News Column

The young women of McBeth hope for presence on the pop charts

July 25, 2013


July 25--While adjusting their 1920s-inspired costumes for their first music video shoot earlier this month, the teenage best friends worried about getting yelled at for messing up each take.

Not long ago, they were in high school, but now they were being primped by professional makeup artists and prodded to stand up straight by a real director. It was, in a word, surreal.

Beth Martin and McAyla Beatley, 18-year-olds from Hanover and Fredericksburg, have the entire package, said Richmond producer Michael Congdon of Artesian Entertainment.

They have the raw musical talent, passion, attitude and look to become pop stars, he says. "These girls have what it takes," said Congdon, who discovered the singing duo known as McBeth in November.

Since then, it has been a snowballing process to get the young women ready for the big time, he said. Both are taking piano and guitar lessons, as well as getting training in public relations, music business, performance and fitness -- combined with a rigorous recording schedule and local gigs every weekend.

Yet, with all this newfound attention, the young women remain grounded. They giggle about their nail polish in the studio and blush when the director tells them to do something "sexy." The opportunity was one they jumped at, but are pursuing with a sense of humility.

"College is always going to be there, but this isn't," said Martin, who recently graduated from Hanover High School.

The young women met in fifth grade when Beatley's cousins moved into Martin's neighborhood. Beatley was born and raised in rural Lancaster, but frequently visited her cousins in Hanover and befriended Martin. It wasn't long before the girls noticed they had a shared talent.

As the years passed, the duo spent much of their friendship singing by the river and performing in talent shows for their families. While certain relatives encouraged them to pursue something more serious than their school choirs, Martin said, their music was always "just for fun."

But for Martin's 16th birthday, her parents purchased time in a recording studio for the friends to practice. They recorded a number of their favorite songs, including Adele's "Someone Like You," along with an original they had written together. Afterward, they posted slideshows with their recordings on YouTube that received a surprising number of hits, Martin said.

And, in November, a friend of producer Congdon heard Martin sing at a funeral and invited the women to audition. It was a high-pressure meet-and-greet, Congdon said, where he tested their musical endurance for nearly 17 hours.

When they passed, he invited Martin and Beatley to discuss a contract with their parents. It was a commitment -- both monetarily and mentally -- that the young women had to agree to.

"We always had it in the back of our heads that we wanted to do this, but never thought it was possible," said Beatley, who's finishing her high school education online. She moved in with Martin's family last month to be closer to the studio.

Generating original radio-ready music has been the undertaking since February, when their training began, Congdon said. The next six months are booked for creating music videos and building a fan base through social media and live concerts before their album drops in January.

Their original video, "For the Rest of Time," speaks about eternal love in a Titanic-esque theater underwater. Martin, clad in a flowing black gown, silk gloves and large sun hat, takes center stage as the lead singer while Beatley plays piano in a black-and-gold flapper dress.

Sunny Zhao of Dreams Factory, known for his commercial spots for GEICO, directed the elegant video. A separate behind-the-scenes music video is scheduled to be posted Friday to YouTube.

In between takes, Beatley practiced her secret handshake with the production crew while Martin made faces at her producer. They have learned to cope with the demanding job by keeping their youthful sense of humor.

"If we're traveling the world and doing what we love, then it doesn't get any better than that," Martin said.

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