Chasing the Ghost interview from The Local Voice

This interview originally appeared in Oxford, Mississippi’s The Local Voice in December 2012.

Oxford darling and Grammy Nominated Shannon McNally will be at Proud Larrys’ December 21 with Amy LaVere, continuing their “Chasing the Ghost” tour that began in September. The two singer/songwriters were first asked (alongside Sharde Thomas from the Rising Star Drum and Fife Band and Valerie June) by Luther Dickinson to be a part of The Wandering, a band that made its debut early this year. McNally has several irons in the fire musically these days, the hottest of which is the release of her upcoming album, Small Town Talk. The album covers the music of Louisiana native Bobby Charles, and is a collaboration with legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dr. John. I first heard Memphis based musician Amy LaVere when she came to Oxford to play Thacker Mountain Radio several years ago. Diminutive in stature, LaVere came armed with strong, tempo driven lyrics and a very big stand-up bass. The song that stood out most to me was her ballad, “Killing Him Didn’t Make the Love Go Away.” Amy sang this song with a sly smile that had all eyes in the room trained steadily on her. I drove up to Memphis recently to sit down in LaVere’s kitchen and talk with the duo about where they’ve been and where they are headed next.

TLV: How did you two initially meet?

AL: Jim Dickinson made us aware of each other because he produced a record for each of us. The first time I met Shannon was at a benefit at the Peabody Hotel. But really the first time we got to really figure each other out was in the barn, the first day of recording with The Wandering.

TLV: You just finished touring together in October. What part of the country were you in for that tour?

SM: Well, first we did The Wandering tour in May, with Luther Dickinson, and we were on the East Coast primarily. We went up as far north as New York, and then came down through Atlanta and Nashville. We were out for a month, covered a lot of ground. Then we went different ways for the summer, and reunited to tour in October. We started out in Kansas City and then went to San Francisco to reunite with The Wandering for one show at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. We did some dates in Los Angeles, and then to Joshua Tree and Albequerque, and then into Texas; Austin, and Dallas. Finished up in Tulsa.

AL: (laughing): Wow, you have a really good memory!

TLV: Was there a show you considered to be the highlight of that tour?

SM: The first night in L.A. we went to see Seasick Steve at the Troubadour, and Amy sat in with him.

AL: That was amazing.

SM: And, the last night of the tour in Tulsa we went to see James McMurtry at Cain’s Ballroom, and I sat in with him. Those two nights were the highlights for me. But we had a great time everywhere.

AL: I agree, absolutely. And Joshua Tree was a highlight for me, we stayed in this remote barn on this ranch, surrounded by horses. The woman that hosted us took us on a pretty great tour and showed us some ancient Native American cave paintings and dwellings.

SM: Other notable moments were, we saw a dead guy in Arizona. He had clearly attempted to try to make it across the desert on foot, and it didn’t work out. And in Texas we were asked to exit the van for a full search by border patrol after Amy answered the question “Do you have any firearms in the car?” with, “Well, yes, we have a WW II era Japanese machine gun, but it’s just a prop.” The guard said he didn’t need to see the gun, but then Amy said she had a pocket knife, and he just said, “I don’t need to see the knife, ma’am how about you all get out of the van and stand over there.” The day after that we saw a tarantula crossing the road.

TLV: Who came up “Chasing the Ghost” for the name of the tour?

AL: It was actually something Shannon said. We were discussing why we continue to pursue this career, it’s a difficult thing to be drawn to do, and Shannon said something about, “It’s like chasing the ghost.” That stuck with me, I thought it was a really great thing to say.

TLV: Aside from the Larry’s show you have a few more shows coming up before the end of the year, right?

SM: Yes, one in Kansas City on 12/20, and one at the Hi-Tone in Memphis on 12/29, then we are hitting the road again for a full tour in Colorado in January. We are also working on going overseas next August to tour in Germany and possibly the UK.

TLV: What are y’all working on individually right now?

AL: I’m cutting a new record in March.

SM: I’m doing the Bobby Charles tribute album and The Wandering is recording a new album in January.

TLV: Adrian Dickey and The Pollies are opening your show at Proud Larrys’. Are you going to be singing any Christmas carols?

AL: We could! I was also thinking about having a drink of the night. Last night I was so excited about this new tequila called 901 by Justin Timberlake. It’s called 901 because that is Memphis’ area code, but then I found out it’s actually made in St. Louis.

TLV: That’s my hometown.

AL: Well, there you go. But this drink I’m going to patent is so good. It’s a full shot of tequila, half a shot of Grand Marnier, an orange slice and sugar for the rim, and then you caramelize the sugar.

TLV: What’s it called?

AL: It’s just called The Amy right now, but I’m working on that.

SM: That might be hard to make for too many people. We could just do shots of Crown all night.

TLV: And that would be called The Shannon?

SM: Yes, yes it would.

TLV: So, the world is supposed to end the day of your concert at Proud Larry’s. Do either of you think there’s any truth to the predictions?

AL: Yeah, I was thinking about that!

SM: I don’t think it’s the end of the world, I think it’s just a time of shifting consciousness, entering into the age of Aquarius, a time that we’ve been waiting for, with a lot more female energy and a better understanding of our position and purpose on Earth.


This interview originally appeared in Oxford, Mississippi’s The Local Voice in December 2012.


Congratulations to Shannon McNally for winning Favorite Live Show of the Year in The Local Voice’s 2013 Local Favorites Awards!