It's a pleasure to welcome Maggie Henehan to Listen Local. A gifted singer who counts Carole King and Lauryn Hill as major influences, Henehan is often found hosting regular open mics for aspiring songwriters at the Uptown Arts Bar and Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club. Her new band is named Pearl Allure and we're happy to share their debut song, the swinging jazz-folk "Breakin' Hearts". You can catch Pearl Allure this Saturday, May 27th, at the third annual Westport Roots Festival, a fundraiser for Kansas City Pridefest.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
My name is Maggie Henehan. I am from Kansas City, Missouri and live in Westport. I work as a writer for American Century Investments on the plaza in their Global Products department. Out of college, a little over four years ago, I entered the industry doing client services and have been a product writer for the past two years. For music-related work, I host open mics at Uptown Arts Bar and Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club, aside from playing shows.
Tell us about the music you’re working on and recording. How long has this music been gestating?
I am currently working on about a dozen original songs that I have been writing throughout the past two and half years. I didn’t expect to compose my first song; it kind of just came out and then the songwriting unraveled from there. I suppose a childhood desire to be a singer, combined with life experience, and whole lot of emotion added up to this happening. Also, I grew up playing classical piano, have written poetry, and had a good run from time to time freestyling with friends in college. I think all of these components led me to eventually let out this deep desire to sing and make music. I find it funny and am grateful that it caught me by surprise.
How long have you been a songwriter? Who initially inspired and continues to inspire your music?
I have been writing songs for a little over two and a half years. I have admired Carole King since I was fourteen, which was also the age I began to write poetry. In both her romantic and philosophical/societal perspectives she created this very relatable emotional landscape that commingled so well with the melodies and instrumentation of each song. I also began to love Otis Redding at this time for the intense expression in his words and voice. My parents listened to mostly classic rock when I was growing up, and I loved Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Kansas, The Beatles, and Don Henley, to name a few.
Initially, though, of course… we’re talking Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Gwen Stefani, Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, Alanis Morissette, TLC, Mandy Moore, Shania Twain, Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Mariah Carey, etc. I must say this, because I told my parents that I knew I wanted to be a singer when I was about 10 years old and I was definitely listening to these artists. When I was in high school and college (skipping over Dashboard Confessional, TBS and The Used middle school favorites), I enjoyed artists like
Conor Oberst, Lauryn Hill, Jenny Lewis, Jack Johnson, Modest Mouse, Feist, Tilly and the Wall, Neko Case, Amy Winehouse and Janelle Monáe. I also became familiar with classics like Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Etta James and Joni Mitchell.
The answer is the same as any musician, I’m sure. Which is that they are inspired by any artist that grabbed at their heart strings and/or finished the sentences to a feeling or thought they weren’t able to quite understand or elaborate. I imagine that everyone I have ever listened to has seeped their way into my mind and into the joys and sorrows of my heart. It is hard to say who my influences are that influenced my music composition; the music just came out and was influenced by the desire to express what was going through my heart and mind at that time without targeting a specific genre or style.
Tell us about Pearl Allure. How did this project come together? What do you have planned for 2017?
I began performing publicly at open mics and jams in February of 2015 and I then started doing solo shows that August. I didn’t think I was ready for that, and was a bit hesitant, but I was encouraged to nonetheless. I then had a solo show about once a month until I started working with a band in September of 2016. It was really something to start working with talented musicians that helped contribute to the landscape of my own songs. With the very talented Dylan McGonigle initially on guitar and Tony Toigo on drums, we performed a few shows as The Maggie Henehan Band. They were the foundation of Pearl Allure and it was a pleasure to work with them both. Collectively, our individual goals led to new bandmates that now make up Pearl Allure. Robert Castillo is on bass, who has a KC jazz group of his own that was originally created in Portland, Oregon called The Sextet; Natalie Bates, from the Natalie Bates Quartet and who also plays drums for The Sextet, and Peter Marten as guitarist, who plays guitar for The Sextet. All three have been and currently are involved in multiple projects.
Our first gig as Pearl Allure will be Saturday, May 27th, at the third annual Westport Roots Festival. We will be playing that evening at the Barefoot Wine & Bubbly Stage at the Firefly Lounge. The show is a fundraiser for Kansas City Pridefest.
Moving forward, we will be heading back to the studio to record some tracks and hope to contribute to local shows who wish to have us. I will be working with a local filmmaker on a solo music video that I expect to release later this year.
What inspires you the most about the Kansas City music and its creative communities?
I have been hosting open mics at various locations for two years now and I am inspired by all of the musicians who get up on stage and perform, no matter what level of experience they have at the time. To see each of these members of the Kansas City community come together and build each other up, collaborate at times, and find joy in the significance of these events is what is most inspiring to me. There are so many musicians that are also poets, actors, comedians, painters, drawers, etc. and together make up and contribute to a beautiful Venn diagram of the arts in Kansas City. Art is a cornerstone of a successful and thriving city and it has been beautiful to watch that evolve in our own town.