A few days before they started recording their new EP, Runnin’ Out, Maggie Belle sat down for an interview with Where Y’at to discuss recording, favorite memories and plans for touring. In 2013, the group began in New Orleans as a two-piece with Maggie Belle Gehegan and Brian Hunter playing piano. Since then, they’ve added Cedar Howard (a.k.a. Coach) on drums, Max Hass on bass and Etienne Stoufflet on saxophone as they’ve pushed their songwriting to the next level and developed mature songs for the EP. With the rhythm of a J Dilla track and the soulful vocals of an early Grace Slick, Maggie Belle has taken the blues and is holding it by the reins.
Where Y'at: How did you guys come together?
Maggie Belle: Brian and I started the band. We were introduced through our friend Jessica. At the time, Brian was doing this DJ thing with his roommate’s friend, who was a hip-hop artist. We were originally doing this kind of hip-hop thing that slowly evolved once we started writing songs and playing together more. It was really great at that point, seeing some of those songs come to life.
Brian Hunter: Maggie first sang for me at my house, which was around the time that we started working with TJ, and she was mostly just singing on some of the songs we were working on. We eventually started playing more one-on-one and writing songs together with just me on piano and Maggie’s vocals, and it kind of just took off eventually.
WYAT: What are some of your highlights as a band so far?
Belle: We played a show in Baton Rouge for the Lupus Foundation that was probably our best show. I’m a nurse, so I’m very familiar with the disease. I remember bawling before we went on, and it was a really emotional experience that just kind of clicked when we performed.
Howard: I remember as soon as we all saw that Maggie was crying we were like, “We’ve gotta play soon, Maggie’s losing it!” It was a kind of emotional high we were on that night. Maggie really harnessed that power and emotion during our performance and poured her heart out into the songs, and it made the show that much better.
Hunter: Our first time playing TRÈO was also great. It was our first paid gig and it felt really good to have that experience, as all of our work was somewhat paying off. Another good show was the block party we played on Saint Patrick’s Day. That was a really fun night for all of us.
WYAT: How would you guys best describe what it’s like to play a role in the blues scene of New Orleans?
Howard: New Orleans is a unique city, and I think that’s what drew all of us to it in the first place. The cool thing about New Orleans is that people are used to expressing themselves and don’t hold back anything they have to say. I think that idea really drew us here, knowing we would be accepted even if we were different.
Max Hass: For me, having moved here recently, it’s great to see that it’s what’s popular down here. Blues, R&B, and jazz are what people want to hear when they go out. It’s like a total inversion of what’s popular elsewhere, and it’s rewarding for us to be able to make the music that we want to make and to see Maggie get the credit she deserves for her singing.
WYAT: What are your plans for the future?
Hunter: We’ve worked really hard on these songs and are excited to be able to finally share them. So often people ask where they can purchase our music, and it’ll be great to have updated recordings of our music to give to people. We’re also working on touring this year, so we’ve got a big summer ahead of us!