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BWW Feature: At Home With Sally Mayes

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BWW Feature: At Home With Sally Mayes

Sally Mayes is a name synonymous with quality and class. The Texas-born and bred entertainer has the stages of regional theaters, clubs & cabarets, and Broadway, garnering a Tony nomination along the way. Her CDs are always best sellers and her club acts continually sell out. She is as hard-working and professional as they come, and always kind to the people around her. These days her focus is writing, as she creates her first-ever musical, and with three months of an isolation order behind her, Sally is finding lots of time to write on that show...

And can her home-grown produce, as any good Southern Lady does.

This interview was conducted digitally and has received minor editing.

Name: Sally Mayes

First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): Montgomery, Mayes, and Stritch-live at Rascals- 1981, I Houston, Texas

Most Recent Cabaret Show: PETE N KEELY at Birdland, Last fall.

Website or Social Media Handles:

Sally Mayes, welcome to Broadway World Cabaret. Thank you for chatting with me today - how are you and your family doing these days - everyone healthy and staying sane?

BWW Feature: At Home With Sally MayesMy pleasure! We are all doing well. We got really sick, but never in distress, so we couldn't get tested - in any case, we are much better now! I am a bit of a workaholic, so staying home was a bit of a challenge for me. Bob is teaching and doing home projects. Ben has been our gatherer- he is an essential worker at the local grocery, which has been a godsend. Bob is giving me guitar lessons, and I am writing a LOT. I miss people!

You've recently begun to try out the online creation craze - first with a really interesting project involving three different friends who are musical colleagues - how did that come about?

I got really dark watching the news and listening to the moron in Chief lie and completely fail our country. There's so much hatred out there and it cripples me sometimes. I've lost family and good friends over political differences. I could see this evil little baby man politicizing a PANDEMIC, and I was sickened and sad about it. So I asked my friends Alex Rybeck, Billy Stritch, and Jason Robert Brown to send me their versions of America. They were kind enough to do that and I just recorded myself singing to the tracks. (I didn't know how at that point, to put them on screen with me.) I think all three versions are interesting. Those words mean everything, and we need to remember that, so just my small contribution...

You followed that up with a quarantine video you made with Scott Evan Davis. What made that happen?

Well, Scott has learned how to do this the right way. I have been working on his beautiful musical, Indigo, which hopefully will be on Broadway if and when we have a Broadway again. I also did a concert for him at the Kennedy Center, where I did this gorgeous song called SAVE ME THE ROSE. I love it because it's like a little play. So I reached out and said why don't we do this? It was fun and I learned a lot about how and Scott edited and spliced and made it so wonderful- very exciting!

How are you finding the new paradigm of performing online? Do you think you will venture further into the medium? Maybe try a streaming show or some more video creations?

I am torn. I chose the theatre and singing because I love the intimacy, the give and take, and I miss it so. I'm also not the brightest bulb with this technology. I will say I love recording more than anything, would do it all day and night if I could. It's the video aspect that is daunting! But I will definitely keep at it!

What kind of home life have you and Bob been creating for yourselves while sheltering in place? New projects, old movies, writing on your musical?

I had just flown out to work at TUTS in Houston when they shut everything down, so two airplane rides later, I isolated when I got home. We all have our little areas where we do our lives and work, and then we come together for meals and movies. Now that it's beautiful out, I am growing veggies on my deck- and am looking at canning recipes. Ben wants blueberry jam, I want pickled jalapeños, Bob just loves it all! I have been painting furniture, crocheting, crafting. Take really nice long walks in lieu of the gym. We live in a lake so walking around it is a beautiful way to exercise! The writing comes in spurts - I will have a lyric idea and just sit at my computer and go till I have something. My musical was supposed to have a full production down in Houston this fall, so like everyone else, we are in a holding pattern. BWW Feature: At Home With Sally Mayes

Bob plays in all of your shows - it's something fans have come to depend on, seeing you two together. And I think Ben is a musician, too, though that may just be wishful thinking on my part. Put a picture in my head of the experience of creating music with a member of your family.

BWW Feature: At Home With Sally MayesBen doesn't play music! Bob is amazing because he can play anything. He plays guitar and bass, teaches clarinet and sax and piano, and is teaching himself the piano, which is awesome. Every day I hear him noodling on the keyboard, and sometimes it's classical, sometimes it's jazz, sometimes it's Doobie Brothers! We just did a little ditty for a famous friend having a birthday (can't tell bc it's upcoming and a surprise) together, with him on bass, and I'm trying to get him to do a bass/voice concert online with me. I love so much that I can say, "Bob, give me a C," and he will just hum it because he has perfect pitch. Also, swell when I want the chords for a song - he will just listen and sketch it out. Lucky me!!!

Sally, you're a Southern Lady with strong ties to her Mama and Daddy; what are some of the life lessons and family traditions they gave you that you passed down to Ben?

BWW Feature: At Home With Sally Mayes

My mama would scream right now because she always said "Don't go out of the house without your face on." And I haven't even worn lipstick in like a month! I live in my soft clothes!!!

Daddy used to say, "Always keep a little sass money, you never know". And he was so right!!

Ben knows he is loved, he is heard, and that we always have his back no matter what. And he loves cornbread and black-eyed peas! He is steady and kind and I hope that comes at least partly from how he was raised...

BWW Feature: At Home With Sally Mayes

Also, as a Southerner, what have been the essential meal time indulgences at the Mayes Renino household?

Above aforementioned cornbread and black-eyed peas with pork chops! I made a peach cobbler and a strawberry crisp. Baked homemade bread. In the summer we grill almost every day- love grilled chicken and tomatoes and corn!

You have one of the most easily recognizable voices and styles of any singing actor in the business. How did you discover the unique quality of your talent and what did it require for you to turn it into the instrument that has made you famous?

You know I grew up singing at my dad's knee, he taught me to sing like an adult, so I never sounded like a kid. And with straight tones - for years I didn't have a vibrato! Billy Stritch was a huge influence because we were babies when we started back in Texas, and we kind of learned how to do this together with Sharon Montgomery. He is a darling man and the most amazing accompanist and always makes you sound beautiful.

I must mention my friend and musical director of 21 years, Patrick Brady - he was so dear to me and was the architect behind most of my singing career. The arrangements he did for me were written on what I have to offer, and his genius was that he wrote clever and funny as well as the ballads. I learned so much from him and I miss him every day.

Editors note: Patrick Brady moved out of New York to take a University teaching position. Sally's comment does not refer to his demise: Patrick Brady is very much alive.

Just before the lockdown, you performed in the Maltby Shire tribute at The Bistro Awards, a portion of the evening that was very emotional for everyone. To what would you attribute the power of their work, and how does it feel, being the woman for whom Miss Byrd was written?

I think I have been blessed every now and then, to walk alongside genius. Those guys have been so good to me. They believed in me and pushed for me and wrote for me and I have a body of work with them that will always stand. It's extraordinary and I am so honored.

Sally, what's keeping you happy and optimistic these days?

Watching these amazing kids out in the street protesting for what they want their future to be. Spending time with my family. Learning all the things I don't need. I have had a great run. If the theatre comes back someday I will always be a part of it. But I am happy here in my little ranch house, with my loved ones and my writing and my projects. I have bunnies playing 12 feet from where I'm sitting. My tomato plant is HUGE. Life is good.

Sally Mayes, I can't thank you enough for chatting with me today. You are a beacon of light in dark times.

And you are wonderful!a??i??a??i??

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From This Author Stephen Mosher