Mary Margaret O'Hara
Mary Margaret O'Hara's debut album Miss America was released in 1988 by Virgin Records to great critical and popular acclaim in Canada and Europe. Mary Margaret followed up in 1992 with a Christmas EP and in 1994 with a Christmas collaboration called Count Your Blessings featuring Victoria Williams and Jane Siberry.
Last year, Mojo Magazine of the UK has listed Mary Margaret as one of the top 100 'cult music' heroes of all time and Miss America as one of the top 100 albums of the 20th Century. Canada's Chart Magazine recently listed "Miss America" as the 14th best Canadian album of all time. NOW magazine of Toronto named Miss America the #3 album of the last twenty years, just behind Nirvana and The Beastie Boys.
Over the years she has appeared as a guest artist on many records and soundtrack albums for artists as varied as The Henrys and Morrissey. During a 1999 R.E.M. concert in Toronto, Michael Stipe brought Mary Margaret on stage and declared her a 'national treasure'.
Other artists who are said to fans of hers include Radiohead, Dave Matthews and Rickie Lee Jones (to name a few).
Mary Margaret has also worked as an actress, graphic artist and even as a waitress at Toronto's famed Second City. If you are ever looking for Mary, you're bound to find her every St. Patrick's Day dressed up as a voluptuous Leprechaun hosting her annual fund-raiser at the famous Horseshoe Tavern on Toronto's Queen St. West.
Apartment Hunting is Mary Margaret's second music/acting collaboration with director Bill Robertson. In 1992, she composed, contributed music for the score, and played a leading role in his debut feature The Events Leading Up to My Death.
A few words about the APARTMENT HUNTING SOUNDTRACK:
The first time I heard Mary Margaret O'Hara was the day her album Miss America was released. I read a review of it in Toronto's NOW magazine, and promptly went down to Sam's on Yonge Street to buy it. It seemed like it would be something I would like and it was. By the second song, 'Year In Song', she had me.
For me, she was a unique voice, the real deal. I later used that song in my first film,The Events Leading Up to My Death. I also cast Mary Margaret in the pivotal comedic role of Rita the Dance Instructor and she provided me with a terrific score.
After that we became friends, and like many people I kept hoping she would make another album. She did make a great little Christmas EP, but after that there was nothing but a few guest appearances on other peoples' records.
Last year, British music magazine MOJO named Mary Margaret one of the top 100 cult figures of all time, and named Miss America one of the top 100 albums of all time. In Canada, Chart Magazine recently named Miss America #14 on its list of best Canadian albums ever.
When it came time for me to make Apartment Hunting, I knew I wanted her to do the score and, if she would agree, to play the part of the street singer, Homeless Helen. A week before shooting, she still hadn't agreed - she didn't want to play a singer on camera and kept feeding me tapes of other people she thought would be great in the role. I went over to her house late one night to make one last plea. After several hours, I thought I had lost the battle. "Why does it have to be me?", she asked finally. "It's a spirit thing", I said. It was and is.
The spirit in which these recordings were made was one of fun under pressure. We didn't have a lot of time or money. We recorded most of it in Rusty McCarthy's ever-moving basement studio, with Rusty recording the whole thing with great skill and patience. It was great to have some of the city's best musicians (Mike Sloski, Matt Horner, Russ Boswell, Michael White, Phil Dwyer, Hugh Marsh, John Johnson, Dennis Keldie) drop by for a few hours to lay down their parts. A few pieces were improvised, captured in one take as the film played in background. It was a thrill to be there every step of the way.
Mary Margaret did an excellent job trying to serve the movie, mirroring the emotions I was trying to convey without making the music stand out too much. Still, I believe the music stands on its own merits. It remains in heavy rotation on my CD player and others who have heard it have asked for their own copy. Whether she's singing gibberish or a beautiful love song, Mary Margaret's spirit comes through. I am deeply grateful that she decided to share it with me.
- Bill Robertson