Mary Spender

Thursday 22nd March 2018

The Borderline, London, United Kingdom

Olly Curtis

I first came across Mary Spender on YouTube (like a lot of her following) and was impressed by not only her guitar skills but also her warm vocals which sound very familiar. This then led me to purchasing her ‘Taking Shape’ EP (which we have reviewed here: and then she announced her first headline UK tour taking in major cities across the country including Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, a hometown show in Bristol and London.

So on a cold March evening, we travelled up to The Borderline in the heart of London to see this performer in action. Walking onstage with her colourful Viger electric guitar and her multi-instrumentalist bandmate Rob Grist, Spender’s voice moved around the room whist she played a dreamy guitar solo. A powerful opener for sure.

Mary Spender has this ability to paint detailed pictures in the minds of her listeners and ‘Long Island’ is one of those tracks. Grist provides a steady drum beat opting for a light brush tone and it suits the song perfectly.

‘Fugitive’ has some keyboard sound thrown into the mix and sees Spender getting funky much to the delight of the audience. Then swapping to an acoustic guitar, we are treated to a Fleetwood Mac tune with Rob Grist now playing bass guitar. The stripped-back approach is uncomplicated but impactful and she puts her own spin on it thus making it more than ‘just a cover’. One thing I really do lover about her guitar tone is that she has a strong technique but she’s not a ‘flashy’ player who forgets about the song and just ‘shreds’ through.

Speaking to the crowd, she told us about how her dad would drive her to open mic nights aged 17 and then later on she set up a YouTube channel with her ‘Tuesday Talks’ feature which can be anything from just a catch-up, to testing out pedals and amplifiers, performing a new song or interviewing other guitarists about their craft and the industry. These have included John Mayer and Joanne Shaw Taylor amongst others.

‘Tire Yourself Out’ is a finished version of a song that Spender had been working on in previous videos and this hypnotic riff just pours out of her guitar. It reminds me of a beautiful music box and has a lovely presence.

The John Mayer influenced ‘Send Me On A Guilt Trip’ (fantastic title by the way) lets Spender start to emotionally bare all but it is not uncomfortable at all as she then goes straight into ‘Only One’. “This was written ten years ago when I was living with my friend in London when I pretended to have a love life!” she laughs. As soon as the bass kicks in this well-written number sounds very contemporary and with enough support it could become a radio favourite.

Then a story about Rob doing all the driving and not putting Mary on his car insurance gets him a well-deserved round of applause as the audience are told “You’re so well behaved!” ‘Restaurant Window’ has a worldly guitar tone and own compositions ‘Taking Shape’ and ‘Primrose’ (which I think is based on a coffee shop of the same name in her hometown of Bristol) prove that she made the right decision to go out on tour.

Closing with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, the house lights are turned up and we all sing and whistle along having thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Before leaving, Mary makes sure that she meets as many people as she can by the poorly lit merchandise stand and she sells a lot of t-shirts and EP CDs in the process.

The truth is Mary Spender is immensely talented (as a singer, guitarist and songwriter), she has a strong work ethic and is very polite to her fans and that is why her videos have thousands of hits and people make the effort to come out and see her live. I’m really glad that we went along and hope that she continues to record new music and play live.

Glenn Sargeant


Feature Image Photo Credit: Olly Curtis

Mary Spender’s latest EP ‘Taking Shape’ is out now.

For more information and to find her YouTube channel visit her official website here: