Born in Memphis and based in New Jersey, alt country folk rocker Megan Reilly has spent much of her career surrounded by some of the tristate area’s finest musicians, including bassist Tony Maimone, drummer Steve Goulding, keyboardist Eric Morrison, and guitarists Tim Foljahn and Jim Mastro. Melding Loretta Lynn with Thin Lizzy on her two fine albums, Arc of Tessa and Let Your Ghost Go, Reilly creates atmospheric moods on such haunting ballads as “With You” and “Nighttime,” gets bluesy on “Tropic on Cancer,” and plays infectious pop hooks on “Girl” and “Let Your Ghost Go.” Hoboken fixture Mastro, who owns the popular Guitar Bar on First St., is the consummate sideman, producer, guitarist, and bandleader whose endless array of gigs have ranged from the Bongos and the Health & Happiness Show to Ian Hunter’s Rant Band and various collaborations and live performances with Syd Straw, Amy Speace, Richard Lloyd, Robert Plant, and many others. Reilly and Mastro have been playing together for much of this decade, and they’ll be teaming up May 18 at twi-ny’s tenth anniversary celebration at Fontana’s, which also includes live performances from Paula Carino and the Sliding Scale and Evan Shinners and readings by Andrew Giangola, Nova Ren Suma, Dean Haspiel, and Kyle Thomas Smith.
twi-ny: You each have collaborated with many different musicians who play very different styles. What’s it like working with each other?
Megan Reilly: Jim’s playing is very lyrical and deep and atmospheric. Playing with him makes me a better singer and player. He tastefully compliments everything I’m doing, which I’m really grateful for.
James Mastro: To me, Megan’s songs are all about emotional landscaping — these stark, bare songs that always have little things flowering in spots. She writes like no one else I know — starting in one direction but then taking a turn in a maze that I wouldn’t have thought of, but still ending up in the right place. Her voice and melodies directly affect the way I play, and are what I play off of; she makes my job easy.
twi-ny: Megan, at the anniversary party you will be playing songs from your next album, which will be recorded this summer. Can you share the titles of some of the new songs? How will the record compare to the sound on your earlier discs?
MR: I’m a mother now. My sister thinks my voice has become more earthy. And I’m singing a lot about floating in water or being swept under it. Part of that is from floating in a pond in Vermont several summers ago with all this sky above me, giving me such comfort at a difficult time when no words could. And part of the theme of water also comes from carrying a child. And there’s the subject of my great aunt who emigrated from Ireland and drowned herself in the East River in the mid-1950s. That one is called “The Lady of Leitrim.” It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. But despite the nature of that song, I think this is a hopeful and self-assured record. It’s got a lot of strength in the sound of it. Jim is a really confident player.
twi-ny: Everyone talks about the changing indie music scene in Brooklyn, but both of you live in New Jersey. What’s going on these days musically in the Garden State?
JM: Hoboken’s still a thriving scene full of great players, songwriters, and bands. Maxwell’s is still going strong, and there have been more and more DIY guerrilla-style concerts being put on that’s always good for shaking things up and keeping people excited about music.
MR: There are some wonderful places to play here, Outpost in the Burbs and Maxwell’s. Those venues have hosted some of my best recent shows. And the people here really seem to appreciate what we’re doing. I’m really happy here.