20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers
Published September 4, 2020
In Part 6 of our series, Molly Healey—Missouri-based multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, composer, orchestrator, environmentalist, activist and more—
predicts more post-Covid solo shows than before, tells us about rockin’ out on a rocking boat, and declares that the real muse may very well be an inspiration and inclination to do the work it takes to do great work.
Join us as we discuss this and more with one of our favorite Missouri music makers.
Photos by Scott Peterson | Photos courtesy of Molly Healey
20:20 with Molly Healey
Molly: Classical music, movie music (Hans Zimmer, John Williams, etc.), Celtic music, and otherwise completely random stuff (but all have the common denominator of strings, haha). My musical taste will vary from day to day, year to year. I can’t spend a lot of time listening to a particular genre for very long, honestly.
I can’t spend a lot of time listening to a particular genre for very long, honestly.
NWM 2: Has anything positive come out of the COVID shut-down?
Molly: Well, some extra writing, and also a fight to stay ahead of the learning curve with streaming technology. Although, I really don’t feel like I’m doing the latter very well, to be honest. I live only with my daughter, and when she is not here, it’s just me. It’s proving to be very hard to have a professional-looking/sounding livestream when you’re completely on your own. I’m hanging in there, though, and one thing I’ve been quite pleased with is the exploration of my solo sound. It’s a good thing to be able to be autonomous at times. Playing with others is something that can never be replaced. … But in a time of social distancing and small shows, it’s nice to be able to rely completely on yourself.
NWM 3: Who’s a favorite songwriter?
Molly: I really don’t have one. I’m so all across the board. Sometimes, my favorite music is instrumental. The Beethoven piano sonatas come to mind as some of the most perfect music ever written. But I also love lyrics, and I find myself swinging the pendulum that way just as easily. Bob Dylan comes to mind as one of the great lyricists of our time. But I find both hidden and not-so-hidden gems all the time. I get inspired easily.
NWM 4: You play solo gigs and in the Molly Healey Trio and the Molly Healey Band. You also play in the Lacewings, The Kay Brothers, and The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and we might be forgetting something. How do you keep track of the Molly Healey sound, or are you happy to let it be what the situation calls for?
Molly: Good question! I find myself writing and preparing for so many different projects, that sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking of it as a detriment. Like, ‘Why can’t I just commit to one sound and do that really well?’ I often long for that kind of simplicity. But I’ve been doing all of this long enough now to know that it’s just not for me. As far as keeping track of them, somehow that just happens, I think, when you really enjoy the work. (I do forget lyrics easily, ha! It is something I’m always working on.)
Molly: Again, I just don’t have favorites. It changes from day to day, project to project. Some that stand out over the years have been “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Lovesong” by The Cure. I like to do different arrangements of songs, rather than just trying to emulate the original. I figure you can go and listen to the album for that.
NWM 6: What not-so-obvious aspect of your life has been changed by the pandemic?
Molly: I don’t know if I know the answer to that question yet. … But one of them may be that I’m officially done trying to book the kind of venue that doesn’t suit what I do musically; specifically, the late night, drinking crowd bar. Pre-pandemic, I may have still had an open mind that I could somehow swoon late night drinkers in a crowded bar with my meditative renditions of “With or Without You” or my moody originals. (Hopefully the sarcasm is dripping out of these words the way in which I intend.)
I’m officially done trying to book the kind of venue that doesn’t suit what I do musically.
But I know now that I’m not going to win people over in this setting. Going forward, I’ll be focusing on theaters, listening venues, or festivals and venues where I can use a visual element (like the aerialists) when I have the full band. To be clear, it’s not that I don’t believe the small rowdy bars and honky tonks are still great places to be, because after all, they are where I cut my teeth as a fiddle player. But I have to face reality that, as a solo artist, my music is meant for a different type of crowd. I think all would agree.
I also think that live-streaming concerts are a thing that are here to stay in some capacity, even when the pandemic is finally over. I hope to continue to get better at that.
NWM 7: Stevie Nicks or Stevie Ray Vaughn?
Molly: How can you make a decision? As a vocalist, her style is unmatched, and I’ll always look up to it. But as an instrumental soloist, you can’t beat that sense of melody.
NWM 8: We know this is hard and that there will be many more whose work you admire, but name three local artists you want to see play when you’re not.
Molly: I just can’t. Ha! There are too many I admire, and being that I basically live between Springfield and Columbia, I can’t even keep it local. I have been mulling over a good answer for ten minutes now, and I just can’t do it. If I name three, I will feel like I’m leaving 20 out.
NWM 9: Name three things that make you smile
Molly: This I can do. … My cats and their antics, when the Cardinals get a W, and at the moment, The Office.
NWM 10: The weirdest show you’ve ever played?
Molly: The livestream shows definitely take the cake in the weird department. To have an audience without actual bodies in front of you in your empty home is just bizarre. Maybe I’ll get over it one day, but I’m not there yet. I get all nervous, hot, worried that I’m screwing up, and I never know where to look.
To have an audience without actual bodies in front of you in your empty home is just bizarre.
As far as physical shows, playing on a cruise ship was weird in a good way. Setting up while you’re feeling the boat rock and trying not to get seasick … definitely weird. But so fun! That one was with the Daredevils.
NWM 11: What are your non-musical gifts/talents?
Molly: Cooking, staying in shape, taking care of animals.
Also, I have been very active in environmentalism over the last couple of years. I did an online 30-day green challenge back in 2019, where I started many new habits around the house, planted trees, composting, etc. Right around that time I got the idea for the Earth Day 2020 Festival. The idea behind it is that we have a one-day, ticketed, outdoor, plastic-free, music and sustainability festival where we use the proceeds to raise money for local environmental organizations. Unfortunately for the 2020 date, COVID had other plans. But we have officially moved the festival to April 24, 2021. You can find more info on our Facebook page, EarthDay2021Springfield. I’m very excited to have the opportunity next year to realize this dream.
NWM 12: What is a favorite Molly Healey song?
Molly: I was really happy with the way “White Noise” turned out on my most recent album, [Circles]. It’s probably the most ambitiously loud and large song I’ve ever recorded, and I like that. But I am also fond of “Hummingbird” from my first album, Nightbirds. It’s stripped-down, and the story is about one of my favorite birds performing an incredible feat of strength.
NWM 13: Where were you and what were you doing when you realized COVID-19 had just changed your life as a performance artist?
Molly: Waiting tables, baby! I still am serving once a week at a local restaurant. I remember the day when all the cancellation texts started coming in. It was a Friday. It was a bad day.
NWM 14: What song/album could you play on repeat?
Molly: I’m really enjoying Madison Cunningham right now. But again, it’s always changing.
NWM 15: Do you think 2020 will be looked back upon as a songwriters’ renaissance?
Molly: No. I don’t think there will be much that we will look back fondly upon about this time. I think there are probably some songwriters who are really finding a lot of inspiration right now. … But I also think that for others, the sense of worry and anxiety is actually serving more as an impedance than a boon. I’m somewhere in between. I do think this is the beginning of a solo artist surge. Of course bands are going to come back full force when they’re able. But a lot of us have found a lot of time to learn how to be on our own, and we may see more appearances in that vein for a while.
NWM 16: What was your most memorable performance and/or venue?
Molly: To name a few … performing with Springfield Aerial Fitness, performing for the Roots and Blues and Barbeque festival in Columbia, playing in Macau, playing in France. All unique and amazing.
NWM 17: It seems like you play everything—sometimes in one song—what instrument holds the most fascination for you and do you play it?
Molly: I go back and forth between my violin and my cello. I’ve been playing the violin longer and I’m much more comfortable with it. But the cello is soooo versatile. It’s easier to play a whole solo song on the cello, because you can take advantage of both the low and high registers, and let’s not forget it’s not shoved in your face so it’s easier to sing. When I hear a cello, I am always inspired to play mine. But, there is nothing like the high soaring notes of a violin. I certainly wouldn’t ever really want to be without either.
Molly: I don’t know that I really have any. … Maybe running around like a chicken with its head cut off because I’m always late.
NWM 19: If you could see anyone from throughout history perform who would it be?
Molly: I can’t do favorites or pick one. I’m sure you see a pattern here. I’m not trying to be fair or diplomatic. I just truly can’t choose. Maybe the Beatles.
NWM 20: What is one thing you would want our readers to know about which we might not know to ask?
Molly: I’m an interesting bird. I practice a ton and I still make a lot of mistakes.
I’ve come to believe that it has more to do with your brain being wired to want to do the work that it takes.
In some ways, I feel like I’m the most practiced, and somehow least professional-sounding musician for how much I practice. Maybe it’s just that I’m trying to hold down three difficult instruments (plus my voice), none of which have been with me since I was little. So they’re all a struggle. Maybe it’s just that I have to rely on really hard work, with not much talent. But what is talent, anyway? I’ve come to believe that it has more to do with your brain being wired to want to do the work that it takes, rather than some innate ability.
Molly Healey “White Noise” Live at Rose Music Hall with Zach Harrison on guitar, Kyle Day on bass, and Danny Carroll on drums.
is a violinist, cellist, and guitarist from Springfield, Missouri. She performs solo, as well as with a full band. Dubbed a "rock-inspired orchestral looping" artist, she loops her stringed instruments live into a symphonic bed that gives full and intense roots to her original compositions. The Molly Healey Band includes Zach Harrison on guitar, Kyle Day on bass, and Danny Carroll on drums.
She also is an activist, environmentalist, and founder of Springfield's Earth Day Festival—a one-day, ticketed, outdoor, plastic-free, music and sustainability festival where the proceeds are raised for local environmental organizations.
To learn more about Molly and her work and to buy stuff visit: https://www.mollyhealey.com/
You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with The Burney Sisters.
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