There’s a special Mother’s Day show coming up at River Arts in Damariscotta on May 14 that will feature a performance by Cathie Stebbins Peterson. She will be accompanied by her two friends, Robby Coffin and Scott Eliot. This singer has been a prominent part of the Maine music scene for a number of years now, first as a solo performer, then teaming up with Coffin for a duo, and finally as a member of bands such as Loose Ends, Freeform, Bait The Hook and Tonto’s Big Idea — just to mention a few.

In a recent telephone interview the singer shared the stories of her career with me.

Q: Have you ever performed at River Arts before?

Stebbins Peterson: No, but I have played a couple of places in Damariscotta, and I played all over New England, but I don’t often get to do these kinds of venues because I’m not a singer-songwriter. I’m a performer. I think of myself as an interpreter because I’m not a songwriter. I have written some songs but it does not come naturally. Writing songs is not my thing; so when I play out it is interesting.

Q: How so?

Stebbins Peterson: Well, when I was talking to Rob and Scott about our set list, I said: “Please don’t take these cool songs out and play them with other people before you play them with me because I’m not a songwriter, so I pick my material very carefully.” I try to go for deep cuts, the songs people might not have heard but are very cool. Rob’s really good about finding that stuff, too. He’s probably my favorite person to play with in Augusta because he just colors you, that’s all I can say.

Q: As far as the show at River Arts, it’s going to be the three of you: yourself, Robby and Scott?

Stebbins Peterson: Well, yes, and my daughter (Melissa) is actually joining us. I was keeping that as a secret but I want you to let it out — the secret’s out. You see, I thought I had a pretty good voice but when I heard Melissa sing, I was like, “Damn!”

Q: How old is she, if you don’t mind me asking?

Stebbins Peterson: She’ll be 29 this summer. She’s actually an immigration lawyer in Boston. So she’ll be doing the Sara Barielles song, “Many The Miles.” I love that son. And we’ll be doing “Nothing But the Water” a cappella, it’s by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. That one will slay people — just me and Melissa, a cappella. And she’ll probably be singing with us on “Helplessly Hoping.” We’re doing a lot of harmony stuff because, for me, that’s why I love playing with Scott and Rob. Rob and I have been singing together for so many years that it just gels. We don’t even have to think about it. I mean, if he takes a line, then I’ll take a different one, and then Scott always finds the weird one in the middle that nobody else can find. I love that, that’s probably my favorite thing (about) playing with those guys. They’re vocalists as much as they’re awesome musicians. So that’s the whole thing with Scott and Rob. I’ve had so much fun with them. They’re like family, it’s just always been that way.

Q: Is there anything you’d like the readers to know?

Stebbins Peterson: Well, just that I’ve performed a lot at the Silver Street Tavern and I used to play in Augusta, too. Oh, and there’s one other thing I’d like to mention, my art show is going on at the same time, May 3 through 16. It’s a private show in the West Gallery of River Arts with my neighbor and it’s called “Fiber and Wood”. I’m the ‘fiber’ in that I do needle-felt landscapes and pieces. I also have some hanging weavings that I’ve done, too.

Q: I just remembered that when I found out about your concert, I also was told that the show was going to be like a come-back performance — is that right?

Stebbins Peterson: Well, I haven’t played music in six years — literally have not picked up my guitar in four years. I’m rebuilding my callouses as we speak, and relearning stuff because I knew if I didn’t set this concert date, I would probably never go out and play. I had to be able to at least go out and be able to do an hour and a half of music somewhere. It’s killing me. I’m really missing playing it.

Q: I can understand that. I really can.

Stebbins Peterson: But I’ve had five hand surgeries this past year. I had both carpel tunnels, two trigger-finger thumbs and a trigger-finger middle finger. I had them all done within the last year.

Q: Good grief!

Stebbins Peterson: See, I’ve been doing all this work, but that’s why I had it, all this over-use. Everything I do is pinching my first finger and my thumb together, like with the guitar, spinning, knitting, needle-felting and piano — everything. So that is something I had not considered when I started practicing for this concert, the muscle pain. But it’s been building those muscles back up — even with my voice because the voice in a muscle, too. So I’ve been working at doing diaphragm exercises. It’s a lot of work. People don’t realize what goes into music, and I kind of forgot until I left it and had to come back to it again. It’s a lot of work but it’s so worth it!

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 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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