On the Mike with Susan Fellner

Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 4.51.23 PMThe following transcript is of a never aired interview featuring public radio personality Susan Fellner interviewing obscure the obscure country western flash-in-the-pan singer songwriter Tammy Rae. Despite recording only one EP on the Spyco record label, Tammy Rae’s stormy relationship with the historically reclusive producer Ganderson made her an intriguing interview subject.

Susan Fellner: Today we’re going to pick the brain of a most unlikely country-western front-woman. Singer and songwriter Tammy Rae rose from complete to relative obscurity after her debut album “Peppermint and Cigarettes”. Along with her band The Aquanets, Tammy Rae sings songs with a melodic and lyric simplicity that is reminiscent of classic country, with a biting autobiographical edge. Welcome to On the Mic, Tammy Rae.
TR: Well thank you so much Susan, I’m just pleased as peach to be here.
SF: Tammy, the story goes that you were working in the lingerie department at Sears when you started writing and singing songs, and that you were 38 years old.
TR: Yeah, well, we call it Intimate Apparel but that’s about right. I’d fooled around with writing, and picked up a guitar before a few times, but I didn’t start writing music until I was pretty much over the hill. All my heroes, June Carter, Loretta, Dolly, Patsy… they were all discovered very young. Well, when I was their age, I was just honky tonkin and moving around. I loved music, and I hung around a lot of musicians. But I never fancied myself one. I kept a diary, and I wrote a lot of poems, but I didn’t even consider it. And then, you know, I had my two precious babies and I was just focused on raising them alone.
SF: Did you sing to your children?
TR: You know, I used to sing to my daughter to try to put her to sleep when she was just a wee thing, and that little firecracker covered up my mouth with her hand! But I sang all the time at home. And in the car. Music was an important part of our lives together, we always sang. And of course both of their father’s were musicians, thought they never met them. My son’s daddy was a trumpet player, and my little girl’s pa played bass.
SF: Are they well-known musicians?
TR: Hmm, I’ve signed a waiver that prevents me from saying.
SF: Oh, well. How did you get started then? When you met your songwriting partner Travis Ritter? How did you meet?
TR: We were sitting in neighboring bar stools, and we started talking drinking gin and talking about music. I found out he was a session guitarist for this little record label I’d always liked, Spyco records. And the more gin we drank, I just felt like singing, and we stepped outside and I let loose on some old song and he joined in. We were fast friends.
SF: Did he suggest that you start writing lyrics?
TR: Well yes, he did. I was always talking, I like to talk a lot. And he just started saying “T-Rae (he calls me T-Rae) you oughta write that down.” So I started to, and I’d bring in my little ideas and some melody I half plucked from the air and half stole from Emmylou Harris, and he thought they weren’t half bad. Finally we drank enough beer to put down a demo.
SF: And did he introduce you to the head of Spyco?
TR: He did, we played him our demo. And Ganderson was not impressed. His opinion was like “This chick is beat. She’s too old and she’s kind of a mess”, I’m no beauty queen you know. And so he said, maybe we can have someone else record this, but he was not interested in signing me.
SF: We’ll hear how Tammy Rae eventually got signed, and more about her band the Aquanets, after this break, on Beyond the Mic. 
STATION BREAK
SF: Welcome back. So Tammy, how did you eventually get signed to Spyco Records then?
TR: Well, I harassed Ganderson relentlessly, and called him up and sang over the phone for weeks. But he always hung up.  So then I broke into his house in the middle of the night.
SF: Really? How?
TR: Oh simple. With the heel of my shoe. And as soon as I was in, I started talking real loud,- I was a little drunk – but I didn’t want him to think I was a robber, and I’m fumbling through the dark and yelling “Come on out here Ganderson you son of a bitch and I’m gonna sing you a song!” Well, he comes out in his just his little briefs waving a damned 45 around saying “Who the hell?!” And then he saw it was me but he didn’t put the gun down or nothing. So I just started singing with him standing there. I wasn’t scared. He wasn’t gonna shoot me, I’m a damned single mother for god’s sake. Anyway, I finished and he said “Tammy if I let you cut an album, will you leave me the hell alone?” And I said would.
SF: What song was it?
TR: I have no damn idea.
SF: And how is your relationship with Ganderson now?
TR: Well, I never really have left him alone. But he aint shot me. Yet.
SF: I’ve heard you have an unorthodox writing method.
TR: Well Travis Ritter is my main man. I call him up and sing into his answering machine. Then he writes and arranges all the music. I mean, I come up with the basic melody, but he’s the one that makes it come to life. He lays down some tracks, and the next time I come over, we work it out together.
SF: We have one of those recordings. Do you mind if we listen to it?
TR: Did Travis give you that? Why that little… oh Lord, fine sure. It’ll be a hoot.
SF: OK, lets roll that, and then we’ll hear the finished recording.
[Travis, answering machine] Hi, this is Travis. If this is that crazy bitch Tanya Tucker, unless you got my two hundred dollars, I don’t wanna hear it. Everyone else, wait for the beep:
[15 seconds of shitty demo.]
[30 seconds of real song.]
TR: Whooee, I sure am lucky for the miracles of modern recording.
SF: Tell me about the Aquanets.
TR: Well they’re just a great bunch of guys. Travis plays guitar, and he produces the music. And he sings harmony with me, got a voice sweet as syrup that one. Then we got Earl on bass. Earl Potter. He’s quiet like, but real sweet. And of course there’s Cyrus, the drummer. Cyrus Jawbone. I don’t think that’s his real name. He’s just a big old bear but he sings like a damn angel. They’re just a bunch of old softies is what they are. And a real tight band.
SF: Any plans for a follow up album?
TR: Working on it all the time. After the Drunk Cities Tour. And all this promotion for Peppermint and Cigarettes is tripping me up. It’s like laundry, you just never finish.
SF: Well thank you for your time Tammy Rae. It’s been a pleasure.
TR: Oh the pleasure is mine Susan, I assure you.
SF: And that’s it for On the Mic.
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