Mary Timony: Waving the Wild Flag of freedom

Timony may be the coolest guitar teacher in the world!

When Mary Timony speaks of playing with her bandmates in Wild Flag, she frequently uses the word “free.” She talks about how not singing on every song frees her up to play more guitar, how she isn’t bogged down with complicated guitar parts on the songs she does sing, and how halfway into recording Wild Flag’s self-titled debut, she realized that a lot of what she was singing about was how much fun it is to play in a band.

“Basically, every song has lyrics about music, and maybe having lost music and coming back to it, or just needing music in your life,” she says, “and also about just being a musician and claiming that as what you do with your life.”

Timony readily acknowledges that this positivity was never really a theme for her before, in her former band Helium or with her solo material.

“The lyrics aren’t depressing for once,” she laughs. “For me, how lyrics get written, they describe how the music sounds.”

And the music that led to these lyrics is indeed far from depressing. Timony’s guitar and voice interlock with those of Carrie Brownstein. Drummer Janet Weiss wails on the kit behind them, and keyboardist Rebecca Cole fills in the gaps with swells of organ. Arriving at this sense of musical positivity was no easy journey for Timony, though.

“I had been doing solo records for all of my 30s, and the last one I did, I felt super burnt out on it,” she says. “I wasn’t making any money off of it, which makes it hard to keep doing it because it becomes an expensive hobby.”

Timony gave up playing her own music for a year, instead focusing on her 20 guitar students in Washington, D.C. But when the call came to play with Wild Flag, she says she knew it was right. She already respected these three women from their former bands — Brownstein and Weiss were in Sleater-Kinney and Cole played with the Minders.

“When they called me to play with them, I was really happy and excited,” she says, “because I had this feeling that was just going to allow me to do music again.”


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