.

I'm trying not to psyche myself out of this.  "Am I good enough?"  "What if he thinks I suck?"  "I hope he likes my songs."  "I'm not nearly as good as the other people he plays with." "Who do I think I am playing with HIM?!?!"  All that is swirling around in my head and I'm trying to push it away.  I'm sure I'll feel better after we play together a bit.  He's super busy, gigs most every night, so we have no solid plans yet.  But he promises it will happen.  And I trust him.

And the last cool thing, if you've made it this far, was yesterday when a very new acquaintance asked me to sing something for her and I did.  Usually I'd wave it away and say, "No, another time" but yesterday I closed my eyes and sang a verse of Patti Smith's "Ghost Dance".  When I opened my eyes and she was crying. "The world needs to hear your voice, Maria. And I hope they do.  And if not the world, then I hope you can hear yourself as you really are: amazing."

I put her words here not to brag but as a reminder.  There are those days where the darkness overwhelms me and I hate my voice and what my hands can and cannot do and I take my gifts for granted and I think I should just stop, just throw it all away and forget it.  So these reminders that someone thinks I'm "amazing" and that it's not really about others hearing it but about *me* hearing myself that matters.

If you made it this far, thank you.  A new video is in the works.

Monday, 22 April 2013

I'm back!

It's been over a month since my last post.  Terrible!

Here's a cover of Tori Amos' "Cornflake Girl".  This was an interesting exercise for me.  Stripping that crazy layered song down to just some crunchy power chords and one vocal line was a challenge but fun.  I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed covering it.

It's all your fault, Mr. Bird.  I'm no Hendrix but I hope you'll still dig it.  Thank you for inspiring me.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Tuesday night was amazing.

It went by so fast; I don't really know how it went. I really have no idea how we sounded.  I couldn't hear myself, or anything else, at all.  But it felt great and was a ton of fun.  I'm so delighted that I was able to actually enjoy it.  Me 1, Fear 0.  Score!

We had the best turn out of anyone else on the bill - that felt really good.

And a woman (whom we don't know) took one of our posters and asked for my autograph!  That felt fantastic and bizarre and so damn cool.  I think I blushed and I never blush!

I'm ready to do it again.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

and here they are

Ok, the nervousness just kicked in.  I woke up in a sweat with a racing heart.

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

My dear friend sent me this note and it helped so much:

"It's fine to be nervous, but your job in that nervousness is to find the stillness within you, and step forth from that stillness. That's what performing is. Yes, your external self should feel nervous, but your internal core, where your artist lives, should walk slowly forth with gravity and dignity, and stare at that audience and nod slowly, and then go forth. That's what I want for you today." 

Monday, 4 March 2013


Tomorrow I will be on a rock & roll bar stage for the first time in 20 years.  Yep, twenty.  Last time was at Buffalo's marvelous (and now extinct) Continental.  Last time I performed with a band was at my sister's wedding but that's a little different (and still something like 15 years ago).

Should be interesting.

And I'm still not nervous.  I'm starting to get a little nervous about not being nervous!  Though, so many are nervous for me maybe I don't have to be.  :-)

Friday, 1 March 2013


It's been everso quiet here because I cut the tip of my finger off five weeks ago and haven't been able to play my instruments.  It's mostly healed now and I will be posting new covers and originals again in no time.  I've been desperately anxious to get back at it.  While recuperating I spent lots of time plotting, planning and day dreaming about what comes next.  All will be revealed in time.

Aside from the finger injury, I've also been distracted by preparing for the JESMAQ and The Thump gig.  It's only 4 days away now and the reality of it has finally set in.  I've got some butterflies but am mostly just so excited about it.  So excited, in fact, that I'm not sleeping so well.  I lay there and think about what it will be like.  The cool thing is that instead of flipping out and vomiting I just get all excited and feel like running around the block.  When I do actually sleep, I wake myself up singing my harmony parts (Cuz we have some very cool harmonies worked out.  Very cool, indeed.  Will I remember that #9?  That flatted 5?  That tense dissonance with the flat 7 at the end of that song?  And what about that weird 11 we threw in over there?  Will I?  Huh?  Will I?  HA!).  I hope I remember them as well at the gig as I do in my sleep.  No matter what, it will be fine, but it sounds really effing cool when we get them just right.

As I mentioned before, there is safety in numbers.  I won't be alone up there.  I won't be the center of attention or the main focus.  That helps a lot.  Not only that but I'm working with such an incredibly talented group of people that I can't help but trust them.  That makes a big difference too.

The thought of performing solo still scares the hell out of me.  I've been doing visualizations about what my ideal solo gig would be like.  I imagine the between song banter, what I'm wearing, who's in the audience, where my lead guitar player would sit, which songs I'd do and when.  And as the visualization goes on my hands start to sweat.  And then my feet.  And then my heart is racing so hard I can feel it in my ears.  And I can't breathe and I feel like I'm going to pass out.  So then I start thinking about shoes or SeaMonkeys or China until I can breathe again.


Monday, 4 February 2013


I've had the good fortune of being invited to sing harmony vocals in a rock band called JESMAQ & The Thump (check us out here).  Our first gig is on March 5th at the legendary Horseshoe here in Toronto.

I can't believe my luck.  Honestly.  I just can't get over it.

And you know what?  I'm not even nervous.  Little butterflies, yes, but no stage fright at all.  Nothing.  I'm sure I'll vomit on the 5th.  I'm sure I won't sleep on the 4th.  But there's no dread or fear; just pure excitement.

There's safety in numbers afterall.

I think this is going to be a huge catalyst in getting me back on stage.  I'll get comfy in my group and then wander away and do my own thing.  It's how I did it all those moons ago so I'm sure it will go that way again.

Next step?  Getting out to some open mics to do my solo stuff.  Now *that* is terrifying!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Recently, a friend tore my song apart.  Well, that's a bit dramatic.  He said this, "I don't like your voice. It's sounds forced and not like you. The snare is too loud, bad drum mix. Your guitars are nice though."

He's never heard me before (not my covers or anything) and this was in response to me saying, "Remember I told you I'm trying to get over my stage fright?  I've taken another big step and recorded a song I wrote and am actually sharing it! I hope you like it."  It's not like I asked him to tell me what he thought or anything.  I passed it over, hat in hand, you know?  He's not even a musician, for goodness sake!

Anyway, I didn't fall apart as I imagined I would.  I laughed.  

Yes, folks.  I laughed.  I laughed and thought, "Who asked you, you dink?"

He's entitled to his own opinion just like everyone else.  I know full well not everyone will like my music/voice/playing/haircut/lipstick/marinara sauce/whatever.  That's totally cool.  His delivery really sucked, I think.  Especially considering the way I shared the song.

Anyway, point is, something I feared would happened happened and I'm still standing.  I'm totally fine.  I still love my song and the job we did recording it.  And I am still excited about sharing more.  Although, said friend is off the mailing list.  ha!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

cover #6

By the request of a dear friend, here is Mary Gauthier's "Before You Leave"

Monday, 21 January 2013

downloadable mp3

As per your request, here is a downloadable mp3 of Walk.  Thank you!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

original #1

vocals, electric & acoustic guitars - Maria Ryan
bass, drums, backing vocals - Sean Ryan

Forgive the lack of videos of late but I've been working on this (and also working on finding the courage to post this).  Stay tuned!  More originals (and covers) to come.

*all rights belong to me

Monday, 7 January 2013


I got "fan" mail from a complete stranger today.  It felt weird & wonderful all at once!

Recording went well yesterday.  It's a whole different skill set (and I had a slight meltdown) but I can't wait to do more.  Nothing is ready yet but I will post it when it is.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

shaking hands

Today Sean and I are going into the (home) studio to lay bed tracks for some of my original material.  I've got 5 tunes ready to go.  My hands are shaking.  I'm excited and nervous.  I'm sure I'll feel better once we get going.

The good thing about recorded material is I have control over it.  No one has to hear the mistakes or the bad takes or whatever.  If it sucks, it swims with the fishes and nobody but Sean and I will know.

I'm afraid I'll sound different (ie, bad) in a recording than I do in my head.  And then I won't want to do this anymore.  And then my heart will be broken.

It's interesting to me that I have identified the root of all this fright, see it as silly/unnecessary but it still gets to me.  It's been there so long I suppose it's just foreign for me to be without it.

The fear is that I think I'm good but really I'm awful and the people who love me don't have the heart to tell me so.  We've all seen those people/bands in bars.  You're embarrassed for them.  They're awful.  I don't want to be that person.

The fear is that I'll be so proud of myself and think I'm so great and then people will tell me I'm awful.  And then all the years of labour and love I've put into my music will be for nought.  I'll crumble.  I'll throw it all away.  The rug will be pulled out from under me and my entire identity will be gone.

But I'm learning that isn't true.  First of all, I've got amazing folks around me who want to protect me.  They won't support me through this and send me out to the wolves if I'm awful.  They just won't.  And there will always be haters.  Always.  Who cares?  I HATE Nickleback but that doesn't stop them from doing what they do and being hugely popular at it, right?  Right.

I gotta tell you, writing about this in a public space is way scarier than the actual stage fright.  Yikes.