Interview: Five Minutes with Marya Stark

                              Image Credit: Sydni Indman

Marya Stark, an atmospheric indie-folk songwriter who hails from California, has released her latest album, Sapphire. When not deeply involved in her Rose Arts Academy, the singer takes her place as the co-founder of the witch-folk duo Scarlet Crow and featured singer for Shattered Spell. However, it’s her unique musical style which quickly captures fans, leading them down a road of mysticism and surrealism into alternate realities. Using ancient-folk lore as a source of inspiration for her music, the songstress bathes listeners in celestial vocals and her unique story-telling capabilities.

Sapphire on SpotifyAppleMusic

Curious about this free spirit and seeking a little bit of optimism, we sat down with her for an exclusive interview.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

The arts are essential to the human condition. A balm for the weary, a gym for the curious. A way to be in our essential design as explorers, discoverers, learners. I think the arts are what make us uniquely human. They represent the out-picturing of a deep interconnected intelligence, and shake up stagnation with wonder, awe, truth, empathy, and stirring of the soul. The arts are the language of the glorious, miraculous and mysterious parts of being alive.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

There is no clear path here. Some songs come from exploring an idea through word, sound, image. Some sounds get stumbled upon which catalyze epiphanies of ideas that were hovering just outside of conscious thought until the sound paved the road for them to arrive in form. Every creation has a unique way of coming through the veils and taking me as a creator on a journey of discovery of going farther in expressing some inexpressible truth. Each time, I get a little closer.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Sapphire as an album is a collaboration between me and Joshua Penman. Two of the songs (‘Crystal Chambers’ and ‘Stargazer’) were co-composed. We started with ideas first for each of them, which then led to the exploration of sounds that might paint the world we were attempting to step into and express from. 

I also have several featured guest artists who contributed their voice as collaborative elements. Elijah Ray, Benjy Wertheimer, and Daniel Berkman to name a few on this record, who came and laid wonderful original parts to these songs which helped them come into a deeper form.

What’s on your current playlist?

Light of the Seven from the Game of Thrones soundtrack. I’m currently obsessed with this song. I’ve also been listening to East Forest, Deya Dova’s Planetary Earth Grid collection, Celtic Lullabies and Old Sea Shanties. And enjoying the ambient cello work of Garth Stevenson.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

Oh gosh, I love being with folks live. We go on a ride together, we banter back and forth within the storytelling that emerges. They are just a huge part of the experience, they get playful with me, and they make my job so much FUN. We travel together on these rides through the crevices of barely remembered memories, and get to some pretty deep moments of prayerful reunion with the holy magic that is of this world. I feel ecstatic to be on a stage with folks who will go on the mythic ride with me, and even more participate full-heartedly in where we go to through the music and storytelling.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

For Sapphire, it was lots of experimentation. We use images and scent to put ourselves in a world, then try to fund sound to match how we feel inside these realms. Its a process of using as many senses as possible to explore the sound. We took our time to describe the room we wanted to build. Then we build the sound from there.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

It really depends on which phase of the process we are in. It usually begins with me alone in my bedroom, after I’ve written a song, capturing a simple frame of the song. Then bringing that into the studio to explore adding and composing parts. Then we go into a proper studio, to build the tracks with strings, drums, guitar. Then back home to assemble, mess around, add sounds, experiment, explore. make messes. Usually 2-7 days at a time with rests in between. Then off to a new studio for mixing. Lots of times we eat breakfast, have coffee, talk about what we want to do, then go for it for 6-10 hours in a  day. This project was a beast, and we worked really hard on it. We were various studios for 100 days at least to get this project done.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

For me it was when I was in college, I started studying music therapy and my songwriting exploded. I knew I wanted to make music my life work.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

I usually have a few special altar pieces I bring with me on stage. A special stone. Reminders of certain meditations I’m keeping close. Occasional props. Mostly, I like to keep the spirit of the muse close by in my heart when I get on stage, so I can sip the nectar of aliveness with her before I open my mouth to let her tumble out.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Elijah Ray has been around for a bit, but he’s about to release a profound body of work which is mind-blowingly beautiful. I’d say keep him on your radar. Also, Fia is a wonderful emerging artist with a gorgeous voice and earnest, truthful, deeply personal songs which ring a bell of hope for those who find her music.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Waterfalls. Sleep. Thunderstorms. A clear schedule. A great poem. Glaciers. New Orleans. New strange lands. Old stone monuments. Bones. A good story. Dreams of ghosts. Bards of the old world. Ancient Telegrams. Orgasms. Full Moons and Camp Fires. 

Any side projects you’re working on?

I am working on building a library of songwriting and inspiration courses in my academy. The first one is live right now, called Courting the Muse: Sapphire Sessions. I’m taking a group of aspiring songwriters deep into the realms of the creative process. Courting The Muse:  Sapphire Sessions.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

For me, since I’ve been in the industry, my craft has been refining itself through continued studies in the art of songwriting, storytelling, and sound design. I’m always aspiring to go further with each new project in an aspect of creative voice. With Sapphire, this project went further in the multi-media approach to world-building, as well as redefining a sound that is immersive, lush, and all-encompassing. I can’t wait to build new worlds from here that explore new ways of utilizing the things I learned through this process. Ultimately its all about discovery. What more is there to uncover as a human? As an artist? As a soul on a journey through life, expressing through art?

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Well, this coming year is a mystery. With touring on a pause, I’ll be for sure making more music and video content, as well as taking some time off to re-evaluate my relationship to sound and see what else I can learn about production. I’m also deep at work at building my virtual studio library for songwriters and artists who are studying with me. Coming up with new fun ways to create courses and learning experiences that take folks on a deep journey through inspiration. 

Famous last words?

Unstoppable Joy!!!!

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