Marissa Nadler Singer Songwriter Profile (Boston Globe, 6.01.12)

Posted on February 10, 2013










Marissa Nadler’s long road to the bright side



Spring seems like precisely the wrong time to start in on a brand new Marissa Nadler record. There just don’t seem to be enough dead leaves blowing across the streets or chilling drafts sweeping through the house. Things just seem a bit too full of hope. Nadler, who’s from Needham and now lives in Newton, has so far made her name with grand romances and mythic tragedies, constructing collages of American Gothic and ethereal pop with effortless, if fragile, craft. Listeners drift down rabbit holes of ghostly echoes and haunting melodies born of heartbreak and disappointment.

Recent years have brought a number of significant changes, though, not the least of which includes Nadler starting her own label last year after being cut loose from the one that got her this far.

“I’ve built this aesthetic where it’s so introspective and heavy,” she says on one fittingly breezy spring day. “Is there a possibility to lighten it up? I think it’ll just get figured out.”

Nadler celebrates the release of her new album, “The Sister,” at Great Scott on June 21. Once an artist who stocked albums with a personalized mythology and sweeping gloom and doom, embarked on globe-trotting tours, shot videos in Spain, and buddied up on the road with sludge drone bands like Earth, Nadler has made some adjustments. When Kemado Records dropped her in 2010, she decided to set up shop herself. She launched Box of Cedar Records with a solo record funded by Kickstarter. She kicked out 2011’s “Marissa Nadler” to a triumphant critical reception and began to escape from a cycle of letdowns.

Nadler says the critical success of the last album seemed to validate her tumultuous business situation and her shifting artistic direction. “You need people championing the underground arts,” she says. “There are luckily a lot of writers and websites who don’t really care if you have a big label behind you or if you’re doing it alone.” She’d gone from getting creative quotas from the label — Nadler says she was asked for three songs with drums minimum, for instance — to having no rules whatsoever. “It was great to feel the approval of some of the upper echelon review publications, especially after having my confidence knocked down having to leave the label.”

The new record takes things a step further, presenting eight starkly arranged songs whose narratives achieved some emotional distance.

“I had gotten over a lot of things and met a new person and didn’t really have those feelings anymore, wanting to write those songs,” Nadler says. “I had done that so thoroughly and now I was writing about friends in my life. There was not so much surviving as there was observing.”

Her new record still evokes the supernatural with shades of the phantasm croon of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons channeled through the smoky stare of the Twin Peaks lounge band. Here, “Love Again, There Is a Fire” and “Christine” exhale wispy breaths into roiling love songs that would be home among Nick Cave’s heavy piano ballads on “The Boatman’s Call.” Then there’s “Apostle,” a tenderly plucked affirmation of faith that things might be working out.

Nadler has never had any trouble finding road-weary melodies. From her breakout “Songs III: Bird on the Water” album in 2007, she’s followed countless muses across windswept prairies to somber guitars and twiggy accompaniment, unloading trunks full of torn gowns and writing lyrics that conjure tear-stained letters. Her recordings had been kitchen sink approaches — though she never had a full-time band, she’d found success employing musicians from all over the country, including Seattle’s Jonas Haskins (Earth) and Philadelphia’s Ben McConnell (Au Revoir Simone, Espers). Now it’s becoming more of a one-person show (she’ll perform mostly alone this summer).

“It’s a solitary existence,” she says of her time now, living in Newton and spending the day working on art for Etsy orders, rehearsing, and dropping packages off at the post office. But it’s been a turn for the better.

“If the next record ends up being happy, I’d rather it just be that than worry about perpetuating the myth of the unhappy artist. I just don’t believe in that.”


Original article in Boston Globe here.