Singer Marissa Nadler on making Music, Art, Guilty Pleasure and more


Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Boston dream-folk artist Marissa Nadler. She’s been deemed an NPR “World Cafe: Next” artist, as well as one of SPIN’s 5 Best New Artists for June 2011. She has two upcoming shows in New York: July 27th at Mercury Lounge (7pm) and July 30th at Littlefield (8:30pm). Her performance is not to be missed.

Explain the difference(s) between making artwork and making music for you.

With music, especially performing, you really have to put yourself out there – up on a stage. It’s more comfortable for me sometimes to be with a paintbrush. I wish I could sing behind a big piece of paper sometimes. I just want people to listen and not to look.

What was the first tune you ever learned? What did you like about it?

From a Bob Dylan songbook, I played “Visions of Johanna” 1000 times. I love everything about it.

How did you find your musical style?

Practicing fingerpicking over and over again. Really practicing hard, for years and years. Finding out my voice didn’t sound good channeling riot girl bands. I fell in love with quiet and soft music over time as my teenage rebellion drifted into something.

Name an artist that you would love to spend an afternoon chatting with, and tell us why?

Leonard Cohen, because I think his lyrics are more beautiful than some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.

Who is one of your musical guilty pleasures?

Well, I don’t know if any music is really a guilty pleasure. Hole’s Live through This and Pretty on the Inside are still some of my favorite records.

How do you balance your music with other obligations?

I have a hard time. It’s all or nothing for me.

Tell us one piece of advice you’ve received that’s helped you in your career.

Don’t read reviews. I try to take that advice.

Tell us about your most memorable performance.

Any show where I connect with people – even if it is just five people – is pretty memorable.

What kind of audience has been most receptive to your music? Are there particular venues that have been better to play at than other ones?

I’m batting pretty well these days in terms of people really being receptive at live shows, but that is after about 7 years of touring. I think that seated audiences are good for me. Any room where the bar isn’t too close.

What have you learned as a musician that you could pass on to other young musicians?

You have to be able to deal with the fact that people are going to say mean things about you no matter what. Basically, develop a thick skin.

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