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Last year, Boston-based singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler released an album that oozed with sad-stringed lamentations and haunting folk dreamscapes. The self-titled release solidified Nadler’s brand of elegant and convoluted spook-folk. Each track let listeners delve a little deeper into her mysterious songwriting realm: part fairy tale, part dirge, part diary entry. The album was readily equipped with intricate acoustic finger-picking, sonorous harmonies, and melancholic modishness. More importantly, though, it established Nadler’s voice as a dominant force in indie folk, giving her a leg up on many of her peers.
In advance of her next album, The Sister, Boston-based folk songstress Marissa Nadler presents a video for “The Wrecking Ball Company,” in which she and folk singer Ryan Lee Crosby play a couple that’s living worlds apart under the same roof.
Marissa Nadler: “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You”
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An RISD grad, multi-medium craftswoman, and self-taught guitarist, New England singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler has been no stranger to the creative outlets of music and fine arts since her youth.
Choosing to take the musical route shortly after college, the mezzo-soprano holds a discography of acoustic neo-folk that spans nearly a decade. Nadler made her US debut with Ballads of Living and Dying on Eclipse Records, establishing herself as a solo artist with enchanting reverberations, finger-picked guitars, and intoned legatos. Over subsequent albums, her sound and accompaniment expanded, culminating in a fuller, more mature sound.
Her new, self-titled album was funded through fan contributions on Kickstarter and Etsy and has since been released on her own imprint, Box of Cedar Records. Here she discusses her musical paths and the new approaches for her new album, which includes a greater country-western influence.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in music rather than the fine arts, bearing in mind you never received any formal music training?
I still dabble in the fine arts and am starting to get serious about painting again. I just go through waves with what medium I am interested in, but I don’t think the medium you use really makes a difference. I see painting and music as having similar meaning in my life. I got a really direct feeling of expression from music. In some ways, I think formal training in an art form can be kind of a hindrance because you start to intellectualize everything. Sometimes when I paint, I start to say, “This looks like this…” and with music, it still feels like I am discovering things each time I pick up the guitar. I do wish that I could read music and want to learn.
Marissa Nadler: “Baby, I Will Leave You in the Morning”
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A few years ago, when Marissa Nadler appeared on the indie-folk radar with her 2007 effort, Songs III: Bird on the Water, the Boston-based singer/songwriter was starting to get some much-deserved recognition in her brief but impressive career. Now, on her fifth proper LP in just seven years, Nadler has truly found a voice within the realm of dreamlike folk. Building on a style that she has crafted on past efforts, she continues to improve her fairytale folk pop, diving into deeper waters of heartbreak and reflection on this self-titled album.
Album opener “In Your Lair, Bear” sets the tone for the record, opening with a softly plucked acoustic steel string, as Nadler croons, “Where did you go, when the snow fell that year?” The song floats on softly and slowly, drifting through sleepy, delayed guitars, whispering percussion, subtle string arrangements, and a gorgeous vocal melody, before fading.
After such a strong opening, Nadler follows it up with even more melancholic yet euphonic arrangements and melodies, expanding on what was already presented in the opening track. And thus it becomes clear: Nadler is a pro. Churning out track after track, she is once again in her element, her dream pop moving onward, waywardly and lightly.
Having recently performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival in June, ambient folk crooner Sharon Van Etten continues her tour of the US in anticipation of her new album, Epic, out October 5 on Ba Da Bing Records.
Van Etten will play select shows in the Southeast with sophisticated dream-folk artist Marissa Nadler in September, followed by her first nationwide tour in November with indie-folk singer José Gonzalez’s new band, Junip.
Prepare for these upcoming dates by checking out her video for “Take Away Show #109” here.
With Marissa Nadler’s ethereal, reverb-soaked vocals and delicate demeanor, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the songwriter sprouting wings and flying away while playing her folky, vaguely psychedelic guitar melodies.