By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 30, 2002 at 5:51 AM

Miami singer/songwriter Mary Karlzen first became known to many music fans via her great 1994 LP, "Yelling at Mary," the sole recorded fruit of a deal with Atlantic Records. Karlzen, whose first, self-titled, LP was released two years earlier by Florida's Y&T Music returned to that indie and continued to record and release well-written, rootsy rock and roll. Her latest disc, "Dim the Watershed," was released in 2000, around the time she moved to Milwaukee.

Now, she performs around town regularly and often shares the stage with radio personality Kevin Brandt, who also helms K.B.'s Midlife Crisis. We recently caught up with Karlzen to see what she's up to.

OMC: What brings you to Milwaukee, Mary?

MK: Love. Why else would I move from Miami?

OMC: Tell us about your relationship with the BoDeans and their manager Mark McCraw.

MK: Mark is not my manager but has been a great help navigating the music road. We met in Florida during the BoDeans first tour in the mid '80s and have been friends ever since. My manager is Rich Ulloa of Y&T Music in Miami.

OMC: Your most recent disc, "Dim the Watershed," is a confident, well-written and performed disc. How did it do for you?

MK: Thanks! "Dim" was the first full-length CD we put out after leaving Atlantic Records. It has been a rough road going back to an indie label, not having such world-wide distribution, but the artistic freedom is heavenly. The Internet has been a great tool to get the music out there.

OMC: Are you seeking a new major label deal to replace the Atlantic contract that resulted in "Yelling At Mary" or are you happy to retain more control that comes with being independent?

MK: I am not actively seeking a deal and would be a bit gun-shy to jump back into that arena. It would have to be with a label and A&R person that really "gets it." I'm happy on my own but a major label would allow me to record more often, at better studios.

OMC: Are you working on a follow-up? Can you tell us about it?

MK: I've been writing demos and thinking about recording an acoustic CD because the songs seem to be heading in that direction. I like the idea of presenting bare-naked songs without all the frosting.


OMC: You've shared stages with an impressive list of performers, from Bob Dylan to Jackson Brown to Lucinda Williams and others. What's been the most rewarding experience for you?

MK: Overall, the best thing I've taken away with me would be the friends I've made along the way. Some great memories. Having Jackson sing on one of my songs was quite a life experience. Growing up listening to him and then one day he walks in the studio as if I'd known him all along.

OMC: Many readers are fans of K.B. How did you hook up with him?

MK: We met at try-outs for "The Weakest Link". Out of a room of 150 people, 12 were chosen to try-out for producers. KB was standing next to me and I ended up voting him off!

OMC: How has Milwaukee, which has a fairly insular musical community, received you?

MK: I'm just testing the waters now, so I'll have to let you know. The musicians I've met so far have been very gracious.

OMC: What do you like most about our fair city?

MK: Diverse, friendly people with a sense of community, Packers! Summerfest, Wolski's, The lakefront.

OMC: The obvious follow-up: what do you like least?

MK: Property taxes! Ouch.

Mary Karlzen joins K.B. for an acoustic show at the Milwaukee Ale House, Fri., May 31. She also performs on Summerfest's Harley Stage at 7 p.m. on Tues., July 2.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.