A Peek Into Wavelength 2014: An Interview With Marnie Stern

By Stuart Oakes

Brooklyn, NY based Marnie Stern is best known as a guitarist, but there’s a lot more to her chaotic, uptempo songs than just technical wizardry. Already four albums in – her latest, The Chronicles of Marnia, arrived to general acclaim in 2013 – she’s still discovering new facets of a sound she has made uniquely her own. Demo Magazine caught up with Marnie to grab her thoughts on her latest tour, what she’s been up too, and where she’s headed next.

Demo: You seem uncomfortable with being known as a “guitar hero” or “guitar goddess”. What do you think is a really underrated aspect of your music, or something that you’ve put a lot of work into that you’d like people to pay more attention to? 

Marnie Stern: I’d like to be known as a good songwriter as a whole. I put all of my effort into writing songs and that ultimately is what I would hope people would pay attention to.

Album art for The Chronicles of Marnia.

Album art for The Chronicles of Marnia.

D: You spent most of the spring and summer doing a pretty large tour of North America and Europe. Now that you’ve had some time (hopefully) to relax a bit and think it over, how would you say it went? Is there anything particularly interesting, weird, or notable that you’d be willing to share? 

MS: Touring has been consistently great over the past few years. The audiences have been receptive and we’ve had a lot of fun. I can’t think of anything out of the ordinary happening recently, but it’s always fun when something crazy goes down for a fun story.

D: Other than some dates with Deerhunter and a couple other shows here and there, it seems like you might have had some time for yourself recently. How do you adjust to “normal” life after constantly being on the road? What have you being doing with all the free time?

MS: It’s easy to adjust. It takes about a week or so but then I’m right back in my routine. I work on songs when I’m home so that takes on a life of its own.

D: I’ve read that you personally have had mixed feelings about your last album, The Chronicles of Marnia, despite the almost overwhelmingly positive response. Has touring behind it forced you to come to terms with the record in any way? In hindsight, is there anything in specific that you would have done differently?

MS: I can’t really say. I’ve had a blast playing the songs and they’ve taken on a new form from playing them live. Any qualms I might have had will likely just cause me to do a few things differently on the next record.

D: Marnia focused a lot on your struggles with creativity and self-doubt; are those still things that you grapple with? 

MS: Always. It is in my DNA

D: I’m curious about your writing process because your records seem to have become increasingly personal over the course of your career, peaking, for the moment, with Marnia. How do you go about writing a song? How has that changed?

MS: I’ve always gone about it in the same way. I piece together guitar parts and then try and find vocal melody over that. I inch my way through until there is a full song. The only difference in songwriting now is that I used to write the entire song in one day and now I write a song over the course of a few weeks.

D: Have you ever rethought music as a career choice? You’ve been very open about not making a lot of money, struggling to get records out, and having to put things you’d like to do on hold until your situation is more stable. That’s a pretty daunting reality to face, but here you are and it seems like you’ve found a way to make it work. What’s kept you going?

MS: I’ve never rethought my career choice but I am fearful about find some stability for the future all the time. I have never been one to care about money, so that isn’t ever at the forefront. But I do worry about creativity and the mental challenge of trying to stay happy with my work. Overall though, I am a songwriter and that’s what I Ike doing so I have never thought of a career change.

 D: What would you like to next? Any ideas or general pet projects?

MS: I’m working on my next record. I would love to score a movie as a project so if anyone out there has a movie that needs music, contact me!

You can catch Marnie Stern performing on the second night of this year’s Wavelength Music Festival, on Friday, February 14th at Adelaide Hall. More information can be found here.

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