This Monday, April 24th, Sacred Bones recording artist and friend of PHILTHY MAG, Marissa Nadler, will be in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection for a particularly intimate evening of music, when she kicks off her solo headlining tour at our very own MilkBoy. I recently got a chance to chat with the singer/songwriter for the first time in nearly a decade. See what she had to tell me about playing live, her back catalogue, and her other artistic endeavors.
Izzy Cihak: First of all, since this is a Philadelphia publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, considering you’ve spent a lot of time here over the years, both making music and playing live shows?
Marissa Nadler: I love Philly. I recorded several albums there, and have a lot of friends there.
Izzy: You’re kicking off a short batch of solo dates here at MilkBoy. What can be expected of the live show, both in terms of setlist and just general vibe of the night? You’ve put out a lot of new music recently, across numerous different releases.
Marissa: I’m going to be pulling songs from my discography and hoping to entertain everyone. I certainly have a lot of songs to choose from, so I’m trying to pick the songs that really emotionally still resonate with me. Many will be from the new one (the ones that translate well without a band at least).
Izzy: Considering that you have a pretty huge catalogue at this point, how do you decide on what songs you’re going to “bring along” on any given tour? Does playing solo, compared to with a band, have a big impact on that?
Marissa: Yes, exactly. Certain songs just don’t have the same impact without the band, though a song is a song is a song. So, I’m trying to create new versions of the ones that I need to. It can definitely be hard to pick the songs.
Izzy: Do you have a favorite type of setting to play, whether barrooms, listening rooms, nightclubs, theatres, or anything else? I’ve seen you a handful of times at both Johnny Brenda’s and World Café Live, which provide pretty different environments.
Marissa: I like a dark room and dimly lit lights. I like fog machines. I kind of prefer black box rock clubs to sit down venues because it’s a comfort thing for me.
Izzy: You’ve spent a ton of time on the road over the years. Do you have any especially significant touring rituals, whether relating to places you make a point to go or just your process of living life on the road?
Marissa: I just try to stay grounded and keep my perspective level. No one show is gonna make or break anything, and I try to stay in the mentality of living in the moment. I try to remember not relax.
Izzy: This is a personal question, but I have to ask how you currently feel about your 2011 self-titled album, which holds a really special place in my heart? I vividly remember getting an advance of the album and loving it, and then seeing you play World Café Live alongside Sharon Van Etten that September.
Marissa: Well, that album is 12 years old now. A lot has changed in my life since then. I have a fondness for the album because I released it myself. I consider the album as a bridge between my early and later work in some ways, at least in a timeline way.
Izzy: Okay, this is even more personal, but I remember at that show you said that you still had a flip phone, so I have to know if that’s still true? I’ve still had a flip phone this whole time and am kind of proud of it, haha.
Marissa: That’s definitely not still true. That’s wild that you still have one.
Izzy: The last time we spoke on the record was in 2014, when you had just signed to Sacred Bones. How has it been working with them and being a part of that family for all these years? They regularly put out so many amazing releases!
Marissa: It’s been an amazing experience to find a home for my music alongside such great acts and artists. Those releases that started with July and continued to the work I have recently put out, is the stuff that I’m most proud of.
Izzy: In addition to music, I know you also do visual art. How do you feel like the two mediums compare? Do each encourage you to explore different things, or are they more or less just two platforms for whatever you’re currently thinking and feeling… or some combination of those two?
Marissa: Well, I consider them connected in terms of how I experience the world. I’m very visual, for instance, being a painter, and that definitely comes through in my lyrics.
Izzy: I actually just found out that you teach! (I’m a liberal arts professor, but I suspect that’s somewhat different from what you do…) How did that come about and how is that experience for you?
Marissa: I have a masters in art education that I got after my BFA. I was an art teacher on and off for years. I love teaching and now give private lessons on a variety of subjects, both fine art and lyric and songwriting.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you? What are you hoping and planning for after these dates wrap?
Marissa: I have several special projects that I’m working on and some music videos to make! Another album is always in the works. Thanks so much.
*Get your tickets here.