|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS MARiANNE KESLER
WHAT A PEAR!Because there is so much happening in pop music, there is little time for sparseness. Sure every now and then you get a SUZANNE VEGA or a DAMIEN O. RICE but how often does that happen? Singer-songwriter MARIANNE KESLER has been a real folk music trooper since the nineties and on her sixth and latest LP ĎPEAR IN THE PINK THINGí she proves 100% that the never-failing confessional lyric is here bag and sheís sticking to it. Produced by J. BENJAMIN KESLER, the album showcases MARIANNEís reliable songcraft (namely on the tracks EVERYTIME and POETíS DREAM) and allows the singerís sweet, wispy alto pay tribute to one of her musical idols ĖNEIL YOUNG Ė on the albums two covers OHIO and THE NEEDLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE.
MARiANNE KESLER TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HER LATEST CD PEAR iN THE PiNK THiNG
HER LOVE AFFAiR WiTH THE GUiTAR
AND WRiTiNG FROM LiFE EXPERiENCE
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with MARIANNE KESLER over the phone. Here is how it went.
Now that your album THE PEAR IN THE PINK THING is out there for everyone to hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
I like it. I am probably my own worst critic. With every album I do it seems like Iím hoping to get a little better and a little closer to where I want to be but this is finally one that I feel I can put on and listen to and go Ďyeahí! Part of it was simply getting to the point. This is my sixth project of original music and it was about getting it to that point where I didnít have to try to be like anybody else. This is me, these are the songs I like to sing and we totally took this approach of giving the song the treatment it needed as far as production. Iím really happy with it.
So with previous releases you were discouraged form being yourself?
Probably not discouraged but it was definitely an issue of trying to find myself perhaps. I think artists are under some pressure to consider what is selling at the moment or what would be current at the moment. Iíve been a singer-songwriter that started on my own and then veered off into a band sound and I traveled with a band for a year. Itís great fun but with this album it was intentional that I said ĎLook, I have to be able to go out there with the guitar.
What drew you to music in the beginning?
I think music came into my life when I was a really young child. I took up viola when I was ten.. That is when they come around in school and play the instruments for you and I didnít know anything about stringed instruments. I just picked the viola because I have an alto voice and itís the a lot instrument. After about a year of that, I discovered the guitar. I was somewhere on a Saturday afternoon with my mom and sheís busy visiting and Iím bored out of my mind and these people have a guitar in the corner. I asked if I could see it and I do not remember the rest of that day Ė it was the beginning of this love affair with the guitar. I was twelve. I taught myself to play it and I never stopped. Eventually I gave up viola in preference of the guitar so I could sing along because I enjoy singing. I think thatís how it all started.
Was there any particular group of artists that spoke to you specifically?
I have always been attracted to the singer-songwriters so I definitely got a heavy dose of the folk rock influence. JUDY COLLINS is my all time favorite artist. Her voice to me is amazing so I was always fond of her singing but I also loved JONI MITCHELL and loved the way that she played with words. I was also a big NEIL YOUNG fan, which is obvious because I put two of his songs on the CD. Those were probably my earliest influences. I loved the singer-songwriters, especially the ones that went a little deeper with what they had to say. With that being said, I was also a big DYLAN fan.
At what point did the person who picked up the guitar become the songwriter?
When I was about eighteen I was starting putting words together while I was figuring out tunes on the guitar. My very first song actually was putting a psalm out of the Bible to music. The joke is that Iíll owe DAVID copyrights when I get into heaven. I started with that and then I would take songs that I would listen to on the radio and if I didnít like what the song said then I would just tweak them so in the end I would have all of these altered songs and it grew from there. At that time, all of my music was pretty much guitar based. I would sit down and pick on the guitar and a song would come to me.
Explain how songwriting works for you these days?
Well the one thing that has stayed true throughout my songwriting career is that it starts with a concept first. Something in life will trigger an idea. It can be something that I see or something that I feel and I will just get immersed in that thought and that concept almost to the point distraction to the rest of whatever is going on in my world. I used to always sit down with the guitar and the rest would come along but lately something new has developed for me where I will write on the computer instead of scribbling it down. On the computer, it is so easy to edit. A lot of my songwriting now takes place on the computer and because of that often the concept of the song is coming before the music. Itís kind of new for me. Now Iíve got files of songs that I write and then later weíll go in with the music. Songwriting for me always comes from a very personal place. It might not be my story or something that happened to me but itís at least something that I have seen or observed. I have a real difficult time approaching the whole thing as if it were an assignment. It kind of hits me and when it hits, it hits hard.
Off of this album, what songs stand out for you and why?
I like EVERYTIME. I wrote it when I was touring and I was thinking about how often I work so hard at coming up with deep introspective lyrics but because Iím a rather moderate guitar player, Iím always looking for that interesting chord to throw in there but I had realized how many commercial songs are just so simple. So I decided that I was going to write a three chord song but it actually turned out to be four. I just wrote a very simple song Ė simpler than what I would usually write and people really like it and I just love the way that it came out in the studio. I just think itís really laid back and kind of bluesy. Conceptually, I really like POETíS DREAM because itís kind of the heart of who I think I am as a writer. I had one reviewer say that I was Ďa lyricist with the heart of a poetí and I take that as real compliment. I think that is a strong suit and that song kind of reflects how the poets and dreamers of the world truly believe that their ideas can come true. I think that is a call that we have to put that out there and remind people that there is something greater out there that we can be. I really like that song as well.
Who did you work with in making this album.
Interestingly enough, BENJAMIN the producer played almost everything. In times previous I worked with three different producers out of three different studios. BENAJAMIN played almost everything while I played acoustic guitar and vocals and I wrote everything but he very much deserves credit for the arrangement and the producing as well as the engineering and the playing. It was all BENJAMIN and I
Prior to the interview, you spoke about getting into photography. Are there any plans on incorporating visuals into your music.
Thatís interesting! I never thought about that. So far Iíve just thought about putting them with this prose that I have been writing. I have also thought about a concept for a next album and I think that if I go in that direction, I would like to put out a little book or booklet with it that would have the lyrics as poetry and some additional pieces that would go with it.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this album?
I think I would love it if someone could walk away saying ĎWow! That really gave me something to think about!í I would like for people to think that my music said something in a new and refreshing way and if they walked away with a sense of peace then that would be wonderful.