The term “freak-folk” is often bandied about when describing Boston-area musician Marissa Nadler’s work.
She recently stopped by her alma mater RISD to talk about artistic process and what drives her to create. Along the way, she cheerfully upended all the usual clichés attached to her music: “sepia-toned,” “ethereal” and “death-obsessed.”
A funny, down-to-earth presence, she was refreshingly open about her struggles with stage fright, as well as those of balancing painting and music.
“There’s a mythology that surrounds my work,” she said. “But that’s not who I am. It’s just what comes out in the music.”
A self-taught guitarist and singer who’s been writing songs since she was a teenager, she didn’t begin playing in public until she arrived at RISD in the early 2000s. Upon receiving her MAT in 2004, she taught briefly, but has been touring and playing music ever since.
After the intensity of school, she stopped painting for a long time. But she’s recently picked up the paintbrush again. She’s also started selling hand-crafted CDRs, original paintings and needlework items on Etsy.
As an artist, she doesn’t draw lines between her music and her painting and illustration work —it’s all part of a continuum. An obsessive creator by nature, she admits, “It’s hard to balance the two.” But she says it’s getting easier.
I’m posting a couple of older tracks here: “Mexican Summer,” the luminous single from her 2006 album Songs III: Bird On The Water, and the Daniel Johnston classic “True Love Will Find You in the End,” from her 2010 collection of covers.
(Pay special attention to her exquisite trio of Townes van Zandt covers.)
Marissa Nadler, “Mexican Summer” (from Songs III: Bird On The Water, 2006)
Marissa Nadler, “True Love Will Find You in the End” (from Covers, 2010)
STILLS FROM BILL MORRISON’S FILM DECASIA FOUND VIA JANVANEYCK’S FLICKR SET OF FILM STILLS.