She has been compared to the great female pop singers of today by music critics throughout the country. Her lyrics are intimate and poetic, and stardom or notoriety must be just around the corner for singer/songwriter Mary Ann Farley.
She is a talented self-taught musician with a new album out, My Life of Crime, and she will take part in musician Scott E. Moore's "Writer's Hang" at the Goldhawk on 936 Park Ave. in Hoboken on July 11. On July 16 she will headline Hoboken's "Concerts in the Park" on Sinatra Drive, with special guest Bill McGarvey.
Born in Newark, she began banging on a piano when she was very little. When she arrived at college she joined a rock band. She soon learned to play guitar and began to write songs - tons of them.
Farley's musical career did not start like most singer/songwriters. After graduating from Rutgers University, Farley pursued a career in journalism. She wrote for several North Jersey publications, but after more than five years of reporting on local government, she realized she was not pursuing her goal.
"Writing is a job, not a passion," Farley said, during an interview last week. "I realized I wasn't pursuing what I wanted to do."
With a lifelong passion for music, Farley's career really began to takeoff in the early '90s when she began to perform at local New Jersey coffeehouses and clubs. After a successful stint of performing, she compiled her best songs to put out the critically acclaimed Daddy's Little Girl in 1997. The album is a magnificent compilation of Farley's early work, and manages to capture the singer's essence. It was raved by music critics from Billboard magazine and large daily metro newspapers. It was her intimacy on the tracks that attracted critics to her work. Farley sings from the heart and invites the listener into her life. Love, success, fun, art, and life in general are a few of the topics about which she sings. Her influences include singer Sinead O'Connor and The Beatles. Relationships are important to Farley, she said, and her songs become a pseudo-soundtrack to her life. Farley's music invites comparisons to folk and pop. She does not hit you over the head with her songs, instead allowing the listener to travel with her in a musical journey.
'My Life of Crime'
Farley has a new record out titled My Life of Crime (Powder Burn Records). The album is a great, powerful, emotional 12-track success. The first track, "About You," is a love poem about revealing true feelings. And the album's title track is a revelation from the artist exposing her frustrations from painful moments in her life, she said.
"So many things were happening at the same time that I did feel I was living a life of crime," she said.
She also does a cover of the Beatles' "Run for Your Life." Farley manages to take the John Lennon/Paul McCartney ballad and transform it into a sweet melodic serenade. Other songs like "Bliss" and "I'm Your Girl" are excellent lyrical pieces. The quality of music in the album is outstanding. Her voice is majestic and the melodies are peaceful. Local Hoboken musicians like John Sonntag and James Mastro are credited for playing on a couple tracks.
My Life of Crime, dedicated to Farley's parents, is written and produced by the singer and was recorded at Nine Lives Studio in Jersey City.
"Love and gratitude to all of the musicians and engineers who worked on this project," Farley writes in the album's book. "Sorrow is love interrupted. Beauty is in the mind of the beheld."
In addition to music, she is a self-taught painter, and continues to do freelance writing. Her most memorable assignment, she said, was a story for a magazine about how shaving products are marketed in supermarkets.
"Journalism is a wonderful way to express myself," she said.
Farley has been part of the Hoboken Artists Studio Tour and she is always performing locally. She is an ambitious musician who takes pride in her product.
"An album for me is like a child. You want your child to do well," she said. "I want my music to dominate the world. Think global but act local."
Unfortunately, mainstream radio is not receptive to Farley or other independent musicians nowadays. And even small independent and college radio stations have apparently followed suit. Farley's biggest challenge is getting through the mainstream to have her music be heard. Since she lacks backing from a major industry label, she is her own promotional machine.
"Radio is dead. It's extremely hard to get music heard," she said.
Nevertheless, Farley continues to perform and get her music out there, however she can. She recently played at several venues in Central Jersey, and she is embarking on a publicity campaign this summer to promote My Life of Crime.
Farley's performance at the Goldhawk on July 11 will begin at 8:30 p.m. She shares the bill with singer Willie Nile. Farley will play songs from her new album. People are encouraged to come early to the event in order to meet the artist before her performance. There will be a $7 fee at the door. Her July 16 show starts at 7 p.m. at Sinatra Park between Fourth and Fifth streets.
For more information on the shows call (201) 420-7989 or (201) 420-2207. For information on Farley visit www.maryannfarley.com. or mail her at Powder Burn Records, P.O. Box 1164, Hoboken, NJ 07030. q
All photographs for this article were taken by David Plakke. Visit him at www.davidplakke.com