Oct 4 , 2007 by Vince Hoffard - <http://www.thesouthern.com/flipside/music/countryscene/>
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS - Wil Maring is a tenacious warrior in a vocation where she is required to battle daily against the giants in the music industry.
In the past, she could've put up a gallant fight, but the small town girl from Cobden would've been ultimately crushed by major companies with unlimited financial resources in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles.
Now, thanks to MySpace and YouTube on the Internet, Maring can economically get her music into millions of homes worldwide with a few simple clicks of a mouse.
"MySpace is the No. 1 way for artists to get their product out to the consumer," Maring said, sitting in the the kitchen of her rustic 150-year old farm house. "It's the new way of doing business. Artists can link with fans and it doesn't cost a lot of money. You don't need a big budget and a promotions department. It levels the playing field."
Walking through a room cluttered with several stand-up bass guitars to her office, Maring says the value of the Internet in her career is priceless. She shows how her site receives hundreds of inquiries each day. Comments are posted from all over the world.
Technically a bluegrass singer, Maring's music has a heavy folk flavor. She is a staple on public radio stations, but finds it hard to crack stations owned by conglomerates and pre-programmed with the same 30 songs each day. She said the Internet will ultimately improve the quality of every genre of music.
"In the past, artists would put two or three good songs on an album and the rest would be filler material that wasn't very good," she said. "MySpace lets you pick and choose. You can download a song for 99 cents. Why would you buy an entire album if most of the stuff on it was crap? The pressure is on to write good songs. You're not going to make money if you don't."
Maring has gone through many recent transformations. Rumors circulated that she quit the business and even died.
She was the lead singer of Shady Mix for over a decade. The band had a huge following in Germany and was a regular at bluegrass festivals throughout the United States. Her husband, Mark Stoffel, was a driving force in the group. One day, he decided to quit playing music and concentrate on his day job.
"I was devastated," she said. "After 18 years, our relationship came to a fork in the road. It was hard, but I decided to go one way and he went the other. I know what I was put on earth to do. You can't drag the other person with you. It becomes a constant tug-of-war."
Maring said was depressed and spent many sleepless nights trying to find her way. Robert Bowlin has been a solid rock for her as she navigated trouble waters. He is a lead guitarist from Nashville that has played in the road bands of Bill Monroe, Tom T. Hall and Ray Price. Bowlin performs at most of Maring's personal performances.
"As I tried to figure this mess out, I kept praying for an angel to show me the way and He sent me two," Maring said.
Jared Ingersol and Dan Miller are the two people responsible for putting Maring's musical career back in high gear.
Ingersol is a 22-year-old computer guru from St. Louis. He works out of the basement of his parent's home. His clientèle includes several big name country stars. He discovered Maring while cruising the Internet, was very impressed with the quality of her material and volunteered his services as webmaster and concert promoter.
"Jared is the greatest. He really believes in me as an artist and he works his tail off every day," Maring says.
Ingersol is able to track fans and their geographic location. Maring says he then schedules concerts, sometimes "in the middle of nowhere," and 100 people will show up.
Through Bowlin, Maring met country/bluegrass artist Brad Davis, who invited her to sing a duet with him on a new bluesgrass album, which is a tribute to Brad Paisley. The two covered "Whiskey Lullabye" and the tune has been getting overwhelming Internet action.
Davis introduced Maring to Dan Miller, editor of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. Miller has his own record label that is now home for both Maring and Bowlin. He also helps Ingersol promote concerts.
"They feel like I need to go on the road seven to 10 days a month, then play as often as possible in Southern Illinois the rest of the time," Maring says. "They think a combination of live shows and Internet buzz will let my earn a living playing music. I have to keep up my end of the bargain musically. I just have to keep writing songs that touch people's heart."
Maring has upcoming tours in California and the Carolinas, plus a February appearance at the Folk Alliance in Memphis.
She will be participating Friday afternoon at the International Bluegrass Conference Songwriter's Workshop at the Nashville Convention Center.
Local fans can see Maring and Bowlin perform as a duo from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Owl Creek Winery in Cobden.
Maring will sing songs from her new album, The Calling, while Bowlin will play instrumentals from his new album, Six String Soliloquy.