Carra Stasney is a mother of two by day, but when she takes the stage at night, she becomes her alter ego, Mamma Coal. It takes a lot of juggling, but she wouldn’t change a thing.
At the end of September, she released two new singles, “Ghost Town Get Down” and “Lead Her On.”
On Sunday, Oct. 16, Mamma Coal will celebrate the new songs with a show at the Maverick. During the performance, she and her band will premiere the new music video for “Lead Her On.”
The video was shot at the Maverick and features local dancers from 3-8 Country, an organization that promotes and offers instruction in country dance. They offer an Arizona two-step class on Thursdays at the Maverick.
“We shot live footage of the band, and then we brought together 24 dancers. We just documented the dance community, their style. It was couples dancing,” Stasney said.
During the show, she will be joined by guitarist Alvin Blaine, drummer Arthur Vint, bassist Thøger Lund, keyboardist/vocalist Steff Koeppen and fiddler Nick Coventry.
The two new songs were written for Southwestern country dancers.
Her bluesy song “Ghost Town Get Down” carries a spooky Halloween vibe. A line dance song, it was inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and tells the story of ghosts gathering for a party in an Old West saloon. Soon, Stasney hopes to work with 3-8 Country to develop a line dance and video for it.
Stasney said the song was necessary because of a lack of country Halloween songs.
“I was making a playlist of country songs that would be good for background music because we played a Halloween party last year. There aren’t any fun ones. They are all slow and about things like Hank Williams’ ghost. I was like, ‘We need a party one. I’m going to write one.’ So, that’s how I got the idea,” Stasney said.
“Lead Her On” has an “‘Urban Cowboy’ vibe” and was meant more for partner dancing.
Stasney recorded with members of her band, as well as harmonica player Tom Walbank, at St. Cecilia Studios in August. She worked with engineer Steven Lee Tracy.
Stasney is raising money via Kickstarter for her second album called “Dance Hall Crush,” which will feature the two singles. People who donate at least $15 will receive a raffle ticket for prizes like an overnight stay at Hotel McCoy; $50 gift cards to the Maverick and Pinnacle Peak’s Trail Dust Town; a private dance lesson from 3-8 Country; dinner for four at the Tanque Verde Ranch and a $50 gift certificate to the Steak Out in Sonoita.
The raffle will be held during the Maverick show, and winners have to be present to receive their prizes.
The album will feature a variety of genres, including waltz, Tex-Mex country, West Coast swing and Arizona two-step songs.
The songs explore topics such as her own personal love story, a female truck driver, her favorite libation and a dancer wanting to take a platonic relationship to the next level. She also plans to record her version of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
Throughout her career, the artist’s music has gone in different directions, and she is continuing to evolve as a musician.
“I used to play a very specific style, which was honkytonk, with my old band Copper & Coal. Then, I did a concept album that was much more introspective and was much more specifically for listening. My concept album ‘Raven Haired Vixen’ is a narrative album where all the songs work together to tell a story. This is different from those things,” Stasney said.
Music is Stasney’s full-time job. She performs at private events under South Western Stars, who performs covers and the occasional original. She enjoys playing covers because of the emotional connection that people have with these songs.
“People sometimes think that songwriters don’t want to play covers. I love doing that. I love celebrating music with people that way,” Stasney said.
Another of her projects is Kids Country, which performs at Pima County libraries. During these performances, she tries to engage children and their parents through music.
“I play for the kids. I get them up dancing. I lead them in dancing activities. I bring in shakers. It’s usually toddlers up to 6ish,” Stasney said.
With Mamma Coal, she has developed relationships with fans.
“You play at their home and play at their mother’s memorial. Or you play at their friend’s wedding, and now you are bonded. You get to know them and their stories,” Stasney said.
Although she is open to opportunities, Stasney is focused on building an audience locally and regionally. She wants to be there for her two children, one of whom has special needs.
Before relocating to Arizona, she lived for 12 years in Portland.
Stasney is originally from the Detroit area.
Growing up, her parents played folk music at home. Her dad was a guitar player and singer, and her mom also sang. She taught herself to play guitar from books at 16 years old and began performing in front of audiences at around 19. Her first show was in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
“I went to that open mic every week and sat in the back for at least eight months before I ever played,” she said.
“I just gradually started playing more open mics and started a band when I was about 23. I joined a honkytonk band, where I learned a lot about music…I could sing, so it got me in. I could play the guitar in time. I had good rhythm. So, I was able to hang out and learn a lot really fast from musicians who were a lot older and more skilled.”
She spent a lot of time at a record store in Clawson growing up.
“I would go there every day during my lunchtime. I discovered Bob Dylan. I discovered The Band through Bob Dylan. Led Zeppelin. These are early things. Then, I got turned onto country music when I was in college, and I just went all the way. I was sucked way in,” Stasney said.
“There was Gram Parsons. I call him my ‘gateway drug’ to country. And then, of course, there was Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams. All the older stuff, like Hank Williams Sr., Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline. I discovered all the older stuff in my twenties.”
In Portland, Stasney was part of a tight-knit music community. On Wednesdays, bands gathered and played at a local barn.
“The guy who would host us, he actually helped to inspire the song ‘Lead Her On.’ He was such a great dancer, and he taught us all to dance. He taught my husband and I to dance two-step, which we then did at our wedding,” Stasney said.
Stasney is finding her place in the Tucson music scene. It all started with sitting in with local bands.
“It’s a great way to get in front of an audience, show people what you can do,” Stasney said.
For three months, she is doing Wednesday “For the Sake of the Song Sessions” at Borderlands, in which she brings in different songwriters each week.
“This is just a way that I wanted to connect with other people and get inspired by their songwriting,” Stasney said.
WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16
WHERE: The Maverick, 6622 E. Tanque Verde Road, Tucson
COST: Free admission