Thursday, October 13, 2011

U2.COM : 'Go Get Maria!'

History remembers the LA singer Maria McKee for her belting hit single ‘Show Me Heaven’. But she also fronted Lone Justice, the celebrated US band which supported U2 on the Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree tours.

Friendship, a solo career, and a second life in Ireland followed - where she recorded two songs with U2 during the Achtung Baby era. These will see the light of day on the 20th anniversary release. Brian Draper helped jog her memory. When did you become aware that you had a unique voice?
I was always singing, but I didn’t know whether my voice was good. Then one day, I was in Sunday School and the guy playing piano singled me out to come and sing, and he made me sing this song over and over. He was just watching and playing for me, and he was giddy. I don’t know if he connected with the joy I felt when I sang... Do you still feel that joy?
I don’t sing as much as I should, but when I do it’s an intense expression. At the moment, however, I’m addicted to flamenco dancing. Seriously. I’m expressing my musicality through my feet. There seems to be a spiritual quality to your work.
Well, I had a personal spiritual experience when I was very young, which has stayed with me. Sometimes I don’t know what I believe, but I do feel as if there is something spiritual at work - not just in the music, but in my life. It must have been exciting in the 1980s, when Lone Justice and U2 were on the rise.
I don’t often think about Lone Justice, because I’ve lived so many lives since then. But my relationship with U2 is always present. I’m close to Bono and Ali, and I forged a whole decade of living in Ireland. It’s my second home. How did you come to support U2 in the first place?
Jimmy Iovine was producing and beginning to manage us, and he was also working with U2 on... was it Under A Blood Red Sky? Bono had seen us on TV and he liked the spiritual expression and the music, and he loved my voice, so he told Jimmy that he wanted us to open for U2 when they started the North American leg of the tour.
We toured off and on with them for several years; we were like family. What made it like family?
I connect with Bono and Ali on a lot of levels: spiritually, musically. Bono is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and I can be quite spontaneous, as well. So there was a lot of creative humour and chemistry.
But when you look back, you see that the stars lined up in a way that made everything flow very magically. It wasn’t just the band; I remember coming to Dublin for the first time and it seemed like Paris in the Twenties; there was so much going on. That was in the late 1980s?
Yes, and into the 1990s. Nothing but good times, every single day. Whether it was hanging out playing music, or going to a party that would last for days, or running around the country herding sheep and then going for pints... We had so much fun. And you sometimes shared the stage with U2 when you toured?
Yeah. Bono would suddenly say to Dennis, the stage manager, 'Go get Maria!' - in the middle of '40', or 'People Get Ready', maybe. I’d be somewhere backstage and Dennis would arrive, red in the face, and he’d be like, 'Maria, Maria, Bono wants you on stage, now!' and so we’d have to run and run - we were playing those big arenas - and by the time I got to the stage I’d be out of breath.
And sometimes, when Lone Justice were playing Sweet Jane, Bono would just appear on stage... Never a dull moment?
No. Once, U2 were playing three nights in Dublin at the RDS. I’d been to the first gig, but didn’t go the next night. I was getting ready for bed, and was in the bath, when the phone rang: 'Bono wants you now!' So I had to get out of the tub and into the taxi and head straight to the venue and run up onto the stage.
That night was fun; he introduced me as his second wife. Were you escaping from something by going to Dublin?
I was partly escaping the music business and getting away from the pressures. I’d made a solo album, but people in America were so into Lone Justice. The solo album was received OK, but people said they missed the band.
When I came here, people in Europe were going bananas for it. Journalists were bringing me flowers, and the gigs were like church. People were hushed. Hushed.
I played this gig in Dublin at Mother Redcaps, and it was like, legendary. Everybody was there: the U2 boys, all the Hothouse Flowers, some of the Waterboys. REM were in town and some of them came. People were lined up round the block. It was a magical night, and I thought, 'I’m staying!' How long did you stay, in the end?
I didn’t visit the States for a year and a half afterwards. I stayed at Adam’s place, at first, until he got sick of me. I started coming and going, but I considered Dublin my home. I have three godchildren in Ireland now, so it keeps me coming back.....

In Part 2 of this interview Maria talks about featuring on the Achtung Baby era tracks, a  film she's made with her husband - and
her pet rabbit...

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