There is a quiet intensity to singer-songwriter Mary Webb’s music that commands attention.
The Adelaide local’s just-released second album, Love Like Planets, is one that deserves to be listened to from start to finish as a body of work. It was recorded in the US five years after her debut full-length album.
“I put the first album out just because I wanted to get my music out there, it wasn’t really a career thing,” she tells Weekender.
“I saved up some money and found someone to record with that I liked the sound of and knocked it over in two or three days. And that was that. I launched it but didn’t promote it or do much with it.”
Webb went on to finish an arts degree, doing the occasional gig along the way while working on album number two.
“I take a while to do things – I like to take my time and do things properly and when they’re ready to be done,” she explains. “I’d been trying to make this album for three years but things didn’t line up. We’d try to record and they’d become demos instead.”
Finally the planets aligned and Webb and her producer Mike Kirkham travelled to Montana in the US to record Love Like Planets. His hi-fi company Halcro invested in the project and Webb ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise extra funds.
“With this album I know more about who I am and what I am doing. I think I know more what my musical voice is and I trust my own creative judgement better,” she says.
“My voice even took a while to come into its own. I grew up singing in choirs and singing classical music so to find what my voice is, and the different textures in it, and to experiment with that has been part of the journey over the past few years.
“I have confidence in who I am and what I have to give to audiences. I feel like I have something to offer other people. I’ve always played solo but this album is with a band and I had more of a team around me so I guess it was a turning point in many ways.”
Most of the songs on Love Like Planets were written during a turbulent time in Webb’s life. Influenced by strong, independent female singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Ani di Franco, she is unafraid to share her often painful memories with an audience. And the more up close and personal the gig, the better.
Webb is a fan of the house concert scene spearheaded by groups like Parlour and Sofar Sounds, who arrange for artists to play in your own home.
“They are like the middle man. They have a database for artists and potential hosts that takes the guesswork out,” she says.
“I don’t relate at all to a stadium concert. I just think it’s so far removed. My kind of music is more about connecting on a personal level and so the importance for me is connection. I don’t even want a stage, I just want to be in a lounge room with people around me, a small venue where I can look them in the eye and feel like I am speaking to them directly.”