Mary Norris was stuck.
The singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Upstate indie-rock band Salti Ray is a born performer — someone who lives to play music onstage. But there wasn’t an audience in front of her; she was alone in a recording studio, and she was having a hard time getting herself in the right mindset to sing the lead vocal for the swaying, infectiously catchy “Ocean City.”
That’s when producer/engineer Dewey Boyd had an idea.
“Dewey asked ‘When you’re onstage performing this, what do you usually do?’” Norris says. “And I told him that I’m usually dancing and playing tambourine. So he said, ‘Well, dance!’ So I danced in the vocal booth to get in that head space.”
The result is a joy to listen to, just like the rest of the tracks on “The Right Thing,” the debut EP from one of our area’s most promising young bands.
Norris, lead guitarist Noelle Taylor, drummer Houston Garrett and bassist Jacob Lightsey have taken the commitment they emanate onstage and transferred it into four power-packed tunes filled with propulsive rhythms, dazzling guitar hooks and effortlessly catchy melodies. In a year that’s been pretty much nothing but bad news, “The Right Thing” is a refreshing blast of passionate, openhearted local rock music.
And as it happens, the band was able to record these tunes for a song, spending around $2,500 total to make the EP.
“The whole thing was recorded in two sessions at Clemson University,” Norris says, “one last year and one this year. Dewey is a producer living in Nashville now, but he’s an alum at Clemson, and once a year he comes back to do a demonstration for the students, where he has a local band come in and record at their studio on campus for their audio engineering program. His sister-in-law had seen us live and told him he should have us come into the studio.”
“Dewey asked ‘When you’re onstage performing this, what do you usually do?’” Norris says. “And I told him that I’m usually dancing and playing tambourine. So he said, ‘Well, DANCE.’”
From a lyrical perspective, you probably won’t find a more honest set of songs on the scene this year. Norris is nothing if not an autobiographical writer, breaking down a damaging relationship on the EP’s epic title track and delivering an unabashed love/lust note on the driving rocker “Jessica.”
“A lot of musicians can take stories and concepts and make songs out of them,” Norris says, “but I find a lot of strength and power in being vulnerable. I want to be as honest with myself as possible. It’s like therapy for me; by being as brutally honest as I can in my lyrics, there’s a catharsis when I play the songs.”