For Maria McKee. the fiery days of Lone Justice and Los Angeles have been doused by the waters ofthe Liffey. She tells Alastair Mabbott of her solo career. and of bouncing off walls in Dublin.
ertain things about the States I find romantic.‘ says Maria McKee. a (‘alifornian now resident in Dublin. 'The town I grew up in: LA. The history ofthat town is yery romantic to me. Old Hollywood. The black and white pictures. The fact that during the Depression. the only thing people had to turn to was film. and all across America. all eyes were centred on this one town on the West Coast. There‘s something yery romantic and beautiful about that.’
Her new home too is ‘a yery romantic place. The thing about Ireland is that you can idealise it and you‘re not really that let down. You can idealise the beauty of the countryside or the friendliness of the people. and you tend to be exactly right.‘
After two years in Dublin. she is both ‘square with the alien office‘ and integrated into the city's close-knit musical community. For all the glamour ofthe l lollywood l lills. she has no plans to return permanently to the land of her birth.
‘I don‘t really haye much of a career oyer there.‘ she admits. Not yet. anyway. l.one Justice weren‘t successful. not nearly as successful as people thought they were with all the hype surrounding them. My solo album did absolutely nothing. "Show .\le lleayen” didn't eyen chart theref
A fan of l lank Williams. lidith l’iaf. Judy (iarland. Aretha liranklin. Janis Joplin. Dolly l’arton and Patti Smith. to name but seyen. McKee started singing in children’s theatre at around ten years old. and by her mid-teens was earning her spurs on the l.os Angeles rock scene.
‘I was a real fan of the underground scene in l.A as a teenager. There w ere a lot of bands who‘d come out ofthe punk scene or the hardcore scene. there w asn‘t much ofa punk scene sort of hy ped-up y ersions of hillbilly blues. I used to go and see bands all the time. That was how I met the guys in Lone Justice.‘
The fiery country —rock group fronted by McKee built up an eny‘iable reputation for their liye shows and ey en back then. it w as clear that .‘ylcls'ee had one ofthe most striking country yoices outside \ashy ille. one still not fully exploited. Then . ..
10 The List 22 March — ‘1 April lWl
‘When we got signed. eyerything changed and became kind of a big multi sort of whatever you call it. corporate rock hand. There were some good things that happened after that. we played some great shows and stuff. but some of the original innocence and spirit. . . [don't think we were allowed to grow properly. It was too much too soon. that kind ofthing.‘
The hardest part was breaking up the band after a disappointing second album. and ‘haying the courage to go on my own and fall on my arse'. The second hardest part was recording an emotional (‘straight from my heart’ ) and highly praised solo album. Maria .llclx’ee. and finding that the record company ofthe time were unwilling to promote it. It‘s just been re-released —— a broader work than either ofthe Lone Justice albums. more soulful and weaying a more melancholy spell.
Which brings us to 'Show .\le T lcayen‘. the latest in a long line ofsweeping. epic moyie tie-ins like “Take My Breath Away" and. of course. 'Turtle Rap‘. It took her to Number One. and. to be fair. it's not representatiye. It wasn‘t her song. and she insisted on rewriting the words before announcing that she was comfortable with it. Which she still is.
‘lt was just for the moy ie. but if I'd been smart like (‘hris lsaak I would hayc re—released my solo album and renamed it Show Me Heui‘t'nl‘ she laughs.
‘liy‘ery‘body w ants to be an actress.‘ she says later. warming to the subject of Tinseltown. ‘I can‘t think of any girl who doesn't want to be an actress. lfyou stand on a table and tap-dance. or do anything like that. you want to be an actress}
Asked why music won out oycr such tough competition. though. her immediate i response is shockingly matter of fact. as though she were being asked why she shopped at Boots rather than Supcrdrug.
‘Because it was cony‘enient at the time.‘ Is that all'.’ .\'o. apparently not. ‘.\Iy brother is a musician. and he started encouraging me to w rite songs and put a band together. I just became fully enamoured with the whole thing. with the history of rock'n’roll. bought eyery record I could get my hands on. from liats Waller to Fat Albert and eyery'thing in