Interview: Marissa Nadler

Your upcoming album is called "Sister", as in a sister album to your last year's eponymous LP. Why did you need to release a "sister album"?
I felt the songs were unified both sonically and by the time period in which they were all written. They are recorded in the same studio and they are very much unified by the writing style. It's only loosely a "sister" because I do feel the new album stands on it's own as a musical entity.

Are all the songs on "Sister" new? There is a video of "Your Heart Is A Twisted Vine" on youtube from a few years back.
"Your Heart Is A Twisted Vine" is the only older song on the album. Even though I wrote it many years ago, I still felt connected to it and wanted to see if I could make a well recorded version of it. Carter Tanton's guitar parts on the album version make the song that much more spectral and ghostly.

In both "Marissa Nadler" and "Sister" you have worked with Brian McTear in the production. What made you choose to work with him again, after your co-operation in "The Saga of Mayflower May"?
I was looking for a producer that I was also friends with. I had a lot of songs after Little Hells, before the self-titled record. I didn't really know how to make that list of songs smaller. I felt really comfortable around Brian and during that phase in my life I really needed to stay with people that I could really open up to. I had just started to release my own music as opposed to working with a label so I felt that everyone on the team should be someone I had a long history with. I really liked all the production work he had been doing, and my mind was made up with Sharon Van Etten's Epic. I just loved how he let the songs shine on that album. He's just a great producer.

I've noticed a change towards a more natural/stripped down sound. Why did you choose to go this way?
If these records are "sisters", the new one is definitely the more stripped down version. I consider it the more nighttime listen. For these songs, I didn't pre-meditiate and say "no drums" but I just didn't go into the recording session with songs that were pop songs. This collection is definitely more of my Leonard Cohen/Sybille Baier type of record than any of my other ones. I just wanted the warmth of the voice and the sound of the guitar. There is a little instrumentation but not much.
"Love again, there is a fire on your chest". What a line, couldn't have put it any better. You are a true master of the art of writing perfect love songs, whether it is about new love, lost love, despair, etc. What makes a good love song, then?
Thanks Stavros. That song is very much about learning to love again after having your heart broken, and learning to start over. I think that the only prerequisite for writing a good love song or a good breakup song is that the experience is true and real. No matter what you are trying to write a song about, if it isn't an actual experience, I think it is harder to make the song emotionally convincing. Of course, there is plenty of room for surrealistic writing and some of my favorite songs fall into that category, but I feel love songs have to have been experienced.

You are now running your own label (Box Of Cedar Records), you financed your album via Kickstarter, you arrange your own shows, you produce and art-direct your videos, you sell via etsy.com. So, as a trully diy artist, how has the experience been so far? How is it better or worse than being on a label?
I'm not sure yet! It's great having the freedom to call the shots but it is without a doubt a lot more work and it takes away from the time just spent making artwork. I don't know how things are going to pan out in the future. I'm definitely not opposed to having Box of Cedar become an imprint or licensing outside of the united states the last two records. I did the financing the way that I did it at the time because I had to. I'm not sure what the future brings. It's very expensive to put out your own records and labels do so much of the funding. So, it's something that I don't like to think about that I'm forced to think about. I'm hoping some movie director calls me up or emails me and wants to use my music in a film. One little thing like that would make the world of difference for what I'm doing. I'm just grateful that for now that there are people listening.

Talk a little bit about repressing your first two records with lost tracks!
I just put out Ballads Of Living and Dying when I was with Mexican Summer and we put out a lost song. I'm still hoping one day to be able to repress the second record.

You are also a painter, you make prints, t-shirts, pillows and sell them via etsy.com, along with your vinyls and cds. Any new plans regarding your art projects?
To be honest, the ETSY stuff is a lot of repetitive work. I'm hoping to do more commissioned pieces and custom works of art not relating to music at all. So, I'm intending to get back into fine art on a more serious level.

Are you planning to visit Europe for shows?
Yes. The plan right now is to head to Europe in October. The audiences in Europe are always so lovely that I really wish I lived closer.

You played in Athens back in 2005. What do you remember from that show and your stay in Athens?
I remember everyone being incredibly nice and hospitable. Playing in Greece was one of the more memorable moments of my life and I really hope to return.

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