How I Caught a Byrd at the Mall

By: Maria Sebastian Last Updated: March 18, 2010

In the spring of 2005 I was invited to perform a live set at Buffalo’s Galleria Mall for Goo Goo Dolls Bassist, Robbie Takac’s, Music is Art Foundation Annual Instrument Drive. maria-sebastianThe mall enjoyed a fairly busy afternoon and the drive seemed a success. Shoppers listened in passing and some stayed a while to grin at the girl and guitar on a riser between the Dollar Store and Sears.

When my set was over, I began wrapping cords as a friendly woman approached me with, "My husband and I love what you just did. You should share a show with him some time. He's a folk singer playing in town tonight—Roger McGuinn." She said his name expecting I should recognize it. Her husband leaned on a nearby wall: a folkie in a black hat stopping at the mall between coffeehouse gigs in the mountains.

After a brief chat I took their card on which (Camilla) had written Roger's booking agent info., as well as Mr. Folk Man's advice over which microphone I should be using instead of the pre-amp on my jumbo Alvarez. I put their card between spare string packs in my gig bag, gave a genuine nice-to-meet-you, and carted my suitcase and guitar through a neon Spongebob hallway toward the parking lot.

Over coffee that night I Googled "Roger McGuinn" to see if I should line up a valley-view patio gig with this earthy couple; maybe something downstate in the Catskills or Woodstock—hadn’t been there in a while.

No one mentioned BYRDS.

My musician friends still pat me sympathetically on the head since for all the music trivia I thought I knew, I knew not that Roger McGuinn meant legendary Byrds guitarist—the man who introduced the 12-string Rickenbacker to rock music inspiring Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and putting folk-rock on the genre map.

I skimmed and scrolled and found an e-mail address that put me in direct contact with Roger. In the subject header I wrote "Well blow me down." He replied the next day with "You should have opened for me last night." But I had a gig in Batavia (eh-hem)….

It took over a year, but I landed that opening slot. I opened for Roger McGuinn at Buffalo’s beloved Rockwell Hall, once again a year later in Tarrytown, NY at their music hall, soon after in New Jersey, and in ’08 we played Chicago’s Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg. Venues call with, "I see that you have opened for him in the past, so if you're interested…." These have become my favorite shows, and the ones I use for inspiration to write the next song.

Roger's is a listening crowd hoping for a good story, and after playing and recording for nearly fifteen years, I have realized most recently, with the encouragement of The McGuinns and their fans, that I've got plenty.

Maria opens for Roger McGuinn on Saturday, May 8th at the Memorial Opera House. For more information, visit On May 7th, she will perform at the Cornucopia Coffee House in Valparaiso ( at 8pm. Visit her on the web: