Timeless Sound: Take Five with Mary-eL

Photo by Josh Brick Graphics

As seen in
Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 22 – Winter 2022

Mary-eL is a versatile artist with a passion for music. She started singing at a young age and picked up the guitar in college. From choir to voiceovers to session vocalists, Mary-eL’s music journey gives her a unique and versatile experience. Mary-eL uses this experience to explore different genres while exploring her own style. She sees music as something fluid and states, “[music] can bring you back to a specific moment you’ve experienced and make you feel as if you were there again.” Mary-eL’s experience and ability to be fluid make her a unique artist who enjoys creating that timeless sound!

Tell us about your musical background; how old were you when you started playing guitar, and what inspired your passion?

As a small child, I always loved singing. I would sit in front of the TV and listen to the radio, spending hours singing along to every song. It moved me that someone could use music and lyrics to express things that are usually difficult to articulate. Although there was a guitar around when I was younger, I didn’t start dabbling with it until I was in college, where I played a lot of acoustic. While there, I sang in a few of the choirs and a capella group. When I started to play in bands and do more gigs, I began to dig into playing. Over time, I worked as a session vocalist at various studios singing songs from multiple genres. From there, I explored every avenue I could find in music.

All of that taught me a lot of versatility. With it, I’ve traveled down all sorts of paths in music: radio commercials and voiceovers, sit-ins with various artists, touring around the country with different bands, have been a part of many albums and songs, and played in a lot of great venues along the way!

What inspires you to wake up every day and continue pursuing your dreams?

In the current climate of things, it can be pretty hard to do. I’ve had to dig from some deep well within to keep it movin’, but a “calling” never lets you rest. It doesn’t let you push it aside for a rainy day. If it’s meant for you, it’ll keep pulling you in. I think that constant inner tug is what keeps me going. The undeniable desire to express me with and within music is what drives me.

Photo by Jason Herman

Take us through your songwriting process. What types of environments do you feel you need to be your most creative?

Between studio sessions and playing shows, I’ve had to be “on” in many different environments. In the studio, I must get in the zone to capture and express emotion. When performing live, I like to get in tune with everything happening on and offstage — the musicians, the music, the audience, and the overall energy. I take all of that in and express myself depending on how I’m feeling at the moment.

On the solo side of things, if I’m writing to a track or chords I’ve been playing around with, I like to get comfortable, throw on some headphones, and immerse myself in it by looping it until a melody comes to mind. Then I usually write lyrics based on what emotion I feel the music conveys.

Overall, it’s just about the vibe at the moment and how it inspires me.

What guitars are you playing right now? Name your top two to three, if possible.

My PRS Angelus acoustic and PRS 245 electric. Those two are my “workhorses,” so to speak.

Finish this sentence: “I believe music . . .”

I believe music is a powerful thing. It’s all-encompassing. For me, music has a variety of meanings attached to it: it’s nostalgia, emotion, and expression; it’s a timepiece. It can bring you back to a specific moment you’ve experienced and make you feel as if you were there again. You can run the whole gamut of emotions while playing or listening to a song. Music can be personal or universal. It can also be very healing. Music can affect people so profoundly in so many compelling ways.

~ By Guitar Gabby, Jennale Adams, and Fayola Waithe