June 2, 2011

Girl singer, 14, forms hub of local band

GARDINER -- Maggie Coffin has a lot of pop music stored on her iPod.

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Maggie Coffin sings with her band Monday during rehearsal at her parent's home in Gardiner. The 14-year-old will be performing at Johnson Hall in Gardiner in June with the group that includes Peter Johnson, left, her brother, Justin, second from right, her father, Robby, right, and Dave Thibodeau.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

14-year-old Maggie Coffin will perform with her dad's group, the Robby Coffin Combo, June 3 at Johnson Hall in Gardiner.

When it comes to singing, however, the 14-year-old vocalist says she fancies blues and rock 'n' roll.

"It's mostly because I really dig into it," said Maggie who has been singing with her father's band since age 11. "It sucks all the air out of the room, so everyone has your attention."

Her father, Robby Coffin, said that's what will happen during his daughter's performance Friday night. Upstreet Productions is presenting the Robby Coffin Combo featuring Maggie at the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center on Water Street.

"It's going to be hard to breathe in there," Coffin said.

Maggie said she was scared beyond belief when she stepped on stage for the first time at age 11 and sang a couple of songs with her father's band. Before that, she had sung only in the shower.

"I found it to be really, really enjoyable," she said.

Her mother, Amie, remembers what her daughter said after her first performance at Higher Grounds in Hallowell.

"I asked her what it felt like, and she said she thought she was going to pass out; but when she got on stage, she said, 'I knew I belonged there.'"

Maggie has her own rich, earthy sound blended with a soulfulness of an experienced singer. Homeschooled so she can travel with the band, Maggie said she wants to advance her singing career but is not all that sure how to go about it.

Her father hopes the exposure she will get at Johnston Hall and touring with his other group, the Nu-Utopians (formerly The John Lennon SongProject) along with her YouTube performances will help her career along.

"She's got some great opportunities to perform with the Utopians, and I have friends who know people in the music industry; but we're just trying to have fun with it now."

Logan Johnston of Upstreet Productions, who along with his wife, Phyllis Gardiner, helped launched Johnson Hall in 1989, is a friend of the family who arranged for Maggie's performance on Friday.

He said she has evolved into a refreshingly innovative vocalist, covering artists as varied as John Lennon, Bob Marley, John Mayer and Rufus Thomas.

"I've been hearing Maggie sing since she was 11," Johnston said. "It evolved over conversations with Rob and Amie and my desire to present local talent in a venue that we had something to do with getting off the ground. So it seemed like sort of an alignment of the stars. Here we had a venue right in Maggie and Rob's hometown."

Johnston said he is thrilled by the caliber of musicians who live in central Maine. He said the list goes on and on.

He said Maggie will be backed by "an amazing band of local musicians" including Alfred Lund on percussion, Peter Johnson on guitar, David Thibodeau on bass and her father on guitar.

"We're really just showcasing a new generation and are really hoping for a fabulous night," he said.

Johnston said people should check out Maggie singing "New Shoes" at Higher Grounds in Hallowell or singing "Revolution" with the Nu-Utopians on YouTube.

Michele Carville, owner of Easy Street Lounge on Front Street in Hallowell, said she is amazed that such a young girl is so talented.

"She has such a strong voice. It's really something to see," Carville said. "She must be an old soul. She sounds like an old rock and roller. She's that good."

Coffin said Maggie has had an influence on the type of music his band plays. The Robby Coffin Combo is a progressive jam band; but when performing with Maggie, he said, it has to be more song- and arrangement-oriented.

"We're learning new, young material we probably wouldn't have done without her; and we're finding that we like it," he said.

Maggie takes classes at a dance studio in Gardiner, where she lives with her parents. At some point she may form her own band with musicians closer to her age.

She played flute in a concert band when she attended Gardiner schools up until January. That's when she left to be homeschooled by her mother.

Over the summer, Maggie said, "I hope to learn more than three cords on the guitar."

Mechele Cooper -- 621-5663


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