Band Booking: Marissa Nadler

Posted by Jason Diamond

I didn’t believe in mind-altering musical experiences until Marissa Nadler.

I had booked her as part of a weekend of music I had curated, sometime after her mesmerizing album Songs III: Bird on the Water had come out.  After running around like a maniac to please every paying person in attendance who had come to see the songstress, a friend handed me a pot brownie and said, “Dude, you’ve got to enjoy your own event.”

I ate the brownie, and it kicked in just as Nadler began her solo set in the church basement that served as the perfect setting for the whole thing.  Now, when I look back at that weekend, I remember nothing but chaos.  It was fun chaos, but I remember everything feeling really volatile, except Nadler’s set.  That was one of the great musical experiences I’ve ever had.  I literally sat there–stoned out of my mind–thinking to myself, “Music as beautiful as this exists, and I’m unhappy about my life?  I need to change.”

(Listen: Marissa Nadler – “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You” )

An artist like Nadler comes once or twice in a generation.  There are easy names you can check off as influences such as Cocteau Twins, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush; but Nadler’s voice and work is entirely her own, and her music has a strange effect on people that I’ve hardly seen before.

Her latest work is a self-titled album funded by her fans, people who understand and cherish the music of this very special artist.  I don’t know if I can say it’s her strongest work to date — because the entire Nadler catalog seems like this ongoing narrative that seems best experienced as a whole.  But Marissa Nadler is exquisite, and something you should listen to immediately, along with all of her other albums.

Your most recent album was funded by fans through a Kickstarter campaign. How gratifying is it to be able to make a record on your own, and have your fans support it?

All positive. I don’t want the way the record was made, however, to interfere with talking about the record itself.  However,  I am very grateful for the people that contributed. It is a lot of work to get out all of the records and cds and shirts out in the mail.  I would recommend people do it but keep in mind that the more your “earn” the more you have to mail in the end. I was quite overwhelmed with how big everything got but It is finally almost finished and I can take a little breather.

I have this tendency to link specific music to certain authors. In your case I’ve always listened to your music and thought of writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Flannery O’Conner. Almost like “Marissa Nadler is the contemporary music version of these people.” Does literature influence your songwriting?

Well, that is quite flattering. I suppose my debut into the music world almost a decade ago was deeply rooted in the american gothic, titling my first record “Ballads of Living and Dying.” I have to say that I have changed a bit since then. However, to answer your question, literature definitely influences my songwriting. If nothing else, reading well written prose makes me acutely aware of how lyrics should be crafted. I also like classic themes that you often see in literature. I like to write songs on these themes.

You recently talked interviewed your brother, whose debut short story collection will be published in September, on Largehearted Boy. Does writing run in the family? Do you have any plans to ever write a book or publish any stories?

Creative dedication and a strong work ethic definitely runs in the family. I think talent is useless without the work ethic to hone that talent. My brother’s short story collection is coming out in September on Little, Brown’s imprint Reagan Arthur, with a novel to follow. He is a huge inspiration for me as a working artist.

I have never spent much time writing stories because I was always painting instead when I was younger. When I want another creative outlet, I turn back to painting. But, you never know what the future will bring.

You’ve been known to cover Leonard Cohen once or twice in the past. How much of an influence is he on your work?

He is definitely a big influence on me. I think his first two records are as important to me as Joni Mitchell’s Blue in terms of songwriting. The poetry is so beautiful in his writing. It makes me want to strive for that level.

Do you read a lot on tour? If so, care to share the last good thing you read?

To keep myself busy on the road, I usually play online scrabble. I like word games in general as they keep your mind fresh. The last great book I read was Gilead.

So the album just came out the other day. What’s next?

I am going to be on tour quite a bit. When that is finished, I’ll probably write another record. I’m a lifer and I really don’t feel content unless I am creating something everyday. My mind never stops so I imagine I will be keeping busy somehow.