Interview With Lily Maelgwyn – A Character Development Exercise

From a February 2000 interview for Business Wives Monthly

Lily Cerise Maelgwyn is a bracing, and unexpected beauty, carrying a natural grace about her that shows no contrivance. She is rather tall, and even though she is eight-months pregnant with her first child, she still looks thin and toned. She has striking dark features that contrast with her pale skin. Dark hair and dark eyes and full lips that sport the only makeup she will ever allow; ruby-red lipstick, she looks as though she could have been a runway model, if not for a touch of hardness to her countenance.

Born June 21, 1973, she is younger than her 32-year old husband, Justin Cody, but seems much wiser than her years would suggest. Justin Cody is the leader and founder of Dutch Oven, who recently won the Album of the Year award for their multi-platinum debut album, Me and Whoever. He is also a member of the underground touring sensation, Colonel Manatee.

She invited Business Wives Monthly to discuss her role as the wife of a successful rock musician, and to reveal a few tidbits about herself. One gets the sense that Justin Cody could not juggle two successful bands, and all the fame that comes with it, without his wife to help point him in the right direction.

As she welcomes me into her home in Fair Oaks, California, she is all smiles and propriety, yet she has a tendency to swear a lot as she speaks; a habit she insists that she has had long before she ever met Justin (most of the foul language has been edited out, ed.). Wearing a casual maternity pantsuit, she looks as though she dressed-up for the interview, even though she still wears no shoes or socks.

One would expect a successful musician of Justin Cody’s caliber to own a palatial compound hidden away from the rest of the populace, but the Maelgwyns live in an older, established, suburban neighborhood by the American River. Lily and Justin’s home is relatively modest, resting on a 1 ½ acre property, and Lily complains that this home is much larger than the ranch they own in Connecticut. During the interview, Lily explains their humble home in their unassuming surroundings: “Justin believes that the moment he starts acting like a celebrity then everyone else will start treating him like a celebrity. If he acts like everyone else, then everyone else will essentially leave him alone. He is not afraid of success, but he is terrified of fame.” While Justin still drives his old Toyota 4-Runner, Lily recently became the recipient of their sole luxury item: a new BMW. “It’s for the baby”, she claims.

It is an unseasonable gorgeous sunny February day in Sacramento, and we conduct the interview in the Sun Room. They do have one servant who helps to clean and cook, but Lily says that she prefers to keep busy while at home, and so she does her own fair share of the chores. The servant, Marie, brings tea and home-baked bread for us to sustain us throughout the interview. Justin, of course, is in the home recording studio in the back of the property with his so-called “bar-band”, Dutch Oven, rehearsing new material for what will eventually be their second album.

 

 

So, the first question I must ask is this: Why do you go by Maelgwyn while Justin seems to disown that name?

Well, Justin’s legal name is Maelgwyn, whether he likes it or not <laughs>, and so that is the name I took when we got married. I love the name, and it is not much different from my maiden name, Michaelson, and so I wanted to be a Maelgwyn, too. Besides, I have a bit of Welsh in me somewhere, so it suits me.

 

Are you the only one who still calls him Justin?

Yes. His Mom & Dad still call him Iestyn (pronounced Yes-tin, ed.), which is the proper Welsh name, and his sister has called him Cody for years now, so, I think I am the only one left who calls him Justin. I do a kind of motherly thing with him where I call him by his full name when I am angry with him <laughs>. Justin—Cody–Maelgwyn!!!

 

How did you and Justin meet?

I was a waitress at this old seafood restaurant here in Fair Oaks called The Bait Shack. It’s closed down, now, but it was kind of a hot spot for a time. Every time that Justin was in town to visit his friends, they would all come into The Bait Shack and eat and drink and whatever else. They had been doing this since The Manatee first toured California in 1991. Well, in 1994, this was in May, I had been working there for about three months when in came Justin, Huey (Huey Guinness, Justin’s best friend, and guitarist for Dutch Oven, ed.) and Huey’s brother Terrance. Justin and I made eye contact and immediately connected. They were in the bar eating while I was in the main dining room. I kept making excuses to go into the bar just to check him out. Everyone was making a fuss over him; mocking him, and fussing over him at the same time. I guess whenever he would walk in, everyone would yell, “Hey! Rockstar!” in a facetious way, but at the same time, he was a local boy made good so they all loved him there. I didn’t care about any of that, I just wanted to meet him.

Well, it didn’t take too long before he started talking me up, and then he waited for my shift to end. We went out for coffee and talked until about 2:30 am. This was a Thursday, and The Manatee played in San Francisco on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. He asked if I wanted to see them that weekend, and he put me on the guest list. I think Sunday was my only night off from work, so I went on Sunday. I got to hang out backstage with the crew and the other girlfriends before he put me in a special section for family members. It was a great show. I fell in love with him instantly that night.

You weren’t sure before then?

Well, I knew there was something there, but it wasn’t until I saw him on stage that I knew I wanted to be a part of his life from then on out. After that show–which was the last show of the tour—they were all getting ready to fly back to Connecticut and Justin wanted me to come back with him, which I thought was ridiculous at the time, so I went back to Fair Oaks; back to The Bait Shack. For the next three weeks or so, as the band was preparing to hit the road again for the Summer—they used to tour constantly—he would call me almost every day and ask me to come out. Finally, he said, “Look. I’ll fly you out, and you can go back home whenever you want. Just stay a week.” He was very insistent, and to be quite honest, I really didn’t play that hard to get! I went out there planning to tour with him for a week or so, and I have been with him ever since. Within a month of me being there, he had already written four songs for me. How could I leave that?

You sound so cavalier about it. I’ll bet there are thousands of women who would love to be in your place.

Well, they can get their own waitressing job! <laughs>

 

How did you get Justin to move back to Sacramento?

We had been on the road together for almost a full year, and I missed my family. By September of 1994, I had officially moved into the ranch in Connecticut, but after the first winter in Connecticut, I really wanted to be back in California. I loved the snow for the first week or two, but it got old very quickly for me. Besides, I missed my friends and family. There was no way that I was going to leave Justin—we were too intertwined by this point, so I asked him…no, actually, I never asked him anything. I just told him that I really missed California, and that I wanted to go back more often.

By this time, The Manatee was already talking about slowing down their touring schedule. Everyone wanted to spend more time with their families. They were already making a small fortune at this point just from touring and selling out every show they played, and so the financial drive to keep touring was no longer there. Everyone was getting a little burned out. Justin suggested that we buy a second home in California for the Manatee off-season. He had to jump some hoops within the band to make it happen because they all thought that he was going to quit the band over a girl. <laughs> Once it was clear that he would be in Connecticut during the important, scheduled, Manatee time, then it was a non-issue.

 

You’re pregnant. When is the baby due? Details?

You noticed? <laughs> Well, she is due on April 1st. We tried so hard to have a millennium baby, but couldn’t pull it off until it was too late.

 

She?

Oh yes. We found out a few months ago. We couldn’t wait. She will be Hannah Isabella. I am so relieved that she is not a boy, because now I don’t have to fight with Justin about not naming the baby after Adrian (Valero, guitarist for Colonel Manatee, ed.)!

 

Will that slow Justin down?

Do you mean that Justin will stop touring and stay home with me and the baby? No. This will be a road baby. Adrian’s wife has two kids that are always on the road with him, and Seth (McAllister, keyboardist for Colonel Manatee, ed.) brings his daughter on the road. The wives bring nannies to help, which I will have to do, as well. The Manatee has slowed down their touring schedule in the last few years, so it won’t be as much of a problem as it would have been say, five years ago. Plus, we upgraded from tour buses to jets a couple years ago, so that helps.

 

Is there a wives club?

<laughs> Yes. We having secret meetings and plot against our husbands. No, not really. We do hang out during the shows, and once in a while one or two of us will get together for lunch, but it’s not an exclusive club, or anything.

 

What is a typical day for you on the road?

Well, so far, I act as a sort of assistant to Justin—making sure that he is awake and in the right places at the right time. I help him with his schedule and manage his finances a little. I mean, he has professionals for all of that, but I get to micromanage a bit since I am always with him. I do some shopping and sightseeing, but I really act as a sort of surrogate mother to Justin. I make sure he gets his laundry back. Kind of the same stuff I would do at home, I guess. Once Hannah comes along, I will have my hands full to do much of anything, really.

 

Where are you during the shows?

Backstage. Sometimes I will hang out on the wings watching the show, but after almost six years, let’s face it, I’ve seen the act! I usually only come out when there is new material, or something special planned. You know the Manatee; they always have some gimmick up their sleeves. Dutch Oven is a new thing, so I am out in the wings more for those nights. Some nights, I would prefer to just stay in the hotel, but Justin insists that I am there before and after each set for a good luck kiss. It’s more of a tradition than a superstition.

 

Does life on the road get old for you?

It does get a little old living out of suitcases and checking into hotels. But it’s only for about 6-8 weeks at a time.

Are you still excited to travel and see new places?

Absolutely. I have no say in the matter, but I always try to lobby for new cities when I get the chance. There are usually one or two new cities each tour. Especially with the Dutch Oven tours from last year. We went to Australia and New Zealand for the first time last October!

 

Do you have any ambitions for your own career?

Well, I used to want to open my own Kung Fu and Tai Chi studio. I had an idea for a full wellness center based on the ancient Asian medical arts with acupuncture, herbology, and Martial Arts, but I am not so sure I want to do that anymore. I am more interested in nutrition, and I would like to find a way to foster new Vegan chefs.

You and Justin have been doing Kung Fu for several years, right?

Yes. I have been doing Kung Fu and Tai Chi since 1992. Justin was doing Aikido since 1991, and then switched to the same Kung Fu and Tai Chi that I have done after we met. We still workout regularly, even though I have been limited to Tai Chi for the past three months. But, we have also been Vegan for the past two years, and I want to continue to explore that. Maybe write a cookbook, or open a Vegan restaurant.

 

What would you be doing now if you had never met Justin?

Hmmmm, probably not waitressing. I would probably be actively involved in a Kung Fu studio, I’m sure.

Do you have any great anecdotes from the road that you would like to share?

Hmmmm, from which band?

Well, what’s the difference between the two?

Well, Colonel Manatee is more sophisticated and refined, whereas if Dutch Oven were a real business, there would be HR meetings every day.

Okay then, I think we should definitely hear something from Dutch Oven.

You would have to edit too much out, I’m afraid. <laughs> Well, I guess I can tell you about the night that Justin decided that he was going to act like a Diva at the White Lotus Awards last month. He kept demanding other celebrities to get him drinks and open doors for him, something that only he and the other members of the band thought funny…and me. <laughs>

How an anecdote from home?

We like to keep our personal lives personal. Not that we are hiding anything, but whatever happens within our own walls is our own business. Besides, I’d hate to admit this, but we are quite boring.

Okay, what is in your refrigerator right now?

Fruits, vegetables, soy milk, and lots of beer.

 

What is your perfect idea of happiness?

Security, and sharing my life with my soulmate. And having a little baby on the way!

 

What is your most marked characteristic?

I have always had a little mama bear in me. I can be shy and insecure, and people think that I am weak because of that, but I can be vicious when needed. Justin says I scare him sometimes. I say, good!

 

What is your greatest fear?

Being alone, I guess. That’s pretty standard, but I would hate to have to face some things in this world without Justin.

 

What is your greatest regret?

Oh, there are plenty of things from when I was younger that I would like to take back, but since I’ve been with Justin, it’s all been great. No regrets.

 

What quality do you like most in a man?

Well, I like to think that I am an independent woman, but I think it has always helped me to have a man who can keep me in line. I can be flighty at times, and I guess I need a firm hand to put me in place. Not in a violent or abusive way, but direct enough to keep me focused.

Does Justin have that quality?

Actually, no. He hates to tell anyone what to do. I think he figures that if I can’t figure it out, then I am on my own. He hates conflict, and will not get involved in someone else’s issues. For me, he’ll do it grudgingly, so I try to make sure that I don’t ever put anything on him. He thinks I am more independent than I really am.

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