Seattle, WA -- Hollywood Records' hot new recording artist,
Marié Digby, and I had a chance to link up at Neumos
night club in Seattle, when Marié hit town as part of her first
national concert tour. We've been e-mail pals since 2005
shortly after Marié won The Pantene Pro-Voice® music competition.
I posted a link to Marié's MySpace page on my
employer's website. Fortunately my boss is a wonderful human
being who has a great eye for talent, so he said it was okay. He
really is the salt of the Earth.
Since the link went up we have stayed in touch (Marié and I have stayed
in touch, not my boss and I, although my boss and I have stayed in touch
too). One of the reasons we've stayed in touch is that people who
saw the link contacted me asking about Marié. One gentleman,
formerly associated with the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, books
talent for major NYC hotel chains. He discovered Marié while
listening to my interview with actress, singer Donna Coney Island.
Assuming I was Marié's father, he contacted me about booking her.
"Why her father?" I asked. "Why not her husband, or
"I see why you won the Robert Benchley Society humor award," he
I hadn't meant to be funny. I was just thinking that we would
make a cute couple (Marié and I not the booking agent and I).
Marié's friends on MySpace and now facebook kept growing by leaps and
bounds, from a few hundred in 2005 to 36,000 the last time I looked.
Meanwhile I have 72 friends (including Tom, and, as my pal Twylla,
who points out, that a bunch of my friends are already dead).
Marié's search engine popularity is growing too. Googling
"Digby" used give mostly hits for me. Now almost all the hits are
for her. Even the hits I get linking to my websites seem to be
about Marié Digby.
At the same time, Marié's songs on MySpace and videos on YouTube have
gone from the thousands of plays to millions. Every time I look she
has more songs. She writes faster and better than Lennon and
McCartney (and there were two of them).
When Marié Digby's tour dates came out I started working on my boss to
pay for a trip to Neumos in Seattle. In addition to being the
salt of the Earth, he is generous.
Neumos is an interesting night club. Most of the inside is
painted black. The showroom is split to accommodate people over
and under drinking age. The crowds went wild for Marié as well as
her colleague on the tour, singer songwriter Eric Hutchinson who
rounded out the bill. Marié's songs got a rave response. Her
music clearly touches the fans, who, amazingly, range in age from
perhaps eleven to very young at heart fifty and even sixty year
olds. No kidding. I was surprised.
One of the Neumos' bouncers told me this wasn't their usual
crowd. "We usually get indie rockers. This group looks it's
from the East side."
"You mean they have stocks and bonds?" I asked. [Bill Gates and
Paul Allen live on the "East side." In fact, there was a Microsoft
gathering at a club just across the street.]
"No. I have stocks and bonds," the bouncer said. "I
mean they look and dress like people from the East side." The crowd
looked pretty main-stream to me.
Another fan, I'll guess in her early 20s, had pre-ordered Marié's
album as soon it came out, and purchased tickets for Neumos the day they
went on sale.
Marié Digby's fan base in Seattle also includes at least one banker, a
structural engineer and a handful of their thirty-something friends.
A bouncer had to caution one of them. "The promoter doesn't want
people taking pictures with high-end cameras."
Eric Hutchinson, who shared the bill on this tour, is a consummate
entertainer. He even does an impersonation of Cher (no
kidding). He really knows how to work the crowd to
fever pitch. Well at least as feverish as people from the "East
side" get, apparently.
A few songs into his set, Hutchinson began chiding the audience, "You
know, it's alright to have fun . . . It's even alright to pretend to have
fun." By the conclusion of his act, Hutchinson was proclaiming,
"This is perhaps the best crowd response I've ever had . . . Maybe even
the best crowd ever at any concert in Seattle history."
Introducing his final songs, he told the crowd, with practiced mock
sincerity, "I feel a little nervous. I feel like a pitcher with a
shutout going. I just need to keep throwing strikes." He
assured us that if we could keep our intensity going for just two more
songs, this would definitely be the "all-time best concert in Seattle's
music history, EVER!!!"
Perhaps there was a certain honesty to his hype. What ever
it was, the crowd loved it, even though we all suspected he had told those
same sweet lies the night before in Spokane, and would tell them again the
next night in Portland. (I was in Portland the nest night. He
Marié Digby took the stage next, to squeals of delight, and not just
from the pre-teens. It was fun watching fans sing along with the
tunes. I even found myself joining in more than a time or two.
Marié Digby wrote every song on her play list for Seattle, except
Disney had released a radio-station single of Marié's cover of
"Umbrella" a few months before the album came out, after her YouTube
home recording of that song started getting air play on major
market radio stations in Portland and Los Angeles. Disney was
probably concerned that their hot new star did not have copyrights to the
song radio stations were already calling her first hit.
The crowd enthusiastically sang along with Marié version,
joining in to help with the important, "Under my umbrella, ella,
ella, ella, aye, aye, aye," part, which brought out Marié's
biggest smiles of the evening.
When Marié Digby left stage after playing her hit "Say it Again," the
crowd wouldn't quit applauding. After what seemed like a long time
(much longer than most concert musicians wait), her drummer and then her
guitar player came back on stage. Finally Marié joined them.
Encores always seem awkward to me. The audience, almost on que,
keeps clapping, and then, usually way too quickly, one of the
musicians shows his head from back stage. Then, almost as if in
a hurry to get their song started before the applause die down,
the artists rush back out to play, surprise, their
number-one hit single that everyone actually came to hear in the first
place (but which the artists, as if by accident, forgot to include it in
the main show).
Marié hadn't done that. She'd already played her big songs,
"Umbrella," "Say it Again," "Girlfriend" and the rest.
Instead, when she finally came back on stage, she seemed truly
flattered and perhaps just a bit embarrassed as she admitted, "I never do
encores. I think they are stupid. But you guys are really
genuine." So she gave us another song.
After her encore, as Marié was thanking the crowd again, a
young girl near the stage quietly asked her to play what happens
to be the first song I had heard, Marié's hauntingly beautiful, "Miss
"I don't actually play that on tour," she told us, ". . . well
maybe once or twice . . . but . . . The band doesn't know it, but if
you really want I can give it a try on the keyboard."
The cheering crowd sealed the deal, but Marié didn't start singing
right away. Instead, she told us the song was autobiographical,
about her habit, in junior high of hiding alone under the bleachers
at lunch time.
The tour pushed on to Portland, OR, and again Marié Digby fans were out
in force. This time at the Hawthorn Theater. The age
spectrum was the same as it had been in Seattle, with perhaps a few
younger and one older fans this time. As a professional
musician of 25 years, I found it quite unusual for an artist to
have such a wide sweep of age appeal. Portland responded vigorously
to Marié's hits, "Say It Again," "The Voice On the Radio,"
"Umbrella," "Girlfriend." But true to her words in Seattle,
Marié didn't play "Miss Invisible," and, although there was
sustained applause following her show, there was no encore.
I did find a small pocket of fans in Portland who came to see Eric
Hutchinson. "I saw him fill in at a Jazz show a year or so ago," a
thirty-something music enthusiast and computer programmer from Camus, WA.
said. "He is fantastic. When I heard he was coming to
Portland, I had to see him again."
Marié Digby and Eric Hutchinson made a wonderfully complimentary
mix. The computer programmer summed it up for me, "This is
great. I came out to hear one performer and I get to discover
another I can enjoy just as much. It's a real bonus."
Digby and Hutchinson are great melding of complimentary styles and
talents. I'd definitely go see either or both of them again, even in
back-to-back shows (which I did).
Last year The Wall Street Journal ran a front page story about
Marié Digby, suggesting her internet popularity was due to a "secret"
album deal with Disney's Hollywood Records.
In order of importance:
1) Marié Digby's "secret" album deal was not secret.
EVERYONE who had paid attention to her rise already knew she was going to
do a professionally produced album. The album was part of her prize
for winning the Pantene Pro-Voice® music
2) How does anything "secret" makes an entertainer more
popular? The WSJ does not explain this magical
phenomena. Apparently the idea is that Marié Digby's
YouTube MySpace fans would have liked her home recordings and videos less,
if she had not been "secretly" signed with Disney.
The weird thing is, I still love her music, even after her
"secret" Disney album came out. It was released, in April, debuting
at #29 on Billboard's top 200 (the same week Leona Lewis who edged out Ray
Quinn for number one on Great Britain's X-Factor, hit #1).
Now Marié has a second album out, and I'm still nuts about her.
Explain that WSJ!
However this WSJ concept may launch a whole new mode of stardom.
"Secret Stardom." Hey, maybe I can be one.
I guess the real point is, any publicity is good publicity. Leona
Lewis never got a WSJ front page.
-- Horace J. Digby (no relation) http://www.lexingtonfilm.com