Episode 43: Ava Liv and Mark Mabry
Ava Liv Mabry is a gospel and pop singer / songwriter with a soft spot for just about any human. Mark Mabry is a photographer, author, songwriter, and Ava’s dad. Together they live with Ava’s mom, Tara, and her three brothers near Nashville, Tennessee. Ava and Mark are finishing up her first Gospel Album, which will be released in January.
In this episode of You Matter!, the father-daughter singing duo Mark and Ava Mabry perform their original song Eating Alone, and discuss sexual exploitation, harassment, and victimization.
Intro Voices 0:05
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices 0:31
This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:36
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to you matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcerment professional. Today I welcome Mark and Ava Mabry, father daughter singing team currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. They recently recorded a song that they co-wrote called Eating Alone, a song that speaks to the struggles of young people like Ava to include sexual exploitation, harassment, and victimization. Mark and Ava, welcome to You Matter.
Ava Mabry 01:27
Mark Mabry 01:29
Thanks. It's great to be here.
Karen Ortman 01:30
So tell me when did you start singing together?
Ava Mabry 01:35
So we started singing, I've been singing on his lap since I was three. He has been showing me all the classics like Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Frank Sinatra, everyone since I was really little. And I grew up to love gospel. And so I started singing, like, like for fun and todo what I love when I was 8.
Karen Ortman 01:58
Wow. So you started when you were three. If I may ask, how old are you now?
Ava Mabry 02:04
Karen Ortman 02:05
Mark Mabry 02:07
As of two days ago.
Karen Ortman 02:08
Oh yes. Happy birthday. Wow. 14 with a voice like yours. It's very impressive. So you started singing on dad's lap. Mark, how did you even know that Ava was able to sing, let alone on your lap starting at three.
Mark Mabry 02:29
I've always loved music. By training, I'm a photographer and a content make. I've made I've made TV, I've done everything but mainly was photographer. And early on in exhibits and things like that, I just loved the effect of music, it makes us see things differently right? So I've always been kind of drawn to music. I was in a band in high school but I've never like actually been paid for music. I produced a few albums, like as an executive producer that did well during my career. But really like, when she's three on your lap, you know? No, it's just kind of a bonding thing. Okay, let's hang out and try to make you have good taste at least.
Karen Ortman 03:21
And it worked.
Mark Mabry 03:23
She started, yes, she started to sing and I think I realized that she had pitch, like, she could hit a note pretty naturally and early on. But still, you kind of, you don't know. But then when she was like eight or nine, she decided to get kind of serious. And that's when we really started to push. That's when I learned to play guitar again, I hadn't picked it up in like 20 years. So we did that and she was, actually it's funny, she was really scared to sing. She would never sing in front of people, she'd sing for me.
Karen Ortman 04:00
That's so surprising.
Ava Mabry 04:01
Yeah, I'd only sing for family. So something we would try to do to like, get over that is we do Facebook Lives a lot. And he'd have me read over all the comments that I would get to, like, help me see what people liked and stuff and built up a lot of my confidence, like strat an Instagram, and to join different groups and stuff like that.
Karen Ortman 04:24
I'm sure you got a lot of positive feedback too. Because, I mean, how could you not?
Mark Mabry 04:34
You're right though, like the positivity I think that social media's has helped us a lot and really that feedback in the sweet things people would say, while we were doing live, so sometimes we'd be doing a live and the comments would pop up, and you're reading them in real time. And - super helpful.
Karen Ortman 04:53
I'm sure that that was the thrill, especially if you're seeing it as you're performing.
Mark Mabry 04:58
Yeah, its neat. And then you get a little bit older and you start to get haters. At 13 you're still a little young, someone's gonna be pretty heartless to smash you on Instagram. We all know that people are heartless sometimes.
Karen Ortman 05:13
Yeah, it can happen.
Mark Mabry 05:14
So that happens. But that's been healthy too.
Ava Mabry 05:17
Yeah, that's good to get feedback. Like use what they say and help benefit you for the better.
Karen Ortman 05:24
Yeah, what grade are you in?
Ava Mabry 05:26
I'm in eighth grade going into ninth.
Karen Ortman 05:29
So you've been performing live getting this sort of feedback and current time and a few negative comments. What does that do to you when you see that?
Ava Mabry 05:41
Um, I think that the negative comments as much as they can, like hurt your feelings, I think that they're really good to get them because they prepare you for different things as like, your audience grows and as you get older and things you're going to see more often. Instagram has definitely been like a really helpful thing to connect with a lot of friends and to meet new people and do podcasts like this.
Mark Mabry 06:04
One of the things like, the negative comments, something we could probably tie into the bigger topic even is like when we've gotten a negative comment, and there really have only been a few, right? Is we approach it head on, we don't ignore it. We actually respond and so I've helped her respond, and she's so gentle and nice anyway, that, it'll be like, oh, I'm so sorry you didn't like it. And so it takes all the wind out of the sails of the hater typically. Well, it wasn't that bad. It always turns around.
Ava Mabry 06:41
Yeah it's funny, it's something and then I'll be, I'm so sorry that like you're I hope other people can see past that and stuff in they'll be like, I just think you need to work on that a little bit better, but like, you're getting there. Like, thank you.
Karen Ortman 06:41
That's funny. So then they turn it into a kind of a half compliment, I guess after you challenge it.
Mark Mabry 06:59
And they apologize. Yeah, you challenge them nicely, they apologize.
Karen Ortman 07:03
Yeah. Let's talk about the song eating alone. Which I'm sure I've told you many times, I absolutely love. I know there was a process in writing that song that I want to hear about, but I just have to tell you how hearing that song for the first time, it touched me. And I love when songs touch me because I love music and sometimes I will just hear something and it just means something to me and your song was one of those. It's almost like an anthem for bystander intervention for victims and just being of service to those who are a need or who are suffering. So, I just love the song and I would love to hear what the process was in writing the song and then I'm I'm, I'm hopeful that after we talk about that you might sing the song live for me.
Ava Mabry 08:07
Of course, I would love to. We have our guitar right here.
Karen Ortman 08:11
Awesome. So what was the process for you in writing the song?
Ava Mabry 08:19
So I went to a public school for a little while when we first moved here, I'm not in that school anymore, just because it wasn't like the best for me. And so I'm homeschooled right now. But, um, in that school there was like, a lot of differences that, as we moved, like, I didn't notice where I lived before. So going into a school where this happened to people all the time and just like a lot of my friends would talk about it and stuff like that, that I was very oblivious to.
Mark Mabry 08:49
What do you mean this?
Karen Ortman 08:50
Yeah, what are you talking about that would happen to your friends?
Ava Mabry 08:54
Like just stuff, like eating alone, where they've been mistreated or been victims of happening around them and stuff that people can do to you. And, so really I talked to my dad about it, just as like a conversation, I was like, yes, it's crazy to see, like, all these things that happened to people that I just like never knew could happen, you know? And we wrote a song about it because a few of my friends - well one of them, had this guy really mistreated her and it made me super sad because it really brought her down and just like, a lot of things happen. And so we wrote this song just out of a loss for words, you know? And, then we recorded it. Yeah.
Mark Mabry 09:37
And from a dad perspective, this is kind of, you know, God forbid, it happens to her, right? But the statistics are what one in four, one in five, or something; something like that is gonna happen to you.
Karen Ortman 09:57
So what is this? What are you talking about?
Mark Mabry 09:59
This meaning some sort of like sexual mistreatment.
Karen Ortman 10:02
Okay. And is that what your friend experienced? Eva?
Ava Mabry 10:07
Yeah, it was it was that in a guy wanted her to take pictures of herself that she was uncomfortable with and just not as - more like, it was more like being alone, right? Where more pictures and like rumors more?
Karen Ortman 10:23
Right. Well that's it that's a big issue, particularly with technology being everywhere and the use of cell phones and there are actually new laws in New York that protect victims of online sexual exploitation through pictures. So it's a very relevant subject.
Mark Mabry 10:46
I wanted her to be comfortable with the fact that if it ever did happen to her that suppressing it is not the right answer and to embolden her somehow. But you can't really write a song, if it ever happens to me, or to just be a weird song. And so we set the scenario when we started to write it was a friend sitting alone at lunch and she could tell that this girl had been abused by her boyfriend. And the boy was over there just fine with all the friends and stuff and the girl was sitting alone and what would you say? And really when I was like going through the first pass of lyrics, it was just me talking to Ava as if I was the friend and she...
Ava Mabry 11:45
I came to him as like a question like, what should I tell my friend? Not thinking about the song or anything, this was what I should actually tell her. So it was more of a conversation and then we turned it into song.
Mark Mabry 11:57
Karen Ortman 11:58
Well, I think on that note, we should here he song.
Ava Mabry 12:29
(she plays and sings Eatin' Alone) Hi Friend, I'ma scoot on in/ I see red eyes 'hind those shades again/ Feels like the whole rooms looking at you,/ Well I'm sitting by you now and so they're looking at me too/ He took the table with your old friends,/ He's got some photographs too, he'll do what he's gonna do/ Mmmm/ Don't let him brand you with a scarlet letter/ Just remember he can't take what you weren't givin' away/ I heard last night that your peace went down in pieces/ I'm here now.../ And you ain't eatin' alone today/ Redemption ain't too big a word for high school/ When you feel this kind of pain... only God can make it go away?/ Walkin' home in tears a quarter past eleven/ Ain't just a homecoming date/ Don't let him brand you with a scarlet letter/ Just remember he can't take what you weren't givin' away/ I heard last night that your peace went down in pieces/ I'm here now/ And you ain't eatin' alone today/ Sister take my arm, leave this pizza on the table,/ This ain't a secret we're keepin', there's a call we gotta make/ Mmm/ This ain't no walk a shame... of shame/ Don't let him brand you with a scarlet letter/ Just remember he can't take what you weren't givin' away/ I heard last night that your peace went down in piece/s I'm here now.../ And you ain't eatin' alone nah/ I'm gonna hold you till the pain is feeling better/ Just remember I'm your friend and I ain't goin' away/ I know last night that your peace went down in pieces/ I'm here now.../ And you ain't eatin' alone/ Oh I'm here now and you ain't eatin' alone today
Karen Ortman 14:50
Fabulous. Outstanding. You give me chills.
Ava Mabry 14:54
Karen Ortman 14:55
Love it. I can just hear the audience going nuts. Beautiful. Let me ask you something. You say there's a call we got to make What do you mean?
Ava Mabry 15:08
So by that, I mean like, can't stay quiet and it shouldn't be embarrassing to tell people or to tell the right people because I think staying silent in a situation like that is so much more harmful. So by saying like, you have a friend, like I'm here for you and we'll do it together it's kind of what I meant by we're not gonna sit here.
Karen Ortman 15:32
Love it. What has the response been from your your peers? Does it have the same with them as you intend or intended when when you and your dad wrote the song?
Ava Mabry 15:47
I think it has a really good message for the right people. A lot of - I know everyone, like understood it and people understood it and what was going on in the song but um, the point of putting out the song wasn't to get it to a lot of people, I think it was just to get it to the people that needed to hear it.
Karen Ortman 16:06
Eva based upon this song now being out on many platforms, have you developed a following? And if so, what has the response been to the song?
Ava Mabry 16:17
Yeah, I have gained a following from it and the people that have followed me, I'm all reached out and just said, how the song has like, helped them. And a lot of people have actually, I think the coolest DMs that I've gotten through the song, are people saying this has happened to my friend and I didn't know what to say so I showed her the song. And those were like, cool.
Karen Ortman 16:38
Perfect. It's exactly what I would think you would want from this song. I would be very, surprised if it didn't touch a lot of people if not every person that listened to it, because everybody knows somebody who has experienced some form of victimization or works with people who are victims. So I can tell you I've passed it along to many people.
Ava Mabry 17:10
Karen Ortman 17:11
Oh, my pleasure.
Mark Mabry 17:13
Thank you. When we were like, when we got ready to release the song there's always that moment where you're battling with like, you know her first song got hundreds of thousands of streams, and you're like, hit hard. And this was the follow up song. And...
Ava Mabry 17:31
I remember, that I was like, Dad, I don't know what to do if itt doesn't do good. You know, I want it to.
Mark Mabry 17:37
We had to redefine good. So what's good? Is a ton of streams good, or is like changing a life good? Like changing a life, you, you're a you're an artist at that point, you're not just a huckster, you know?
Karen Ortman 17:56
Absolutely. Making an impact is success. Changing one life as a success.
Mark Mabry 18:04
Changing one good life who hears your song is better than 100,000 people hear that and go, oh, that's cute.
Karen Ortman 18:11
Mark and Ava, is there anything you would like to add that was not asked today regarding this beautiful song?
Mark Mabry 18:21
The only thing I would add is from a dad's perspective. There's gonna be nobody that's gonna spring to your defense and hold you tighter and defend you more than one of your parents. And especially talking to these younger girls, there's only so much your other friends can do for you. Talk to an adult, talk to law enforcement, talk to a teacher, like but as a dad perspective, if Ava came to me with this conversation, that something had happened to her, it would be nothing but love and sympathy and there would be no - the super important line was this ain'tno walk of shame.
Karen Ortman 19:17
Mark Mabry 19:19
There's no shame in talking about something that you had no control over. Anyway, so that's the thing I would add is just from a parent's perspective.
Karen Ortman 19:32
Ava Mabry 19:34
I think that the thing that this song did for me that I didn't notice when we were writing it is it kind of gave me a way of relating to people when, it's never happened to me, but to people that has happened to I love that I can be a friend to them because I feel like even though I don't understand completely, there is like some sort of passage for me to help them. It means something to them when I say I'm praying for you or understand what you're going through. And it's helpful because I have like a new way of being next to people.
Karen Ortman 20:18
Beautiful. Thank you to my guests, Mark and Eva. I'm so happy to have met you and I'm so honored that you were willing to sing your song live for us. So thank you so much. And thank you to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter. If any information presented today was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like and subscribe to You Matter on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Tune In or Spotify.