It has been a long but rewarding two and a half years for Madder Rose and its lead singer Mary Lorson.
First came the delay of the group’s third Atlantic album, “Tragic Magic,” in early 1995. After recording eight songs and realizing they didn’t sound quite like they wanted them to, they shelved them and started over, salvaging only two tracks. They also changed producers, going with John Holbrook, who engineered Natalie Merchant’s “Tigerlily.”
All the while, no new money was coming in, so Lorson and band mates Billy Cote (guitar), drummer Rick Kubic and bassist Chris Giammalvo returned to their day jobs.
Finally, on June 24, the solidly crafted “Tragic Magic” was released, and the first single, “Hung Up In You,” has all the earmarks of a modern-rock hit – radio gods willing, of course.
“It has been frustrating at times,” said Lorson, who works in New York as a waitress and substitute teacher to make ends meet, “but I know as long as I’m in music, I run the risk of having an uncertain future financially. I accept that.
“It gets a little harder as you get older; you get a little tired, but I still feel like I have a lot of really good music in me, as long as I keep my attitude up. I still have a lot of faith that everything’s going to be okay.”
Surviving on a major label for nearly five years – while bigger acts have fallen victim to attrition – is no small feat. Madder Rose’s debut LP, “Bring It Down,” was released in 1993, and while its 1994 follow-up, “Panic On,” was a critical favorite, it was a commercial disappointment.
Lorson is just grateful they still get to record.
“(Atlantic) has had this reputation of being a label that didn’t know how to develop bands,” she said. “What surprises me is that we’ve arrived at a place in this company where they are actually thinking things through in a better way.
“They’ve learned from the top down what their mistakes were, and committing itself to promoting and supporting an artist’s album for a year. It used to be that if you didn’t get a hit record, they’d just forget you and your record would sink back, but they have learned they need to work certain records for a while.”
Lorson speaks glowingly of Holbrook’s experience, production techniques and leadership. “Hung Up In You,” for example, was mixed by Mark Saunders (Tricky, The Cure), and Public Enemy mixer Nicholas Sansano was brought in to mix the track “Satellite.”
“John’s one of the best studio people you would ever want to know,” Lorson said. “We would say, ‘Well, we want this,’ and he’d say, ‘Let me think about this,’ and he’d plug a few things in and try something else and it would work. It was great to watch someone come up with a great guitar part.
“I feel we all grooved together, and this is what we came up with. It was a great creative experience.”
More updates: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Soul Asylum, The Used, Corb Lund,…