Saturday, April 23, 2016

Megan Dooley: Made In Kalamazoo

Friday - - May 6  - - Megan Dooley, with Dragon Wagon The Magic Bag 22920 Woodward – Ferndale 248-544-1991$10

When I met Megan Dooley, I felt like I was kinda meeting a rock star. Or, at least…, there was something rock ‘n’ roll about her…

Here’s a song by the Kalamazoo-based singer/songwriter…

…and, so, yes, I know… not rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, it’s a banjulele! And it’s more of a gypsy-jazz, throw-back folk, torch-singer-style lullaby... But Dooley carries herself like a rock star. Call it charisma. Call it vim, or vigor; call it upbringing and outlook. Or call it her resolve…

“Well, you have to be able to be confident,” Dooley surmised. “It’s important in order to help people enjoy a performance, because if you’re not comfortable on stage, and if you’re not having a good time…, I mean, even if it’s sounding amazing, that unspoken vibe can still be felt by everyone there and it’s going to dim whatever it is that you’re doing. I was a chef for 13 years. This is something that I just try to do; to help people be more comfortable. Cuz life…life is already uncomfortable.”

This kind of down-to-earthness isn’t typically expected from a classically trained, operatically-talented jazz singer who often plays under glowing boomlights or reels off ritzy swing and soulful blues stylings.  “I really think it’s important to engage people,” Dooley said, “…that are why I still busk!”

More about Dooley
Dooley was declared the First Lady of Kalamazoo’s music scene in late 2013 (Revue Magazine). She’s a professional musician who tours regularly around the Great Lakes region. She’s been performing for almost 15 years and you can see the tattoo on her shoulder reading: “Made In Kalamazoo.” That’s also the title of the full length album she released last November…

She self-taught herself guitar and ukulele when she was 14 and was actually natural when it came to vocal talent. Even if she couldn’t read music, she still utilized an uncanny knack for memorization to help her through the years in which she actually had vocal lessons and training for opera singing. She still can’t read music. But she comes from a family of musicians, (“everyone sings…”) so it’s no surprise she’s got such profound pipes.

I guess some of the rock ‘n’ roll vibe comes from the rebellious dropping-out-of-school part of her story. “I knew I wanted to be a musician,” said Dooley. “I dropped out when I was 16 to pursue it. I started playing open mics, but it was more…indie-rock? I still really liked the blues; I wrote a lot of blues, but I’d always have this love for jazz and the great jazz vocalists from the prohibition era, Billie Holiday, for example: huge fan!”

But maybe the rock ‘n’ roll thing I’m getting at is just her presence…

“It’s an art,” she agrees. “It’s about being social (with an audience). When I was just six-years-old, my parents took me to South Haven for a music festival and I remember this street musician who was just wonderful. I got this feeling, then, from listening to him and watching him, it was realizing that music could be part of everyday life for people….that it could be experienced and appreciated live! I see those looks on people’s kids’ faces when I busk…I mean, with today when we’re seeing more arts and music pulled out of public education…."

"I think it’s so important now to get out there and engage people. You can see the wonder on their faces (when I’m busking), they’re excited; they don’t get to experience something like that on a regular basis. And, for me, that really shaped the way my life has turned out…just that small moment of seeing someone perform and engage through music. “

She also comes from a background in musical theater, as well as vocal training for opera. “Learning how to project was important,” recalls Dooley, “…if you wanted to sing on a real stage.” She studied lots of vocalists from the prohibition era, many of whom performed without microphones; she combined that with the theater training concerning breath control, and, voila… she’s got potency when it comes to vocal delivery. “That’s the only way you’re going to make money busking on a busy street,” she says. “You have to be able to catch people’s ear from a block away…”

It’s in her personality, her alacrity, her loyalty to her fellow musicians and, in a way, to her audience. Because she has this nuanced appreciation for the power of the experience of live music. There’s something kind of Freddie Mercury about that, about reaching and engaging with an audience. Yes. Rock ‘n’ roll.

Made in Kalamazoo
“I was born in the parking lot of Borgess Hospital, here in Kalamazoo… And I recorded (Made In Kalamazoo) just two blocks away from where I was born and just three blocks away from where I grew up. I love this place. We have a unique setting, filled with lots of beautiful people and beautiful artists and its supportive here, which, you can’t always say for a lot of cities. I’m passionate about this area; I’m passionate about Michigan!  I’m from Kalamazoo, so I’m starting here, but hopefully I can bring more attention to this state as I go along…”

…and go along, Dooley shall…

May 6
Megan Dooley, with Dragon Wagon The Magic Bag 22920 Woodward – Ferndale 248-544-1991

...Later on... Megan Dooley performs...
May 7, 2016
Dooley Live at Maude's Taphouse
Maude's Taphouse
May 11, 2016
Megan Dooley Trio at SpeakEz lounge for the Local Spins 4th Anniversary party
SpeakEZ Lounge
May 13, 2016
Dooley at Mighty Uke Day Festival in Lansing, MI
Old Town (Lansing, Michigan)

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