Singer Mary Fahl has a confession to make. The former October Project singer is one of the most eclectic artists around, known for her haunting renditions of theatrical songs, classic art songs and her own material. But behind all that, she’s also a fan of the Electric Light Orchestra.
ELO’s title track is one of twelve vintage songs she tackles on her new album “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” which will be the cornerstone of her show City Winery on Friday. For her, it’s more than a musical tribute: rediscovering her classic rock roots was her way of getting through a painful year that resulted in the deaths of two members of her family, as well as the shutdown of the pandemic.
“I was sitting in my funk and going, ‘Okay, how do I get out of this?’ I could sit down and write soulful songs about loss and dystopia, that’s where my ideas were. Or I could tap into the joy, go back to those things that made my heart sing. As an artist , I’m here to bring people joy so maybe I can do that by projecting how much I love these songs They go back to when I locked myself in the bathroom of our house, because it had great reverb. ELO was a band I fell in love with in high school. At a certain point, it got awkward to say you liked them, but it never bothered me.
As well as familiar songs from the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Pink Floyd, it includes a few ringtones – like songs from great British cult figures Richard Thompson and Nick Drake.
“It goes back for me to my first boyfriend, who attracted me to all Brits. That was when people weren’t making mixtapes for each other. I broke up with the boyfriend , but I kept British folk. Linda Thompson (Richard’s then partner) was one of the first singers I learned to love. She has a solemn quality and I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m sort of resonates with that.’ ”
October Project has been influential in the alternative and gothic movements, and Fahl has had a few musical adventures since leaving the band in the late 90s.
“It was liberating, but also scary and sad – I knew I had a long road ahead of me. When people say, ‘Take this job and rock it’, they don’t mention finding another job. job. But I had immense youthful strength and I had a vision, which involved learning to write. And I didn’t have a lot of ego about it; I’m not one of those people who thinks that everything they write is awesome. What I did was practice, learning to work with other writers. And I did a few TV commercials. It seemed like they always hired to be Enya or Ofra Haza.
When Fahl covers a song, she must first have a strong connection to it.
“Years ago I took an acting class. The teacher was kind of a freak but I learned a lot from him. He worked with a lot of Broadway singers, which I don’t always like because they tend to be too emotional. But I learned to take the lyrics and layer my own story, to see it as a movie that would come to life with me. I have to do things that I never get tired of sing – and I think that creates a show that won’t put you to sleep. I’m not going to name names, but I do fall asleep quite easily and sometimes I can see artists whose records I maybe even like, and I can make a little snore So I promise I won’t force you to do this.