By: Samantha Stanich
Flirtin’ With Yesterday band takes its audiences back in time when it performs ’70s era classic rock covers. Cousins Richard Bruce and Mary Beth West perform mainly as a duo, covering a wide variety of bands and solo artists, but also can be seen with percussionist Ronny Blight and bassist Leland Smith in full band form. Blight and Smith also perform with Bruce and West in their Neil Young cover band, Young at Heart.
Q: How did you get involved in music?
Richard Bruce: I used to pick up my father’s and brother’s guitar when I was around 10 or 12 years old, and then at 14, I bought my own, and from then on, I played probably more than I did anything else.
Mary Beth West: My mom and dad were great vocalists. I realized when I was very young that I could sing, and I’ve been doing it all of my life.
Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public?
RB: I can’t really recall the first place I played in public, but I’m sure it was in a local bar that I was too young to be allowed in anyway.
MBW: I was nervous. I sang in front of the whole student body in high school.
Q: How did you guys come up with your name?
RB: We came up with the name after trying to think of something to pertain to the classic, or what is now considered oldies, songs that we do.
MBW: Just sharing ideas back and forth and some creative thinking.
Q: How did you guys meet?
RB: I was in my first band while still in high school, and Ronny Blight, who has been with us now for only a few months, was the percussionist in that first band, let’s just say a long time ago. And here four decades later, we’re playing together again. I actually met Leland online and talked for years before we actually met and became involved musically.
Q: How do you choose the songs you cover?
RB: We try to choose songs that are very popular but are almost forgotten about because they’re not usually covered by other bands.
MBW: We choose songs we like and know that the audience likes or hasn’t heard in a while. We like to choose songs that bring back memories.
Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
RB: How I have changed as a musician is all attributed to experience. I’ve learned to let the moment happen while performing. I’m not sure where I heard this, but I find it true that you have to learn a piece of music inside and out so you can play it in your sleep, and then you have to kind of forget it while performing, and that is when the art or what we sometimes call “the magic” can take over.
MBW: I have become more confident and learned how to control my vocals better.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a musician?
RB: My favorite part is when we are performing and everything just clicks. Meaning everything from the band being exceptionally tight to the audience being exceptionally receptive.
MBW: Playing private parties and people singing along with us as well as playing benefits. I love our harmonies.
Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
RB: I think the local music scene has changed dramatically over the years by loss of larger venues that were around in the ’80s and ’90s. That’s why, I think, you see so many single acts and duos, because there is no room for large bands anymore.
Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
RB: Neil Young (and) Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are probably my biggest influences while learning.
MBW: Carole King, Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Elton John and my mom and dad.
Q: What is the biggest challenge?
RB: The biggest challenge now is finding the time to work on multiple shows and acts as your own agent and management.
MBW: Trying to hit notes beyond my natural range, especially during the latter part of a show.
Q: What are your future goals for the band?
RB: To play as often as possible for Mary Beth and I. And I think the Neil Young show has the potential for larger venues and widespread touring.
MBW: To add more songs to our playlist, songs that you don’t hear other bands play, so we can see more people singing along at our shows and to hear them say, “I haven’t heard that song in years.”