Interview: Sioux City, IA

April 13, 2001
By Judi Hazlett – Sioux City Journal

Vermillion singer-songwriter
releases first CD, plans concert

To be funny, Mary Green Vickrey had to get serious about her career in music. Before she did, Vickrey was, as she says, “the sole entrepreneur of a successful home-based, not-for-profit business, more commonly know as ‘housewife.’”

Not that it is all for laughs, but the Texas-born, Tennessee-bred singer-songwriter believes she has a special affinity for humorous songs. That’s what she focuses on in her first CD just released, Horizon Unbounded, including 12 original songs, some more humorous than others.

Vickrey will deliver some of those songs in a concert at 7:30 p.m. April 20 in Vermillion, SD, her home for the last five years. The performance is at the United Church of Christ-Congregational and benefits the Vermillion Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In the folk and bluegrass genre, Vickrey writes about humorous things, like driving down the highway during a blinding snowstorm, being a chocaholic, daddies who won’t help with newborns during the night, and much more. She throws in a few environmental songs and explores some of her religious experiences as well.

"I'm creative and I feel I'm better than average at several things. If I should focus on something, whoever thought it would be this?"

Married to Barry Vickrey, dean of the University of South Dakota Law School, she took time out to raise their two boys before starting her own career.

Her ideas, she says, started to seriously materialize in 1996, and they “just immediately connect.” A line will come to her as she works around the house. Sometimes, she says, she does more serious research on a subject. Typically, she can write a song in about 14 hours.

“Some things are more of a stretch that others,” she says. Like the random thought,”it’s hard to hug a duck,” could just pop into her head and end up in a song.

She comes from a family of musicians. Her mother taught piano, her sister has a master’s degree in music performance and her father, a retired Presbyterian minister, has written extensively about church hymns and has had several hymn texts published.

She taught herself to play the acoustic guitar and 5-string banjo, and worked with vocal coach Phyllis Dunne in Omaha for a year and a half. The training paid off – Vickrey has a clear voice that is good for folk and bluegrass music.

“I’m creative and I feel I’m better than average at several things,” Vickrey says. “If I should focus on something, whoever thought it would be this?”

Performing is her latest challenge, and she tackled it with the same energy she does her songwriting. “You have to learn how to perform, to be comfortable on the stage,” she says. “Every performer makes mistakes. Not every performance is perfect.”

Performing on a CD is as challenging in its way as performing live, she says. “The thing about recording, if you’re a songwriter, is hearing the arrangements,” Vickrey says. “It’s different than when you just sing and accompany yourself.”

You also have to be serious about the business of making music, Vickrey says. With three more CD’s planned, Vickrey says she’s really “havin’ fun!”

“Who knows where it will lead,” she says. “I just throw my head back and say, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this?’”

©2001 Sioux City Journal All rights reserved. Used with permission