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Symbiotic sisters

They’re local musicians, they’re female and now they’re working together

The local music scene has always had a strong contingent of singer-songwriters, but in the past couple of years, it’s become even stronger due to an influx of young female musicians who bring with them fresh ideas and a creative approach to music making.

You have likely come across Lisa Marie Ellingsen, Katie Sachs, Wishbone Zoe (Saera Kochanski,) Carolyn Walker and Lexi Weege, as they all frequently perform at the Pioneer Valley’s various venues. They are all solo artists, but now you will have a chance to see them make music together at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls on Saturday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. (Christa Joy was originally scheduled to perform, but she had to withdraw.)

These women are all valley-based singer-songwriters and are members of the new Women’s Songwriter Collective, which was formed so that singer-songwriters with similiar goals could support each other through the many challenges they face as working musicians.

“A little less than a year ago, I was getting ready to release my debut album (‘Places Not on Maps’) and was talking with Lisa Marie Ellingsen about how exciting and, also, how difficult it is to be a solo artist and how much work goes into everything you do, everything from contacting the press, to booking shows, to making fliers, updating and designing a website and rehearsing your band,” said Sachs, via an email exchange.

Ellingsen suggested that it would be great to get a group of songwriters together to support each other, both creatively and with the business side of things.

Sachs, who, in addition to being a musician, has a background as a community organizer, loved the idea.

She started talking to various singer-songwriters and one of the first ones she talked to was Walker.

“I was performing a show at the ’Voo,” said Walker, who recently released her debut CD “Resolution.” “I told her I would be in.”

Conversations with other musicians followed and Sachs even reached out to fellow singer-songwriters via Facebook. In January, they all met at Sachs’ home and worked out goals for the group.

The decision to be an all-female collective came about from the sad-but-true fact that the music business is dominated by males and they didn’t want that to happen with this group.

“Philosophically, we reject the music industry’s and, let’s face it, society’s attempts to have women compete with each other and instead foster a spirit of collaboration, cooperation and symbiosis,” Sachs said.

All six women play acoustic-based music and write their own lyrically driven material. Sachs pointed out that they also share a wide-ranging group of musical influences, including Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Tori Amos, Gypsy Jazz, The Talking Heads, Elvis Presley, Meg Hutchinson and more. But beyond that, this is a diverse group of artists, with each one bringing very different sounds and styles to the mix.

Here is a brief rundown on each artist. Sachs, who plays ukelele calls her music jazz-influenced indie-folk. Ellingsen is a killer electric guitarist who, with her trio the Ellingtones, plays bluesy, early rock ’n’ roll music and she’s now playing acoustic guitar and branching out as a singer-songwriter. Walker is a multi-instrumentalist who draws from her training as a classical musician while playing everything from folk to rock. Wishbone Zoe calls her music junkyard rock because she incorporates a variety of household objects, everything from electric drills to trash cans, into her quirky sound. Weege is a sultry-voiced blues singer who also plays keyboards. Joy is the most folk based of all these musicians. These six women are also gifted singers and songwriters.

“It is not a band,” said Sachs. “However, we are moving towards learning each other’s songs, doing co-bills like the Mocha Maya’s show and more. We would also like to eventually do benefit concerts for community organizations.”

And what can listeners expect at this upcoming show at Mocha Maya’s?

“We play our songs both solo and some songs with each other. We have some diverse instruments; Lisa is an excellent guitarist, Katie primarily plays baritone ukulele, Saera on banjo and I play violin on other singer’s songs,” Walker said. “Lexi plays keyboard, but has not played with us yet. And, of course, we are working in adding harmonies to each other’s songs. It’s been a very fun and rewarding time.”

“The Mocha Maya’s show will be in-the-round style, with Lexi playing a few songs during intermission,” added Sachs. “Our styles are similar enough so that the concert doesn’t feel disjointed, but diverse enough so that the audience will definitely not feel bored or redundant. Expect some overlap in accompaniment and a delightful evening!”

Proceeds from the evening will go in helping the Women’s Songwriter Collective launch a website. This show is free, but tips for the performers are always welcomed.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. You can contact her at

Thank you for this article Greenfield Recorder! I have found you to very supportive of the local music scene and I am very greatful! Come out readers tonight 05/02/13 to see my playing at the Luthier's Co-op in Easthampton at 8:30. A surprise guest from the songwriting co-op may sit on a few tonight! See you at Mocha Maya's!

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