Chelsea McBee and the Random Assortment will bring rootsy music to Williamsport at 8 p.m. May 6 at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St.
McBee's honest twang and hitting lyrics will charm the dance right out of the audience. McBee made time in her hectic schedule to indulge the Sun-Gazette in a phone interview.
APRIL LINE: Who else is in your band besides you? What's with the name, "Chelsea McBee and The Random Assortment?"
Chelsea McBee and the Random Assortment will perform at 8 p.m. May 6 at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St.
CHELSEA MCBEE: When I originally came up with the name for the band, "Chelsea McBee and the Random Assortment," it was so whoever was available could play. But then it evolved, as these things do, and now Ben Witman, the mandolin player, and Jeremy Rodgers, the bass player, play with me pretty much all the time. My mom and sister sometimes sing with us. They won't be coming with us to Williamsport. They are Teresa McBee and Melody Massimino.
AL: How long have you played banjo? Did you play something else first?
CM: I started playing banjo about six years ago. I did not really play instruments before that besides the flute in middle school or something like that. I hadn't picked up any other instruments until recently.
AL: Why banjo?
CM: When I was first starting, I lived with some roommates. One of them played old-time banjo and fiddle. I was on my way home one day and I heard a Gillian Welch song with a big, honkin' banjo solo in it and so I went home and I said to my roommate, "You have to show me how to do this."
AL: Have you always been musical?
CM: I've always been something of a singer, not necessarily performance wise. We would definitely sing around the house. I have two brothers and two sisters, and my mom would make us practice harmonies to songs on the radio on long car trips (laughs), but it wasn't until I started playing banjo that I got into performing about four or five years ago.
AL: Why roots music? Is it your favored aesthetic or something else?
CM: At this point, it certainly is part of the aesthetic. When I was younger, I went through lots of different stages, as we all do. The transition between listening to whatever your parents are listening to and what you like. Now I think what they were listening to is pretty cool, but I didn't then. Then in late high school and college, I started to listen to all kinds of things. But now, I'm very comfortable in my folk-roots aesthetic.
AL: What are you working on now?
CM: My second album was put out in October 2011 and I recorded it locally, but it was mostly solo. I did have other musicians on it, but it wasn't like a full string band behind me. We are working on a third album. We've got a couple of tracks recorded that I think we're going to release as singles before we put together an album. We've only been playing together for seven months, but we're now really starting to get some good, tight, original material together that I would be comfortable putting on an album.
AL: What's the West Virginia music scene like where you are?
CM: The part of West Virginia I live in is Shepherdstown. Shepherd University is here, so it's a young town. There is a really cool music scene. A lot of national acts come through, but they've been able to be supportive of local musicians, too.
AL: Who does your booking? You, an agency, your bandmates?
CM: A little of all of that. I would say that I do the majority of it. We do work with Free Mind Entertainment, based out of Mercersburg, Pa., and he does a little bit for me. But out of the 100 or so shows we'll play in the next year, they've booked maybe three. And the band members that I have now, if they get a lead or a contact person, they'll funnel that to me. So, we have one contact person for the sake of organization.
AL: Do you have another job besides music?
CM: I do. Right now, I do some child care for some local families. A couple of days a week, I'm with the kids, but the rest of the time I'm booking shows, sending out press releases and doing all the other hard work you have to do to make a band go.
AL: Do you have ambition to only do music at some future point?
CM: I'm a pretty flexible person. Coming into the music scene as I have so far has been like riding a phase. I'll keep putting in the hard work to make it happen. If something were to drastically change and I needed to do something else, it would be disappointing to have to be a real grown up (chuckles), but I would do it. I'm having so much fun right now putting in the hours to prep for the shows. Me and the guys in the band now, we're just a really good match in personality and music styles. So, if we could get to the point where we're making enough money just playing music. Man, that would be great.
Visit Chelsea online at chelseamcbee.com, email Chelseamcbee@ chelseamcbee.com for booking.