Sports Staff Writer
Local band Mama Danger say they are both relieved and nervous ahead of the release of their first EP, Anagrammed.
The EP releases April 20 and the duo will accompany the release with a concert the same day in the Grotto on UNC Asheville’s campus.
Mama Danger partnered with UNCA’s student-run programming board, Underdog Productions, to organize the concert. Underdog Productions recruited Midnight Noon, a country music duo from Nashville, to open the show before Mama Danger takes the stage at 8 p.m.
“We’re stoked to be partnering with campus because they’ve been so supportive of our music. The EP will be available wherever there’s music, so Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Bandcamp, the whole shebang,” said songwriter and guitarist Gabby Feinstein, a senior psychology student.
For added depth of sound, Mama Danger will have two accompanying musicians for their show, but Nick Cameron and Feinstein form the heart of the band and as of now are the only official members.
“The core of the band is just the two of us. We perform as a duo sometimes, but there’s two or three other people who will play with us for certain shows. Generally, I’m on mandolin and Gabby’s on guitar,” said Cameron, a senior music technology student. “When we’re with the group, Gabby will often jump on banjo and our friend Matt Manning is on guitar.”
Despite Cameron and Feinstein having only known one another for a year-and-a-half, the two meshed quickly and have played numerous shows in and around Asheville.
“We met at the end of 2016. We were in Asheville Singers and went on the annual White House trip where we sang for the Obama’s last Christmas. We met there and shortly after Nick was like ‘Do you want to start a band?’” Feinstein said.
Although Cameron was already in a band when the two met, he said he was intrigued by the potential to broaden his musical horizons and dive into a different type of musical project after hearing some of the songs Feinstein wrote.
“Over the trip Gabby showed me her music that she had recorded on her phone. At the time I was in a band called Silicon Soldiers that was an electric band. I loved that band, but I did want to explore music more,” Cameron said.
While the two were excited about the prospects of a band from the onset, it took awhile for things to get going. Feinstein said they seized a window of opportunity during syllabus week last fall.
“They have come together quite recently, the recordings of them anyway. A couple of the songs (Gabby) wrote a little while ago. The title track we wrote in the past couple of months. All of the recording was done this semester,” Cameron said.
As a music technology student, Cameron has access to recording equipment young, college-aged musicians might otherwise struggle to acquire. They recorded most of Anagrammed in Lipinsky Hall. Cameron and Feinstein both said it is an incredible resource.
“As a music tech major I can use the school studio, so that’s what we did. We recorded some over spring break while we were at my house in Maryland,” Cameron said. “The last thing we’re recording is (Gabby’s) brother playing drums on one of the tracks so we’re sort of recording bits and pieces all over.”
Cameron, from Ashton, Maryland, grew up playing a more rock-oriented style of music. He said he chose to attend UNCA because of its recording arts program as well as the musical opportunities afforded by living in Asheville. Prior to meeting Feinstein, neither of the two had played much of the bluegrass style that has become so synonymous with Western North Carolina.
“I started taking voice lessons when I was 10 or 11. I was first in a band toward the end of middle school or beginning of high school,” Cameron said. “I started on bass, then toward the end of high school, I found myself playing guitar a lot and here I am with a mandolin.”
Feinstein hails from Cary and attended Enloe High School, which has a number of alumni now in the music industry, most notably Randy Jones of the Village People, despite its relatively small size.
“I started piano when I was four,” Feinstein said. “My mom is a piano teacher so she had a hand in that. I picked up the guitar around seven or eight and wrote my first song by age nine.”
Cameron said he is very interested in the math behind the music. While he wrote a few of Mama Danger’s songs, he said his main responsibility is determining chord progressions and motifs for the lyrics written by Feinstein.
“Gabby and I have very different inspirations for why we do what we do. We like to say Gabby’s the songwriter and I’m the composer,” Cameron said. “As the composer, I like to figure out how to organize the sections of the songs.”
Feinstein said she is lyrically driven and her musical influences help her understand how to communicate her intended message through songwriting.
“It’s a logical thing for Nick, while for me it’s purely emotional,” Feinstein said. “I draw a lot of my inspiration from artists like The Beatles and Punch Brothers, but I also grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, so a lot of this wholesome, pure folk songwriting. That’s definitely played a role in how I’ve been able to shape my art.”
Cameron said his technical approach combined with Feinstein’s artistic approach help to serve as the fuel to keep the band running.
“A lot of musicians write music as an emotional outlet. For me it’s almost like an aesthetic outlet because I like to have something — this work that I think is just right — I’m not even sure how to describe it,” Cameron said.
Despite their different approach to music, Cameron and Feinstein agree the more time they spend dissecting music, the more they begin to understand one another’s perspectives.
“There will be times when Gabby says ‘I love the words to this song’ and I’ve never even noticed the words,” Cameron said. “We listen to music very differently, but since we’ve been working together, we’ve been able to hear what the other hears.”
Mama Danger’s first live performance was a year ago at Echofest. Since then, the two have played a fair number of live shows and both say they prefer playing at tight, intimate venues.
“We love breweries. Breweries are so much fun, they make for a really interactive audience,” Feinstein said.
Cameron and Feinstein’s fascination with anagrams is apparent throughout their work.
“Half the fun of making a band is coming up with a band name,” Cameron said. “We were trying all kinds of things to come up with cool names and one of those things was trying to make anagrams of other words.”
Mama Danger is an anagram of the word “anagrammed.” Along with the title of their debut EP, the two have further plans for continuing the trend.
“We’re planning on making a home studio so we can record ourselves whenever we want,” Cameron said.
Feinstein said the duo may name their studio Grandma Mae, another anagram formed from the title of their upcoming EP. The two plan to begin construction on the home studio this summer after graduating in May. After the Grandma Mae studio is complete, Cameron and Feinstein hope to open the studio to musicians for affordable recording opportunities.
“Our demographic is younger artists who aren’t familiar with the recording process. They can pay a lot less than at a major studio but still have the quality,” Feinstein said. “Asheville is up-and-coming, quickly, so we kind of see this niche market that we feel we should capitalize on.”
Cameron and Feinstein said they hope to build Grandma Mae in a house in or around Asheville in order to continue recording here as well as assist emerging local artists.
“The city’s been pretty good for us so far and it’s a good base for our kind of music since it’s Americana, bluegrass kind of stuff. There’s a lot of relatively nearby cities that are also super into that so it’s a good place for us to be,” Cameron said.
Mama Danger said they are still figuring out the best way to grow their fan base in an age dominated by technology.
“Our two most interactive ways of communicating with people who are interested in our music are through Instagram and Facebook,” Feinstein said.
Cameron said Mama Danger hopes for YouTube to become a big platform. While the duo does have a few videos on its YouTube page, they are mostly just the samples they show promoters in order to book live performances. Cameron said he would like to post covers on YouTube to attempt to grow more of a following that way.
“I look forward to graduating, being able to practice more often and having more time to set up live shows will be great for us,” Feinstein said.
To get a taste of Mama Danger before their EP is released, check out their YouTube channel. Come out and celebrate the band’s debut EP April 20 at the Grotto in the Highsmith Student Union.