Managing music, motherhood

Blues singer Deanna Bogart has learned how to juggle life at home and on the road

February 24, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

After a 13-day tour with her blues band that took her to Michigan, Illinois, Florida and Oklahoma, Deanna Bogart had a few things to take care of Tuesday, her first day back home:

Consider signing a contract with a new record label.

Buy groceries.

Take care of 12-year-old daughter with a cold.

Fill compact disc and merchandise orders.

Vacuum.

As she balances the chores of a working mother and the tasks of a successful blues/boogie-woogie singer and instrumentalist, 46-year-old Bogart seems at peace with her life in the spotlight and in the suburbs.

"I still love to go out and play, and I love to be a mom," she said. "It's great to go out, and it's great to come home."

For more than 20 years that home has been in and around Howard County. And Bogart has mixed gigs at big festivals and regional venues with regular appearances at local events such as the Columbia Association's Lakefront Concert Series and Wine in the Woods.

She will perform tomorrow night with guest artist Ron Holloway at Jim Rouse Theatre in Columbia to benefit the Howard County Domestic Violence Center.

"Everyone we bring it up to says what a wonderful live show she puts on, how lively and what a wonderful performer she is," said Robin McClave, the center's outreach coordinator. Bogart said she tries to help out local causes when she can, particularly those that assist children.

"If we can help raise a couple extra bucks, then it needs to be done," she said.

Bogart has also performed as a guest musician with the Glenelg High School jazz band for several years, including six Jazz Under the Stars concerts.

"She works so well with the kids," said Barry Enzman, the school's director of bands. "She has the most pleasant personality and she is so talented. She kind of fits in and goes with the flow of whatever is happening.

"This is my hood," Bogart said. "I've gotten to do a lot of great things here. ... It is kind of nice to feel like I'm part of the tapestry and part of the fabric."

Bogart moved to Maryland from Los Angeles in 1981 when a friend told her about an opening in a western swing band called Cowboy Jazz.

"They needed a woman who could sing harmony, which I could always do," Bogart said.

It was a key move for the then-21-year-old, who traveled extensively for gigs and still meets fans of the group who ask her to sign vinyl records.

Bogart also fell in love with and married one of the guys in the road crew.

Cowboy Jazz lasted six years. Then Bogart joined a rhythm-and-blues band named Root Boy Slim, where she continued to learn from skilled musicians, including Holloway.

Bogart, who learned to play the piano and the saxophone in her early band experiences, became a band leader in 1988 when a promoter asked her to fill a date after a briefly-reunited Cowboy Jazz canceled.

"I got three guys, rehearsed once, flew to Miami and played," she said. "I learned to talk on the mike because we didn't have enough songs."

After that, "we kept getting gigs," she said.

Bogart lived for more than a decade in Glenwood until she got divorced and moved with her daughter, Alix, to Clarksville for about four years. A year and a half ago, she bought a house with her boyfriend and longtime drummer, Mike Aubin, just over the Carroll County line in Mount Airy.

In that modest brick farmhouse, with a field across the street, Bogart meticulously organizes files on gigs, handles publicity and advance planning for gigs, fills orders for merchandise, makes sure the vehicles are working, organizes equipment and answers e-mail.

She said she tries to get a lot of work done between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. while Alix is at school.

She also writes music for the band using a grand piano tucked into one end of a comfortable, crowded den. Bogart has released six compact discs since 1998, including Timing is Everything in 2002.

But a musical career also means leaving her home base for a couple of road trips each year. Her band -- which for 10 years has included Aubin, guitarist Kajun Kelley and bass player Eric Scott -- plays annually in Key West, regularly traverses the Midwest and just accepted a gig in France this summer.

Bogart said if her travels were a problem for her daughter, she would not think twice about staying home. She said: "It will be the easiest decision I ever had to make."

But with help and understanding from Alix's father and a "family friendly" agency based in Highland that lets her decide where and when to go, she said she can make it work.

"I'm not quite ready to give up on that aspect," she said. "You just find out who you are, what you want, what you're willing to sacrifice and what you're not."

During the last road trip, Bogart was discussing a potential agreement with a "prominent blues-oriented label" that she doesn't want to name until things are official.

She said working with a label can mean more marketing and publicity, better distribution and someone to share the financial burden of producing an album. "It puts a lot more steam in the engine," she said.

But after more than two decades in the fickle music business, she also has learned not to let her hopes get ahead of her.

"I've been doing this long enough to know there is not any one thing that means everything," she said. "It could fall apart tomorrow. But it is good to know you can still exist and make a living and [have] a band."

And she said she plans to do that in Central Maryland for the foreseeable future.

"I know Howard County. I've known people here for 20 years now," she said. "Of course, I want to play [here]. That's just a feel thing. ... That's just love and loyalty and home for me."

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

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