Megan Mullally music duo hits the road behind self-titled debut album

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Stephanie Hunt (left) and Megan Mullally are Nancy And Beth. | Megan Mullally Photo

To paraphrase “Will & Grace” recurring character Beverley Leslie: “Megan Mullally, as I live and breathe… is that you singing songs?”

For fans of the hit TV comedy, now in its hugely successful reboot on NBC (season two filming starts in July), the question might seem quite appropriate. Mullally, known for her rapier wit-endowed alter ego Karen Walker on the TV series, is also a bona fide musicmaker, as part of the duo Nancy And Beth.

Nancy And Beth: Megan Mullally, Stephanie Hunt When: 8 p.m. April 20 Where: Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Tickets: $30-$32 Info: www.oldtownschool.org

Her partner in the musical twosome is Texas-based singer/songwriter Stephanie Hunt, whom Mullally met on a movie set a few years back. The punk/blues/rock/rap duo made its debut at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in 2017, toured the country and the UK, and has played other such high-profile gigs as the Newport Folk Fest and the Grand Ole Opry. They’ve also opened for the Pixies. Catch them in concert (they’re here April 20 at the Old Town School of Folk Music) or check out any of their videos, and you’ll also notice every song is meticulously choreographed by Mullally (who studied at the School of American Ballet). They dress alike, walk alike and though 30 years apart in age, they very much look alike. It’s all about synchronization, Mullally says.

Mullally recently called to chat about making music, their just-released debut album, the “killer band” of musicians she and Stephanie have the pleasure of performing in front of — Datri Bean (keyboards, vocals), Joe Berardi (drums), Petra Haden (strings, vocals) — and what her hubby, comedian/actor Nick Offerman has to say about it.

Here is some of that conversation.

Q. Tell me about the new album, and what fans and newbies can expect from Nancy And Beth.

A. It’s 10 full songs, but it’s very short, only about 25 minutes long. It’s the length all those older albums used to be, like an old album from The Monkees. We do different songs from different genres and eras. There’s even a rap song by Gucci Mane. It’s all covers. It’s just one big potpourri of music! Something for everyone!

Nancy And Beth — aka Stephanie Hunt (left) and Megan Mullally — are on the road in support of their self-titled debut album. | Giles Clement

Nancy And Beth — aka Stephanie Hunt (left) and Megan Mullally — are on the road in support of their self-titled debut album. | Giles Clement

Q. The two of you complement each other so well on the tracks. Did that just happen or do you have to work to get those harmonies just right.

A. Stephanie sings all the harmonies because she’s kind of a savant with harmonies. She’s just a natural, just incredible. When we start rehearsing a song, we don’t even think about the harmonies. She just starts singing them. Out they pour.

Q. It’s not just about the music when it comes to Nancy And Beth. There’s a whole lotta choreography going on.

A. In the live shows every song is completely choreographed. I do all the choreography in this little room in my house that has a mirrored wall. We rehearse all of it there so we’re completely in sync. The choreography is very real; there’s no improvising. We also dress alike and wear the same costumes. Nothing flashy, just suits or jumpsuits. So it’s very entertaining. It’s very celebratory. But it’s not “Liza with a Z” — there’s no costume changes. And in between songs we talk about whatever we like. It’s pretty loose, so every show is a little bit different. But this is NOT a comedy band by any stretch!

Q. The two of you met in Austin, Texas, on the set of your husband’s film “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” How did the friendship and then music partnership evolve from that?

A. I was doing a very small cameo, because Nick had the really big part. Stef had a supporting role. She’s from there so she volunteered to show me around the city. And I don’t know why we hit it off but we did, and we became fast friends even though I’m 30 years older than her! She told me she played ukulele and wrote music, so on my last day there, she came by and brought her ukulele and we got into my rental car, and it’s like 115 degrees in Austin, and we just turned on the AC and she started playing her songs. She said, ‘There’s one part I want you to sing.” And I did. And we just stopped and looked at each other and realized our voices worked so well together. Slowly but surely, after that Nick was gonna do a show at Largo [in Los Angeles] and I asked if Stef could open for him. She did and she asked me to do one song with her, which I did. And it turned into a traveling tent show from there.

Q. You’re actually no stranger to music, I have read. Was music your first love?

A. I was singing and involved in music long before I was acting. As a kid I knew every song on the radio backwards and forward until my parents went nuts because I’d sing along to every song. I did Summerstock when I was 12, singing and dancing in the chorus, and I was in a ballet company until I went away to college. I never studied acting. That came last to me. Acting has always felt the most foreign to me.

Q. You attended Northwestern. Is that where the acting bug finally bit?

A. So I got to Northwestern and this is a whole other breed here when it comes to acting. These kids are theatrical all the time! I got started as a theater major but dropped out of the program but stayed friends with all the theater kids. And because of those friendships I did a whole lotta theater at Northwestern in all their shows.

Q. What was the best advice you ever got about acting and who gave it to you?

A. It actually came from another Northwestern student. I was a freshman and she was a sophomore. I was having trouble because I got cast as Petra the maid in a production of “A Little Night Music” and that character has that one great song and dialogue and I was really struggling with the dialogue. She came over to my dorm and we sat and she gave me the best piece of advice, which helped me fully bring the character together. She said, “Make friends with her. Just make friends [with the character].” Something just clicked and it has remained one of the best pieces of advice about acting I ever got.

Q. What kind of music do you listen to?

A. I like a variety of stuff, pretty much everything, except maybe opera. I love older music like The Mills Brothers and anyone who sings covers. I love Nina Simone, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Dinah Washington. In terms of newer stuff I really like Radiohead and White Stripes. Stef and I have covered almost all the country music old-timers like George [Jones] and Tammy [Wynette], Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn. We’ve also covered The Black Keys, Fleet Foxes. Just about everybody. And I love rap. I wish I could talk about it with more authority, but I still love it. I like Run-DMC, that’s about how far back I go with rap!

Q. So where did the Nancy And Stef moniker come from?

A. We had a long list of funny names and they all were The “Somethings.” I had written them all down on my phone and when I came back from Austin I was gonna email Stef when I got to the middle of the list and realized “Nancy And Beth” sounded good to me. If you see the band it really fits us.

Q. How supportive of your music is Nick?

A. He loves the band. He’s so sweet. He’s always saying it’s the greatest band he’s ever known. He’s come on stage and done a few songs with us and we’ve choreographed him into a few songs. He’s so sweet. But I think he may be partial. It’s real cool that people in general seem to love the band.


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