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I first saw them perform at the 2009 Tribes Hill Annual Meeting and Hootenanny at the historic Hammond House headquarters in Valhalla, NY. Much of their work carries the style and emotional power of musical theater, something Ia€™m very fond of.
After they found out that they were all into music, they'd go over to Paul's house and play just for fun doing covers of Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and others. Outside of her positive chorus experiences, there were two stumbling blocks, one of them having a lasting negative effect. The next step she took was to enroll as a Theater major at SUNY (State University of New York), Fredonia, near Buffalo NY. Around 1996, the three had been getting together to play at Paul's house for some time, eventually playing a few shows as The YaYas, but never took any of it too seriously. In 2003, they self-produced their first 10-song CD, Everything, co-produced and mixed by Ben Wisch whoa€™d produced the Grammy-winning album Walking in Memphis by Mark Cohn and additionally, other notable performers (Patty Larkin, Lucy Kaplansky, Jonatha Brooke, Red Molly).
While Catherine is the lyricist for the band, she readily acknowledges the integral part that Jay and Paul play, sometimes helping her complete the songs, pushing her past hurdles in the narratives. Paper Boats was just completed in September, and I was able to listen to the album before its release. The band moved to Mohegan Lake, near Peekskill, NY in 2005, and has become a part of the Tribes Hill community.
The YaYas will appear in Acoustic Live showcases at NERFA and wea€™ll be at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse for their October 1st show. I thought Jay, wry humorist, was the joker in the 3-card hand until Paul started to tell his story.
As I was building the layout of this feature article, I found myself unprepared for the iconic beauty I encountered in the photos by Asia Kepka on Meg Hutchinsona€™s website. A phone interview with Meg uncovered some of the unique elements that went into the creation of this fiercely dedicated poet and songsmith. Meg affectionately referred to her parents as a€?hippies,a€? [extremely bright hippies] and said that their record collection included all the classic stuff, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne.
When her grandmother passed away, an uncle sent the grandmothera€™s guitar, a beautiful old Martin, to Mega€™s family.
In eighth grade, Meg wrote a song, a€?Freedoma€™s Ocean,a€? about apartheid in South Africa for a geography project.
In spite of the revelation that came after singing her apartheid song at the talent show, Meg, overwhelmed by the culture shift and her parentsa€™ unraveling marriage, put her musical ambitions aside in high school and concentrated on athletic pursuits. By the time she was 17, while attending Simona€™s Rock, Meg had her own apartment and worked at an organic farm. Meg experienced many mood swings during her early years that she attributed to a€?artistic temperamenta€? but they became more pronounced as she got older.
Her first self-titled album grew out of her college poetry study, working on the farm and dealing with her varying emotional states. Her next album, Against the Grey, was more formally produced at a studio by musician Robby Baier and released in 1999. Meg had been a a€?huge Martin Sexton fan,a€? and wanted his producer, Crit Harmon, to produce a CD for her. Passim, the renowned folk club in Boston, runs a fundraising festival each year called a€?The Cutting Edge of the Campfire.a€? Meg was grouped with fellow songwriters Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton and Natalia Zukerman. The band in which she sings lead vocals, The YaYas, has just released a new album, Paper Boats. With her husband, Jay Mafale on guitar and old friend Paul Silverman on piano, she forms the point at which the lineup, in tandem, pushes its way into the listenera€™s heart. Neither of his parents had musical ability, but his father played Sinatra records all the time. Her teachers were serious about teaching everything from folk singing, to sight reading and ear training. The company would rearrange the space differently, according to need, sometimes in-the-round, often with the audience in close proximity to the actors. He didn't pursue any type of musical performance during his 4 years at college, but his drive to play was persistent.
He did some acting for fun and enjoyed the camaraderie of the other actors, continuing with the theater group after graduation. During this period, Jay and Catherine fell in love and in October of 1997, they got married.
On their honeymoon, Catherine was thrown from a horse and two of her vertebrae were crushed. Reaching back to their first CD, Everything, it was evident that they had something special.
Catherine continues to do what she does best, writing songs that touch upon her personal experiences, but contain universal appeal, then express them with refined, passionate vocals.
Reaching back to their first CD, Everything, it was evident thatA  they had something special.


Ita€™s the aural equivalent of having very expensive imported chocolate melt on your tongue a€” a velvety, bittersweet tone that carries with it all the pain and all the dreams in her life. The picture I chose for this first page reminds me of a George Hurrell Hollywood photograph from the 1940s.
Mega€™s father has been an English professor at Simona€™s Rock College (now called Bard College at Simona€™s Rock) all her life. She remembered, once, after playing in the yard, she came stomping into the kitchen in protest while her mother was playing Bob Dylan.
She went to the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School, one of the network of Waldorf schools. Simona€™s Rock College had an early entry program for students with good grades, so she began her college career at around age 15 and, because her parents worked there, got free tuition. She said that she had no idea how serious things were, but attempted to express the depths of her feelings through poetry and music. Meg was now being managed by the same woman whoa€™d helped her earlier, and a€?was teaching me about the music business,a€? Meg said. Shea€™d met him at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, but was too shy to present herself as a prospective client. After my early infatuation with a€?Everything Familiar,a€? ita€™s difficult to pick a favorite. She was hospitalized by July of that year, and after several months of treatment and therapy in and out of a mental health facility, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She was signed by Red House Records and in 2008, Come Up Full, produced again by Crit Harmon, was released. This time around, she ponders both the depths shea€™s plunged and the heights to which her bipolar disorder has taken her.
Theya€™d been on the same circuit together and quickly realized how good the combination was and how much fun they were having. In quelling her bipolar symptoms, Meg lost the manic creative highs, but forges on, banking on truthtelling for inspiration.
The song, a€?All these Gifts,a€? is from that album, and epitomizes her command of the songwriting craft and her vocal abilities. Once they found out about their mutual interest in making music, in small increments, their path revealed itself. When she was around 14 years old, as a Christmas gift, her mother purchased private lessons for her with a voice teacher. Finding that she liked it, she performed through the rest of high school in some dramas and a couple of musicals. It gave Catherine a new, heightened confidence, having the audience right next to her at times. She'd lost the grandmother she sang with at age 14 and her maternal grandmother the year before her mom died. I got my hands on Everything at the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference. Although no one else in her family had musical talent, her grandmother, who loved to sing, lived next door. I got my hands on EverythingA  at the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference. This is unlike her first song to get its hooks in me, a€?Everything Familiar,a€? from her previous album, The Crossing. Her mother would go on walks and play the recorder and both her mom and dad sang lullabies to all three kids. Her mother stayed home to raise the children and later became a writing teacher at the same college. The family didna€™t have enough money to visit her often, so she remained an elusive revered figure. Their grief for the loss of their matriarch seemed to transfer to the guitar and everyone wept upon seeing the damage. She sat onstage in the auditorium, calmly playing for the very first time in front of an audience. There were manic periods of great energy where shea€™d write and perform, feeling very powerful. The album, named after watching Maine fishermen pull their nets from the water, is full of new self-awareness.
The lead singer begins, her voice with that little catch in it which always works its way past my defenses. During a 90-minute conference-call interview, amidst many laughter-filled moments, we learned about each membera€™s individual path and what brought them together. Given that there wasn't much money available for such things, it was for just one lesson per month and, to her, it was a special gift. However, during her senior year, her English teacher told her that the subject matter in her poems was immature and not worth writing about.


Rehearsals were held mostly on Long Island and toward the end also in Manhattan, where Jay was living. She was confined, with a brace, to bed rest for three months, allowed to take a few steps once a day.
In my December NERFA CD reviews, I wrote: a€?While Jay on guitar and Paul on keyboard are terrific, Catherinea€™s voice is the jewel in the setting. In addition to co-bills with Freda€™s band, Hope Machine and the YaYas, Fred and Catherine will be touring together this fall. They encouraged children to be creative a€” allowing them to move their bodies, draw, build stuff and make gardens a€” a path to letting the child be a whole person.
The entire family suspended their normal routine and made a pilgrimage to the Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pa., to get it fixed.
She laughed as she recalled how, at one point, shea€™d fallen in love with a champion high school wrestler and lost him to a cheerleader. One friend had a four-track recording setup and allowed her to use his living room as a studio and put the tracks together. Hearing them again, on a number of occasions, their brilliance reinforced my initial impression. When he was 12, his parents took him to a Sinatra concert and he was thrilled to watch Buddy Rich drumming. During the third lesson, Catherine asked the teacher if she had a chance to become a singer. One main teacher acted as a a€?a€?corea€? teacher and a€?that teacher would become like a third parent,a€? Meg said. Meg said that this was a powerful, extremely moving experience for her, bonding her with her family over the value of music and this particular instrument. She wrote an unrequited love song that was the extent of her song production during high school. She finally met Crit at a Folk Alliance conference and he agreed to allow her to demo a song for him. During her recuperation period, she had time to reflect, and she realized that singing was the most important thing in her life and she wanted to make a serious attempt to work at it full-time.
You did a good job!a€? Meg was actually overwhelmed with the sudden knowledge that she had just experienced what she was meant to do. The song demo grew into a series of a€?living room sessionsa€? where a€?hea€™d rip my songs to shreds.a€? Crit would dissect each song Meg presented and send her home with pieces that were like a puzzle for her to put together again. She worked 30 hours a week her first two years and didn't audition for anything the first year. She spoke to Jay and Paul about pushing for more gigs, so in 1998, they surveyed the musical landscape and began their serious run as a band.
They left the guitar there, and it was later shipped (safely this time) back to Massachusetts.
She walked out of the school, into a snowy day, carrying her guitar case, feeling that she was a€?home.a€? The song was so well-received that later she performed it at a number of open mics in town.
She told one interviewer, Bob Edwards (Sirius xm), that it was possible some days, between tips and selling CDs to make $200 in a few hours. Crit may not have known what he was dealing with, perhaps expecting Meg to dissolve and run away in tears. After re-acclimating herself as a student, in her sophomore year, she started performing in plays again. He worked with rehearsals for shows, so there wasn't time to practice the material a€” he just had to pick it up quickly.
During this period, shea€™d express elements about her recurring depression, but not own it as being about herself.
Meg accepted every criticism and rebuilt her songs, her lyrics becoming leaner and more concise, less dense than her earlier work. In addition, she took a writing course, and in Carolyn Sobel, her professor, found a believer. My tendency to get swept up in melody and rhythm led to a late-blooming awareness of Mega€™s poetic lyricism.
Ita€™s dreamlike, with Paula€™s keyboard ringing like chimes and Jaya€™s solemn guitar strum conducting a stately march. Similarly, my knowledge of Mega€™s journey through the dark landscape of bipolar disorder came only after my online discovery of other interviews shea€™d done. Catherinea€™s voice floats, ethereally high over them: Please let him keep looking toward this horizona€¦When Ia€™m thinking of him, ita€™s twilight. As I continued listening to her music, each bit of knowledge gave the songs greater weight.



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