Strong Roots (Profiles in Canadian Roots Music): Mary Beth Carty

by Krlmagi

I talk to Mary Beth Carty about her creative process, the genesis of her latest album Les biens-nommés and her roots as a musician.

Mary Beth Carty was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and began her music career as a folk singer-songwriter during her university years in Halifax with trio The Johnson Sisters. She moved to Québec, formed duo Bette & Wallet, and recorded an acclaimed CD that took them to folk festivals around Canada including Winnipeg, Regina, Vancouver, and Lunenburg, as well as on several tours to France.

She now lives in Sydney on Cape Breton Island where the music scene is vibrant and vast. With her latest solo project, she focuses on her favorite instrument, the accordion, and songs with an exotic, gypsyesque feel.

Mary Beth Carty
Mary Beth Carty
Alex Mbugua Thuku

Mary Beth explains that her new album Les biens-nommés is “a concept album. It started with one song that turned into a trilogy, then an entire album. I love old music and I just wanted to write songs that were inspired by rhythm changes and dance music rather than the more country influenced music I was writing in my twenties. I wanted to make something that was different from what we are used to hearing these days.”


Often times, her songwriting process starts with a feeling. Mary Beth continues, “I often look for  a humorous way of getting to that feeling. Sometimes it’s a chorus, but sometimes I write songs with no chorus at all, but rather an instrumental hook that comes around like the B part in a fiddle tune.”


Being around people seems to help Mary Beth’s creative process, so she often writes in libraries. She adds, “I’ll run outside, record a vocal memo, then run back inside and keep writing verses!”


The biggest challenge she identifies is finding the time and space to perform her own music. Mary Beth says, “I’ve been doing a lot of accompanying as a guitarist lately, so I don’t necessarily get to share my own material. If I get hired to play for three hours in a pub, I usually put on my cover artist act, so my challenge is finding a venue to sing original music.”


Nova Scotia’s strong musical scene means that Mary Beth often plays with people she has never rehearsed with. She says, “I’ve been really into Cape Breton dance and ceilidh music. It’s amazing because you can play with anybody in that genre! You may know the tune, but if you don’t, the second time it comes around you can pick it up. It’s exhilarating, challenging, and a total thrill to play traditional music!”


In September, she’s playing a gig for which she’s excited. She points out, “I’m playing at the Deep Roots Music Festival in Wolfville, Nova Scotia with my all time favourite musician Howie MacDonald. He played with The Rankins for many years and is also a comedian. I’m so excited to be accompanying him for the festival.”


A longer term goal of Mary Beth’s is recording in a professional studio. She says, “My last album was made in my living room and in a friend’s basement with whatever microphones we had and an old computer. I’d really love to have the budget to someday go into a real studio and record.”


For more information on Mary Beth and her music, please visit her here.

This profile of Mary Beth Carty is based on a telephone interview conducted and recorded on June 15, 2017.

Updated: 06/19/2017, Krlmagi
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