Women musicians find their voices in the Northeast music scene


“I love living in the city,” Jen Markey said. “Women in Northeast seem to support each other more. There is no competition.”

Markey has a rich laughing voice and whimsical fairy tattoos. Singer and guitarist, she originally started her career singing Janis Joplin on karaoke and taking her talented voice to open mics. After singing came the guitar.

“There is a pay it forward attitude, a get up on stage and play with me attitude,” Markey commented on the community support in Northeast. She was quick to list off artists who invited her up on stage during shows.

Music scenes have a reputation for being male-dominated, but you’d never know it in Northeast. This corner of the city is home or host to a flurry of female voices, including artists like Markey, Molly Maher, Eliza Blue and others.

“We would like to think of [the music scene] as a boys club,” Markey stated thoughtfully, “but women are critical. They see someone great up on stage and doubt themselves, but it’s just a different style.”

Singer and folk musician Mary Bue also started her career by performing at open mics. She had always loved music, learned the piano at a young age, started writing poetry in junior high, and by college she was performing. Bue finished the degree, followed her dream, and has now put out three albums.

Bue’s romantic, throaty voice bounces over notes as she plays on the piano or guitar. She calls her style “folk-pop” and you can definitely sink into the rhythm of her songs and dance around the house. Her voice soars gracefully like the monarch butterfly tattoo on her arm.

“I’m new to the scene, but it’s been awesome,” Bue remarked on her introduction to living and playing in Northeast. She has spent some time in Duluth, Florida, and along the East Coast.

While it is still not equal footing, Bue said that musically there are more women in the public eye than ever.

One woman that is in the public eye quite a bit is Eliza Blue. In addition to playing at the Mill City Café, the Stone Arch Festival, and all around the state, Blue performs every other Sunday at the 331 Club for Gospel Brunch.

“We can’t get people off the stage; we need to reign it in,” folk musician and Folk Society founder Blue said happily about Gospel Brunch. “The idea was to support traditional sounding music and inspire the spirit of community.”

Blue’s tender, silky voice hits like a powerful wave and sucks you down to its deep depths. The listener is swirled in emotion hearing to her strong, yet sweet, voice. She has long, beautiful dark locks and eyes as deep and soulful as her music.

“I think it is noteworthy how few women are in music compared to men; even in folk music,” Blue commented. It is her opinion that the community and the smaller stages of Northeast make it possible for more women to be out front in the music scene.

Venues like the Mill City Café, not to be confused with Mill City Museum and Café, is a charming place with a small stage in the corner and colorful artwork, such as metal sculptures of fantastic creatures, adorning the ceiling. “The nicest two women own it,” Blue said, “I just love it.” Blue is planning on releasing her new record at Mill City Café on August 3.

Nikki Matteson’s band plays the Thursday night folk jam at the Mill City Café. “I would call it a scene,” Matteson said, “There is a lot happening in Northeast. It’s nice to know other artists like Jen [Markey] and Kim [Roe].”

Matteson is petite with angelic features and a Patsy Cline voice. She sways and strums producing sweet, twangy notes. Matteson learned to play guitar when she was a teenager. “I was into the hippy scene,” Matteson said.

Northeast is very supportive. “I don’t feel all alone, and I don’t feel competition with men in the Northeast scene,” Matteson stated. Her group, The Ruemates, is made up of Rich Rue, Carrie Deans, and Docta’ Twist. Band member Carrie Deans started out as a fan.

“She would come to folk jams and she was a good singer,” Matteson said. Deans is now a guitarist and singer with The Ruemates.

Playing at the 331 Club every Monday night are the Roe Family singers, fronted by musical vocalist Kim Roe. “I’m new to singing,” Roe said, “and Northeast is great to us.”

Quirky and fun; Roe plays an autoharp, a stringed instrument also known as a zither. The autoharp is as much of a staple as the guitar to bluegrass and folk music. Roe’s autoharp was a present from her husband who rescued it from being thrown away, and she received training from Stevie Beck. Beck is known as “queen of the autoharp,” and has performed on The Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.

Roe’s attitude towards being in a band is “Hey! I can do that.” She agrees that while the music industry, in general, is a boys club, areas such as the Twin Cities are well on the way to changing this.

Husband Quillan Roe agrees:

“Yes, I do think Northeast is pretty supportive of the ladies.”