Somewhere between Alison Krauss Avenue and Dixie Chicks Parkway lies a street named Mama’s Blue Dress. It’s a place where four women from different parts of the country call home. Where the harmonies flow freely and the creativity grows like corn right before the harvest. It is a welcoming street filled with porch swings, friendly neighbors and cakewalks. Yes, cakewalks.
The first house on that street is inhabited by the tall, blonde and seriously intelligent Elizabeth Elkins. The rocker enjoys the craft of songwriting and is a Grand Prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The music blaring out of Elizabeth’s windows might be that of bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs or old time rockers Buddy Holly and Paul Simon or alternative rock masters The Smiths, Morrissey and Tori Amos. Elizabeth is the neighbor who hosts small get-togethers where intellectual conversations are had and healthy debates are forged. Everyone leaves smarter than when they arrived.
The house next door belongs to the dark-haired, fiery and funny Vanessa Olivarez. An American Idol alum who has written songs placed on hit Sugarland albums, Vanessa might possibly be singing and dancing around her home to the likes of George Strait, George Jones, Hank Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, Willie Nelson, some Tejano music or even a little rap. This is the neighbor who gathers people for spontaneous music jam sessions in her backyard. There would be water fights and lots of laughter. Each person would leave with a smile on his or her face.
Across the street, resides the curly-haired, sweet and music studious Bethany Dick-Olds and her husband. The Dove-award winning fiddle champion might be listening to the likes of Alison Krauss, Terry Morris and Mark O’Connor while reading in her living room. Bethany is the neighbor who teaches music to the neighborhood kids and ends her day by sitting on the porch playing a beautiful piece on the fiddle as the daylight starts to fade.
At the end of the cul-de-sac, lives the blonde, thoughtful, people-loving, songwriting extraordinaire, Nicole Witt and her family. The International Bluegrass Awards “Song of the Year” winner would listen to music based on the day and her mood. Bluegrass, classical, Christian, country, pop, rap or Motown might be flowing out of the windows of Nicole’s home. She is the neighbor who takes care of the neighborhood. Nicole’s house would be the one where all the neighbors gather for food and good conversation.
Mama’s Blue Dress is like nothing country music has experienced before and might not ever again. As with most great collaborations, the women decided to form a band for one reason only.
“It started for fun and not a lot of direction with people who loved playing together,” Elizabeth said.
In an extremely short amount of time, Mama’s Blue Dress has created a phenomenon rarely seen in the music industry. “Born” on December 17, 2011, the band earned a standing ovation at its very, first performance (with only 3 hours of rehearsal time prior) and never looked back.
Although there are many obvious differences between the women, Nicole pointed out that they have one very important trait in common…work ethic. A lot of effort and knowing what each individual brings to the table creates a successful band dynamic.
“I would say Nicole and I are probably the parents,” Elizabeth said. “I think Bethany is the studious older sister who does her work and Vanessa is the trouble maker who has to be restricted often.”
“We’re all in agreement,” Vanessa said with a laugh. “I’m not even arguing, which is the hilarious part.”
There is also underlying respect among a group of women who interact like sisters. The admiration for each other’s talent is discussed often with the goal of getting better every time they play.
“I’ve had to push myself musically,” Elizabeth said. “About two or three years ago, I decided that I would only surround myself with people who I thought were stronger than I was musically…whether that meant vocally or instrumentally. So I’d have to keep trying harder to be as good as they are.”
Mama’s Blue Dress has quickly formed goals for its musical future. The ambition of each member is different, but woven together with the same thread of love for the craft.
“It’s always about the music and I just want to get the music out there,” Nicole said. “I think that in three minutes you can change somebody’s life. I’ve seen it happen and I want to be a part of that.”
Vanessa half jokingly added, “I’m just a frustrated comedian. I want to be the ambassador of mirth and I want to bring joy and whiskey and cake to everyone.”
The music speaks for itself. The harmonies are spot on and the focus of each and every tune. The song the band was named for, “Mama’s Blue Dress,” features each and every member on vocals and is fun with a side of story. Listeners can enjoy the glockenspiel at the pace of a porch swing on the song “God’s Small Town.” It is haunting and sweet at the same time with Bethany delivering lead vocals. “Blue Nation” is the rockin’, fiddle-based tune that makes you move with the music. The band even throws in a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through The Night”…giving it a bluegrass sound that is pure ear candy.
There is a void in country music that will soon be filled by the talent of these four women with a purpose. All you have to do is drive down the street with your windows down and listen.
1. Wonder Woman or Cat Woman?
All – Wonder Woman (in unison)
2. Guns N’ Roses or Bon Jovi?
Nicole – Bon Jovi
Vanessa – I’d go with Guns
Elizabeth – Bon Jovi
3. Jimmy Kimmel or Jay Leno?
Bethany – Jimmy Kimmel
Vanessa – Conan…but if I have to pick one, Jimmy
Nicole – Jay Leno
Elizabeth – Neither
4. Grammy or People’s Choice Award?
All – Grammy
5. New York or L.A.?
Bethany – Toss up
Nicole – New York
Elizabeth – LA
Vanessa – There ain’t a lot of parks in New York…LA
6. Write or Perform?
Bethany – Write
Vanessa – Write
Nicole – I can’t answer this. How about what season I’m in right now? Perform right now.
Elizabeth – Perform
7. Structured or Roll-with-the-punches?
Bethany – A little of both
Vanessa – Roll-with-the-punches
Nicole – Roll-with-the-punches
Elizabeth – Structured
8. Loud or Quiet?
Bethany – Quiet
Nicole – Loud…silence for one hour
Elizabeth – Quiet
Vanessa – Medium
9. “Real Housewives of Atlanta” or “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”?
Vanessa – “Real Housewives of Seaside” when they make it, cause that would rule. (Nicole and Elizabeth immediately agreed)
10. Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling or Will Smith? (They decided to pick their own and voided the either/or)
Bethany – Ryan Gosling
Nicole – David Beckham (Vanessa – “Is David Beckham really your dude?” Elizabeth – “He’s extraordinarily good looking.”)
Elizabeth – Julian McMahon (on “Nip-Tuck”)
Vanessa – Ewan McGregor (Elizabeth – “It’s an odd choice. I think you can do better.”)
1. If you could have composed any single piece of music that already exists, which would you choose?
Bethany – “Song for a Young Queen” by Chris Thile
Nicole – “The Song Remembers When” by Trisha Yearwood (“Can I have two?”)
Vanessa – “Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon and Garfunkel
Elizabeth – “America” by Simon and Garfunkel (But I had to choice between about 15 in my head.)
2.If you could have a song written about you, what musician would you want to compose it, who would perform it, and what would it be called?
Nicole – “The Whitest Light” sung by Amy Grant and written by Eminem (Vanessa came up with answer)
Elizabeth – “1,000 Wild Horses” sung by Sting written by Nicole Witt (Nicole came up with answer) Elizabeth replied with a smile, “You just want a Sting cut.”
Vanessa – “Moonshine Standard Time” sung by J-Lo written by Willie Nelson (Elizabeth came up with answer)
Bethany – “A Love Eternal” sung by The Peasall Sisters written by Michael W. Smith (All three came up with answer)
3. If you could be a contestant on any game show, which one would it be?
Bethany – “Price Is Right”
Elizabeth – “Jeopardy”
Nicole – “Family Feud”
Vanessa – “The Singing Bee”
4. If you could arrange a jam session with any three musicians in history, whom would you include?
Bethany – Dick and Lisa Barrett and Bob Wills
Nicole – Vince Gill, Don Henley and Dave Foster
Elizabeth – Drummer Liberty DeVitto, Bass Player Johnette Napolitano, Guitar players would be Steve Caton and Lindsey Buckingham
Vanessa – Sting, Elton John and Lindsey Buckingham with Stevie Nicks as a backup dancer
5. If you could change one thing to make life easier for your own gender, what would you change?
Nicole – A female president would be cool.
Elizabeth – I would give more media coverage to female musicians.
Vanessa – I’d be able to pee standing up.
6. If you could be invisible for one day, what would you do and why?
Bethany – Be naked. Why do I need clothes if no one can see my cellulite?
Nicole – Heal everyone (Elizabeth – “Being invisible doesn’t mean you can heal people.”) I’m not much of a spyer. I really wouldn’t want to know anything.
Elizabeth – I would sneak into the White House and try to figure out lots of things. (Nicole – “I think we’d be terrified at what we’d find in the White House.”)
Vanessa – I would go around pantsing people. ‘Cause it would be awesome. And I could see all my crushes booties.
7. If you could have one specific power over other people, what would it be?
Bethany – Power over their will. HAHAHAHA. I’m evil.
Nicole – Healing people. (Vanessa busts into “Heal the World”)
Vanessa – I want to be able to hypnotize people. I could make them to do what I want them to do for a minute. Then it would be funny. Then they could go back to themselves.
Elizabeth – Mine is the antithesis of Nicole’s I would like to be able to have people do what I want them to do
8. If you were to be stranded forever on a desert Island and could only have one book to read, which would you want?
Bethany – De Biblio!
Nicole – The Bible
Elizabeth – All Quiet on the Western Front
Vanessa – Still Life with Woodpecker
9. If you had to lose one of your five senses, which one would you give up?
Bethany – None
Elizabeth – Taste. Because I could smell, so it would still allow me to taste. So I won’t lose any. Ha!
Nicole – Smell
Vanessa – Smell
10. If you could go back and follow one piece of advice that you didn’t, what would it be?
Nicole – Mine would be about a specific person, but I can’t name him. I was told to avoid a specific person and I didn’t.
Elizabeth – Don’t get caught in your own inertia.
Vanessa – Don’t take that last shot.