Going over musicians who still suffer stage fright solidifies my postulations that they are humans as well. After a number of releases, with the latest clearly building off the success of prior ones, Marissa Nadler is still clingy about putting herself behind the scenes. A long career does not only reflect Marissa’s success but also signifies her myriad attempts on reaching out to a larger fan base with her genuine musical craft laden with earnest and relevant lyrics.
“I am able to get it together enough to sing in front of people because I really want to share my songs with people. If I was less shy, I would love to be able to get over some inhibitions and loosen up enough to dance on stage.”
Hey, Marissa. How are you?
Hi. I’m good. I was boxing up handmade Etsy orders and mail-order records, and working on some things related to the release of the upcoming EP.
So many critics say that your last EP was by far the best. How are you gonna top that one with The Sister?
Well, it’s always a very difficult thing to cope with the expectations and judgements of others when the work is so personal. Today, there is no hiding from what people say about you and your music on the internet. So, it’s important to just keep things in perspective. This is my sixth release, and over the course of a long career, you can have some songs that really resonate with people and some that don’t. Of course I always hope for a good reception but worrying about it makes me sick and crazy. I just try to put it out of my mind and hope for the best. Following up a well received album is worrisome no matter what but I don’t want that worry and fear to hold me back. The Sister is a companion piece to my last LP, which was the self-titled record. So, I don’t see the new collection of songs as a separate entity. I see the two albums sitting next to each other as a double album, in many ways. I would say that The Sister is much darker, slower, and more sparse in terms of instrumentation.
Have you gotten the hang of producing, doing everything yourself?
Doing everything myself has its challenges for sure, particularly in the self-motivation aspects. There is nobody telling me what to do, which is nice but can also be hard. I do have a producer, Brian McTear, who worked with me on The Sister as well as the self-titled album. Having his creative input has been invaluable.
There is this certain sadness in your songs.You even said it yourself that you’re drawn to melancholy. What has been the saddest thing you’ve experienced (or read or heard) that affects you ’til now?
I think that life itself is a series of ups and downs for everyone. My way of coping with the negative thoughts and feeling and experiences has always been to put those resulting emotions in my songwriting so that they don’t pull me down in real life. My “sad songs” are about the same thing as most peoples sad songs are about—the human condition. This condition can involve heartbreak, loneliness, depression, etc. I think that these are universal themes that really speak to people.
You’ve done almost everything—from painting to woodcarving to bookbinding to music. What’s next? Dancing?
I generally find myself most comfortable behind the scenes. I’m an unlikely musician in that performing itself still remains one of my greatest fears. Stage fright keeps me from exploring other artistic mediums that require performing in front of people, like dancing and acting. I am able to get it together enough to sing in front of people because I really want to share my songs with people. If I was less shy, I would love to be able to get over some inhibitions and loosen up enough to dance on stage.
“Working on your craft is the most important thing, and being able to toil away at something for years without the expectation of instant gratification.”
What’s a typical day in the life of Marissa Nadler like?
Because I am putting out my own records now, it takes up the majority of my day. There are a lot of things behind the scenes that facilitate an album ending up in record stores, from the creation of the songs to the distribution to the promotion. I took on quite a bit of responsibility in the hopes that it would grant me more creative freedom. It has certainly done that and I am grateful that the people who listen to my music have continued to support me. The downside is an endless series of days spent boxing records and going to the post office. But, I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t have it any other way right now.
Ever imagined yourself as a mermaid or a siren?
I would love to be a mermaid just for the chance to be amphibious, and I imagine mermaids to look just how mermaids look: long hair, a giant tail.
You mentioned you like to do collabs because it gives you a chance to sing some different styles of music. What other styles or genres do you think you’d be good at? Would you cover a Nicki Minaj song?
I actually really like Nicki Minaj. I think if I wanted to collaborate, though, I would love to work with David Lynch, The Dirty Three, Nick Cave, or Tom Waits. I also wouldn’t mind singing old time country ballads with a great band behind me.
What else should we look forward to other than the new album?
Albums after that, hopefully, if the muse strikes.
You’ve been through a lot getting your music out. What’s your advice to young aspiring musicians?
I think the best advice I can give is that hard work pays off. Even though there are more and more examples of overnight success in the musical world because of the virility of internet advertising, I think the majority of successful musicians that stay productive and successful for a long time get there by years of hard work. I can certainly attest to the fact that I haven’t had any lucky breaks, but I think just continuing to persevere through the obstacles has gotten me to a place where my work is heard and hopefully touches some people. Working on your craft is the most important thing, and being able to toil away at something for years without the expectation of instant gratification. The musical industry is one of the most cut-throat and ruthless industries there is.
Interview by Reena Mesias
Story by Miguel Escobar
Photographed by Courtney Brooke Hall
For the full story, grab a copy of STATUS July 2012 issue