IT’S ALWAYS NEAT to bring a new-to-me group to people’s attention, and such is the case with the duo of Val Bennett (lead and support vocals, guitar) and Teresa “Tess” Zardus (lead and support vocals, bass guitar) aka The Plaid Dragonflies. In a recent interview from her spa in Gardiner, Zardus was happy to chat with me concerning the history of this duo as well as her views on the music they create and cover. I began with a broad inquiry.

Q: So, how’s it going?

Zardus: It’s good. We’ve been having some fun rehearsals getting ready for the performance on Feb. 12. We’re looking forward to it.

Q: Have you ever played at this particular venue before?

Zardus: No, we have not. This is the first time we’ve ever performed at Jewett Hall.

Q: How did this show come to be?

Zardus: We came and spoke to a senior class at UMA in Augusta and really had a great time speaking with the participants at that venue. They had a Beatles class led by Mike Bell, and we came in and talked about our songwriting styles in comparison to what the Beatles did in their songwriting. One of the things about that class that we really enjoyed was challenging the students to write their own songs. We broke the class into groups and had each group come up with three lines about any topic. Then Val and I would put the lines to music, showing them that all of us have a story to tell. It doesn’t have to be grandiose; just everyday life, the small things we experience. That’s music and something that needs to be shared with others. That kind of prompted this performance at Jewett.

Q: Your first album together was self-titled and came out in 2011, correct?

Zardus: That’s right, 2011. Val and I as a duo weave in and out with our harmonies, and the recording of that album allowed us to add different layers to our music. When we perform, it’s just the two of us, so we like to challenge each other in finding different harmonies while still creating a solid sound that is surprising for a duo where you have a lot less layers with the musical instruments and with the voices. We really try to create a solid, harmonic sound when we perform, where our album has other musicians and they’re local musicians that have worked with us live in the studio, so you hear a full-band sound on our album versus the duo. Now, the Jewett Hall performance, we will have a guest performer, Dave Thibodeau, who is a bass player who taught me how to play bass. He was on our album, as well.

Q: Are there any plans for doing another CD?

Zardus: We would hope so. We keep writing songs. We have so many unrecorded songs. Some are ones that Val wrote previously but hadn’t recorded, which we brought together, created the music, the harmonies and the sound. There are others that I wrote as well as some we’ve written together, both the lyrics and the music, but the main thing is the cost and the time involved. The hard part is finding the time to go into the studio, because both of us have other jobs that we do in out other lives.

Q: What are those other jobs?

Zardus: Well, Val’s first job was playing rock music seven days a week all over. Now she’s a fifth-grade teacher and I own a wellness spa. We decided what we want to do with our lives and for me this wellness and helping others find balance in their lives is what I really enjoy doing, but I would definitely not give up my music, because it was such a big part of my life growing up in Nebraska, where I was always doing something with music. And for Val, that’s what she’s known for. Everyone who knows her knows her for that. She’s from Buckfield originally, and that town is known for the talented people who live there.

Q: And when you moved to Maine back in 2004, I believe, you headed to another town in Maine known for its abundance of musical talent: Hallowell. I swear it has more musicians per capita than any other place on Earth.

Zardus: Oh, absolutely, and that’s where Val and I first got together. I would go to her shows and sit there quietly harmonizing, and she finally called me up to sing with her on stage. That was the start of our duo work together.

Q: What can folks expect from your Jewett Hall show?

Zardus: Well, we’re going to combine different genres of music. We’re not just doing rock; we’ll be doing other artist’s music and talking about how it inspired our music and the comparisons in what we do with our sound. We want to share our songwriting journey and really our love of harmony. We also believe in engaging the audience and encourage them to sing along and even dance if they want. So we’ll do a little bit of Johnny Cash and Bette Midler and the Beatles, of course, a little bit of Elvis, and we’ll bring it right up to Adele, into the current times. That’s what people can expect.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article?

Zardus: Well, if someone is reading this article I’d like for them to really come and get a taste of what we have to offer. We’re part of the local sound and not everyone knows what we have as musicians locally, so I’d love to challenge them to come see us at Jewett Hall, and not just us but others that will be performing there, because I do think it’s a great venue. I think it’s wonderful to be able to hear the sounds of all different kinds of musicians and at a very low cost. So I think that would be the parting note.

Lucky Clark has spent 48 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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