Maria Brink remembers sitting on the lawn of Saratoga Performing Arts Center alongside 10,300 other concert-goers on a summer day in 1986, as she watched Stevie Nicks perform. Even at the time, the nine-year-old was a music fanatic; a title she earned thanks to her mother Rita, who she jokingly admits would startle her whenever she played AC/DC records around the house growing up. For her, Nicks’ “Rock a Little Tour” at SPAC was an early glimpse of a real-life rockstar.
“I got to see all these cool bands as a young girl,” Bring said. “It really stayed with me. That was my real first influence.”
Today, Brink is that rockstar.
As she stares at a cardboard print of a Grammy award on her countertop — a gift from her manager in preparation for the real deal — Brink is celebrating a milestone achievement. Her heavy metal outfit In This Moment is nominated for a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance.” The award, for the group’s 2020 single “The In-Between” off its seventh studio album Mother, is an honor earned by metal legends like Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden. Brink is glad that, after six other records, this was the one to earn her a much-deserved nod from the Recording Academy.
The album is deeply personal — at times a reflection of her mother Rita and her unconditional love for her daughter, whom she had at 16 years old. It’s also an ode to Brink’s other mother figure, family friend Laurie Barber, who helped raise her in the Capital Region. Both of the most important women in Brinks’ life provided backup vocals on the record.
The moment the vocalist discovered her band was nominated, she said, “I cried. I cried happy tears. My heart was filled with happiness and gratitude. Just to be nominated, you feel like you won anyway. It’s the highest honor.”
Brink, in more ways than one, has already won. Outside of the obvious makeshift Grammy sitting on her countertop at her Capital Region home, Brink’s success story is a victory in itself.
A Schenectady native, Brink spent much of her early life bouncing around homes in the 518, most notably in Yates Village.
“We lived all over different parts of Schenectady,” the musician said. “We didn’t have a lot of money growing up.”
But while she didn’t have much, Rita made music a central force in her daughter’s life. That’s how Brink found her way toward her first band, Pulse, and some of her favorite venues back in the day: the QE2, Bogies and Valentine’s.
“It was a good scene out here,” Brink said. “I think it was a great place for me to figure out what it means to be in the band, what it means to play live shows. Because you’ve got to figure out who you are, it takes a while to really figure out that part.”
To figure that part out, Brink had to trust the process when she moved across the country to Los Angeles in 2000 with her son Davion, whom she had when she was 15. The move to L.A. was “terrifying,” and she may have done it differently looking back, but its results were monumental for her career and, of course, her young son.
“I guess my mother never doubted me,” Brink said about the move. “Her not doubting me and me just having this vision of what I really wanted to do, I look back at it now and I was young. And my son did it all with me. It’s crazy. He would be at all the band practices, he grew up in the music world.”
Five years after her big-time journey, Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth formed their now-Grammy-nominated metal group. Their 2007 debut, Beautiful Tragedy, spawned Top 40 Alt Rock-cracking singles. Their fourth record, Blood, saw a debut at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 and was their first record to earn a gold plaque. And, of course, by the time they reached album seven last year, Brink and gang had toured with Ozzy Osbourne and Disturbed, became titans of festival appearances and have carved out their place in metal history, even without a Grammy to their name just yet.
“Seven is my lucky number,” Brink said. “And I thought, ‘Here we are nominated for the Grammy.’ I always loved the number seven. And I’m so, so grateful that we’re on our seventh album and our band is at the strongest, biggest place that we’ve been yet. To be playing your biggest shows you’ve ever played in front of crowds. We’re like that slow-and-steady band, some bands flew past us. But then we’re like the little tortoise that could, and just kept on going.”
There’s no telling exactly where In This Moment or Brink are headed next. Outside of the music, Brink’s son Davion is teaming with his mother to open a new art gallery and event center in downtown Albany this spring. The Etrice Gallery on North Pearl Street will be housed in the Kenmore Building, with a focus on fashion, art, poetry, and music in an effort to bring a “new energy” downtown.
Outside of inspiring locals to check out some art, Brink hopes her story can resonate with Schenectady natives looking to pursue a career in music. Because, after all, a cardboard Grammy — and most certainly the real thing — aren’t too out of reach for superstars bred in the Capital Region.
“I want to inspire a little girl, like when I was young living here,” Brink said. “I had those big dreams. I still have big dreams. I’m still trying to dream them. I would love if it could just influence that one little girl or boy.”