Local band Common Ground began when six musicians answered a newspaper ad in November 1992.

That's all it took.Since then, the band - vocalist Julia Feguson, keyboardist Michele Page, bassist Maria Anelli, who stepped on last winter, drummer Staci Wadley and guitarists Anna Allen and Heidi Hatton - concentrated on expanding its market.

"We want to shoot for the sky," said Hatton during a band interview at Page's home. "And we hope everyone will come to realize we are a performance band."

The band has gigged extensively around the Salt Lake club circuit, regularly appearing at the Dead Goat Saloon and D.J.'s Beer Garden.

In addition, Common Ground opened for New York's recording artist Madder Rose at the Bar & Grill and California's Five Feet to the Window at the Cinema Bar. It released a CD, "Nights & Weekends . . . Only" and is currently planning the next one.

But being in an all-female band does have its challenges.

"Initially, we had an interesting time getting gigs," said Ferguson.

"A lot of people don't take us seriously until they hear us play," said Page. "There was a lot of focus on our appearance."

"Every time we called some place they always wanted a photo to see what we looked like," said Ferguson. "It's an interesting double standard. But our selling point is the music - not our appearance."

But for Anelli, who has been playing professionally, said times have changed attitudes for the better.

"We have been treated very professionally by club owners, management and employees," she said. "People are more interested in what style of music we play than what we look like. It's very different than what it was like 18 years ago."

Still, Common Ground doesn't want to be known as a female group that happens to play music. It wants to be known, foremost, as a band that plays great music. The band's individual influences include and eclectic array of folk, rock, jazz and pop - Fresh Air, Elvis Presley, Pat Benatar, the Indigo Girls, Carol King, Maynard Ferguson, Shawn Colvin and, yes, even the Grateful Dead.

The band, collectively, has a part in each of the songs it performs. And songwriting seemed to come naturally.

"We did try to do one cover," said Allen. "We tried for three weeks to get it down, and we still couldn't make it work."

"So one day, during practice, I turned to Anna and said, `Play that one song you were working on,' " said Wadley. "And 20 minutes later, it was finished."

Now the band creates songs on a very personal basis. All six said Common Ground's songs are very autobiographical in attitude, thinking and tone.

"We stopped playing songs we can't feel," said Page. "Someone will come in with an idea and explain what it means to them, and it gives another dimension to the arrangement."

"You write your best when you know what you're writing about," said Anelli.