Dirty Mercy might be magic. It’s been hinted at. Most people won’t say it out loud.

Some people think they’re not real because of all the abracadabra. Voila! Their healing powers are legendary! There are some that feel that a Dirty Mercy fix will improve their entire day ~ their whole way of thinking ~ especially when they get to hug it out.  Tanya is a remarkably good hugger.  Doug, Matt & Susie are quite impressive as well ~ in fact, leaders in the hug arena.

They are also twinkly and sparkly. Someone once suggested that they must be putting something in their eye make-up to make their eyes look “like that”.  Nasty rumor.   Truth is, you can’t see Tanya’s eyes when she smiles. They are too hidden by cheek. Can she see? Who knows? Some other guy once said her eyes look like “two pee holes in the snow”. He said it was a compliment but .. it’s not so magical.

Doug has blue eyes that can “see” even when his eyes are closed.  It’s his super power.  He wears glasses in order to not have to see everyone naked.  Sometimes he doesn’t wear glasses …

Susie’s eyes have the vision of Sir Isaac Newton – she simply understands life as color.  She even speaks in color.  She sings in French.

Matt’s eye color is uncertain because he wear shades due to an apothecary injury.   Happened ages ago.   Maybe he’s actually a vampire?  We’re still not sure.

What is known by the semi-not-quite-famous is that Tanya Winch and the hairy band of Merciful Dirty’s are an acoustic revelry of vocal Americana deliciousness. They are very clever with 4 parts of harmony, 3 parts woody guitars, 1 part mandolin and 1 part colorful, super-glued shaker-thingy. They play numerous luscious originals and oddles of spicy covers. Yep.

Tanya, Matt, Doug and Suz have played a few gigs together. Sometimes they play apart. It’s kind of like free love in the Dirty Mercy. The thing that matters most is that they still really like taking musical communion.

It doesn’t just look like they are having fun ~ they are having fun.

Tanya’s Tale

Back in the day when Miss America, beauty pageants & beauty queens were actually a viable career choice for the modern woman, my cousins, Winnie & Emy, and I (ages 10, 4 & 7, respectively) used to have ‘pageants’, parading up, down and around in our floaty-est P.J.’s, across brown, pleather, stackable stools, singing and dancing our hearts out. No one ever won or lost. In fact, no one judged, or even watched, for that matter, but the three of us twirled and whirled our hearts out. To be able to sing and dance around in fun, spin-y, float-y dresses…ahhh. God, were we beautiful and talented and smart! That was my first taste of the stage.

My next foray in singing was as the “special” music at Sunday worship service. My Dad would play guitar and sing the bottom notes, my brother & Mom would sing melody and I would get whatever 3rd harmony note worked. It was very modest and very serious and some good clean fun until that one, serious, double head crack which occurred while my brother and I were bowing into each other in the midst of a laugh attack. Eventually, Sam & I had to be separated. You see, if we happened to glance at each other while singing, we would be demolished by giggles ruining the entire Sunday morning Lutheran broadcast. Those performances only lasted about two years and I still have no idea why we stopped (and I’m still secretly disappointed). It was serious fun.

In high school, I was in every musical. Ooooh, the make-up! The cigarettes behind the Principals office! The kisses behind the curtains! Enough said.

Tanya Winch

I moved to LA after college. I had given up performing and singing and shaving my legs. Might have been rebelling against the above mentioned pageants…or maybe I was lazy? Actually, I know I wasn’t lazy because in addition to working a 50 hr week, I was selling Amway. I know. It still shocks me. But, it introduced me to a great vocalist who asked me to join her “band.” I joined…mainly out of boredom, but also to save face. I was selling Amway, after all.

This ‘band’ was called Crazy Cat George. We were a 3-girl a cappella group (not much of a “band”) that sang covers of spirituals (we are white women … the things we do in our 20’s). This was in the Boys To Men and En Vogue heyday. Two of us had severe stage fright, two of us had extraordinarily bad hair, and one of us had a penchant for apologizing for EVERYTHING while on stage. Still, we performed and performed and performed and got better than bad. We knew 3 cover songs. We thought we would be signed within the year.

Six months later, we had written one moderate-to-middling song. We took it to Nashville and performed it in a televised competition, which we did not win.  We consoled ourselves with the fact that Trisha Yearwood had not won the same competition a couple of years earlier and she is a really good singer (BUT, Ohmygod! We write our own material!). We thought we would be signed any day.

Two years later, we had written about 6 pretty good songs and about 18 not-really-very-listenable songs. We also learned some cover tunes so that we could play a 40-minute set without having to do a 10 minute interpretive dance routine in the middle of our a cappella version of Swing Low. We actually got really good. All kinds of people came to see us play the Roxy (truthfully, I think about 26 people came to our Roxy show – one of whom was Clint Eastwood. That’s a good crowd in LA). We thought we were getting somewhere. A dude we respected wanted to play guitar for us. We let him. We thought we would be signed, probably within the year.

Four years and 5 cross-country tours later, after having written about 7 really good songs, 16 pretty good ones and about 21 other songs, a bass player came aboard. That was it! We were on FIRE! We realized that if we kept on touring and selling CD’s, we would be signed within the next 2 years!

Two years later, after writing 3 great songs, 14  really good ones, 18 pretty good ones and 39 other songs, our guitar player decided he was tired of the make-up and the chatter…so he quit. That sucked…mainly because our guitar player was very good, gave us our ‘sound’ and was an excellent accountant. On top of that, we had to find a new drummer that didn’t play so loudly…and a quiet drummer is hard to find. That was a tough year. BUT, it was also a really good year. We were nominated for Best Independent Single – “Give In”, at The LA Music Awards and we were finally getting paid a reasonable amount to play original music in Los Angeles. We were actually successful in our own independent right. Some attorney told us to make a “real” demo and we spent more money recording 3 songs than we had for our entire Holiday CD. It sounded great. We weren’t really sure how it would happen, but we hoped and slaved and thought we might be signed sometime soon.

One would think that after 10 years of singing together, CCG would get tired and give up…and you’d be right. There came a point when sitting on top of huge bumpy speakers in the back of an exhaust smelling van for 3 days, without showering, praying that we would make it over the Rockies, became not-so-romantic and the Crazy Cat George family cry became:  “I just want a normal life!” I loved them. I loved what we did. We were very good. We had played the House of Blues to crowds of 500 plus CCG fans…we had sold thousands upon thousands of CDs…we had played numerous nudist colony gigs that, to this day, crack me up when I think of them. It was ending. But, I had yet to crumble!

Some of us old CCG members started a new band:  One Real Peach. Good fun. We did a tour though the Mid-West with 2 other bands: The Lullabadeer (check out:  www.samwinch.com ) and Local Zero (now defunct, but check out www.jimcostello.com and/or www.spencerrogersexpress.com ). It was the most magical time of my life. There had been nothing I had done before (including jumping from an airplane) that had been more exciting, fulfilling or satisfying. And then…my best friend, writing partner, mother goddess and life preserver, Jody Hunter, moved North. Her husband had been promoted. We could no longer deny the inevitable. We were getting older. There was a slight chance that we may never get signed. It had been glorious.

I gave up music altogether. Figured that all it amounted to was a way to stay interested rather than bored. I never made any REAL money. So, I took an acting class for fun. I moved to Mid-Wilshire. Left my husband. I dyed my hair burgundy. I started growing violets. Bleached my hair back to blonde. Went to Jazz concerts at LACMA.  My music career was over…for crimony sake, I had moved to LA because of a man, NOT to be in the entertainment industry. I never expected to be a professional singer, let alone one that wrote songs and made CDs! I tried to be satisfied with having given it my all and having succeeded as an independent artist. I would NEVER be able to do it on my own. I was a seriously crap guitar player and I didn’t really like to be a soloist. It was just too much responsibility. It was over (over) ((over)) (((over))) – echoing behind me.

But, it’s funny how your life reminds you what you need to be happy and satisfied. I took a UCLA songwriting class because the teacher, Phil Swann, was a really exciting speaker I’d heard back in my CCG days. I also took it to beat the boredom out of my nights (please note:  I did not particularly believe that songwriting could be taught, but I really liked this speaker). The class was large and not especially friendly, which was par for the course as just about everyone there wanted to make a living selling songs and there are only so many artists that need songs. Very competitive. I met a shy, smart, unique (and turns out crazy-funny) Brit named, Meg Fulton (check out: www.localherorecords.co.uk/recordlabel.html). We really “got on”, as she would say in her Brit accent. I thought she was an original writer and absolutely hilarious. We had coffee and conversation and I was glad for her friendship. One day after class, she asked me to sing back up and play the shaker for her next gig. She was very groovy and fun and I knew how hard it was to perform alone. I agreed to do it. As I stood there on stage shaking my little egg shakers for/with her…a funny thing happened. I realized that I was really happy — happier than I had been in over a year. It surprised me. I didn’t realize exactly how much I loved singing & performing. Right then on that little black stage at Genghis Cohen, I made the decision to try to go solo; no matter how badly I played guitar…and how unbelievably scary it was.

Cut to two years later: I was singing and shaking in 4 bands including my own. I actually played guitar on stage! Yee HAW!  I got better than bad at guitar; in fact, I didn’t suck much at all. I tried, but I couldn’t remove music or songwriting or performing from my life. I was touring again. I was writing better than ever (thanks to: www.harrietshock.com ). I made many wonderful new friends that give my life bold color. Singing with the incomparable, Sally Zito (check out:  www.sallyzito.com ) was an enormous joy.   I also had the thrill of my life getting to sing and shake on The Leno Show, backing up  Shelby Lynne (check out:  www.shelbylynne.com ).   It was absolutely one of the coolest live music experiences in my life! Thank you goes out to the velvet throat’d, Ms. Anna Montgomery, for connecting me to that thrilling opportunity and for giving me the gift of being a part of the Worldwide Goshen Tour  (check out:  www.annamontgomerystudio.com ).  Another bit of crazy fun.  There is just something about farmland.

Then Sam, The Lullabadeer, got signed. Holy crap! For the first time in my life, I was a part of a signed band…a band with horns and a wild bass drum and a crazy front man. Ohmygosh! The holy grail. Traveling the red-eye to New York on a bi-monthly basis. Singing my guts out in a comforter draped basement.  Glorious!

Then I got this urge to get out of LA and, after spending a week in 5 cool new cities, I chose Austin.   Sold my condo and moved East with a car full of hope & plants.  Brand new scary and exhilarating adventure.  It was like being the new kid at school.  Mandy from www.girlguitaraustin.com gave me the opportunity to teach songwriting and vocals and I LOVED it.  Still do.   But, I had no live music confidence without my hard won friendships.  So I asked two fellas whose musicianship I adored for the name of a guitar player.  Both suggested Matt Giles.  I am forever indebted.  We’ve now played together for years.  He’s one of my dearest friends and entrusted me with Boz, the best dog in the world.  I also am lucky enough to have snagged Doug Pegg, on mandolin, and Susie Pollard, singing backup, to round out a whopper of a 4 part harmonic Americana blast.  We’re Dirty Mercy.

This is my life. I have faith in this life. I have faith in this roundabout road traveled blindly, courageously, joyfully. I have faith, period.  I am living an exciting and satisfying life. I am so damn lucky to be able to absorb, share and create music – continuously. I have faith that for all of these years, I have been and will continue to be a part of music that is really good.  Actually, truly great…and to think, it all started on pleather stools in float-y  PJ’s.