Marielle Kraft: Having the courage to jump

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Photo by Nick Grant Photography
       

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 10 – Winter 2019 – Acoustic Artists

Sometimes you just have to dive into your dreams head first, and nobody seems to know this better than Marielle Kraft. Armed with quirky melodies and poignant lyrics, Marielle summarizes that last two life-changing years of her life in her new album The Deep End. She left her stable teaching job to pursue a career in music, moved to a new city, and ended a long-distance relationship – now she hopes that her experience can help inspire others to let go of the past pain, and reflect and take hold of their future. Not only are the songs contagiously catchy, but they are also highly relatable and appeal to a wide range of listeners. Be sure to check out Marielle Kraft – she might just be the little dose of honesty and motivation that you didn’t know you needed.

When did you first start making music, and how has your sound evolved? 

I’ve had a guitar in my bedroom since I was 13, but didn’t start making music until late high school when I fell into a group of wildly talented friends who would jam to John Mayer and The Lumineers when we would hang out. Eventually, they taught me some chords. Then in college, songwriting really became a part of who I am. Over time, my music has grown as I have, rooting influence in purposeful pop rather than the more folky sound I adopted when I first began strumming. I’ve begun to incorporate synthesizers and beats in some of my tunes to fuse my songwriting roots with modern production. Lyrically, my songs mirror my journeys through change, heartbreak, love, fears, and self-reflection. Even since my release of The Deep End EP  in July, my sound is still evolving with new material that I’m writing. I hope to always explore new boundaries throughout my career.

Did you have any major influences growing up?

I first picked up the guitar because Taylor Swift was everything to me at 13. I’d learn her 4-chord songs and sing about tragic heartbreak like I really knew what that meant. Her use of detail and vulnerability hugely influence the lyrical specificity in my own songwriting. Colbie Caillat’s effortless melodies pushed me to find the same in my song structure. Then more recent pop songwriters like Julia Michaels, Betty Who, and Maisie Peters have really fueled my exploration of production that fits more in the mainstream world. I’m on a constant search of how to keep my authentic storytelling voice while bringing in production elements that enhance those emotions in a way that connects to the broader listening audience.

Is there a specific approach that you take to writing songs?

I think 99% of my songs begin when I’m not prepared to write a song. In the grocery store, or at a coffee shop, or when I’m driving to a show, a random word, phrase, or thought will pop into my head, and without thinking, I jot it down in my phone notes. Then later, when I’m back with my guitar, I’ll work through the song if the idea is good enough. Most of these random collections of unrelated notes don’t become full songs, but sometimes they spark other ideas or at the very least, keep me mindful of my own reflections. I’m not someone who is constantly writing every single day, but when I do, it’s usually fruitful and feels like a piece of my heart was finally set free.

Your new EP, The Deep End, is the product of major life changes. What inspired you to find the courage to finally pursue your dreams? 

I think the impetus was my mom sitting me down last year asking, “If you could do anything in the world without worrying about the money or obstacles, what would you do?” As a full-time educator at the time, this question felt abrupt, but I told her honestly, “I’d want to be a musical artist. A real, touring, creating, big-time singer-songwriter.” And she uncharacteristically responded, to my utter shock, “What’s holding you back?” Until that moment, I hadn’t even considered this as a realistic path that I’d ever follow. That conversation changed everything, and I knew I had to step away from teaching at the end of the school year to give everything I had to pursue this dream in music. It meant the world to have my mom behind me, giving me the courage I didn’t know I needed to jump.

What gear (guitars, amps, accessories, etc.) are you currently using right now, and why?

My main guitar I play for shows is an Epiphone DR500-MCE Acoustic/Electric Masterbilt, which I got for my 16th birthday and has been my steady best friend since. I love its rounded bass-heavy sound (especially for when I play solo). For writing, I’m almost always on my bed or floor with my Taylor GS Mini. Its body is a more comfortable and intimate size for me in those spaces, and it’s an easy traveler. I’m looking into buying my first electric guitar soon, so I’m open to suggestions of some of your favorites!

The song “Toothbrush” consists of very real emotions tucked into lighthearted melodies. How did this song come to fruition? 

“Toothbrush” was written in the exact moment after the depicted story happened – and I think because of that, I didn’t get to filter any of the details or emotions as I wrote the lyrics. It’s a somewhat comical situation, waking up to someone else’s unexpected toothbrush left on your bathroom sink, but with that shock swirled deeper, raw emotions of “I’m still not ready to let in someone new.” I immediately rid the toothbrush from my sink and grabbed my guitar as this song flowed out of me. I’m proud of this song because it packs a vulnerable and heavier story into a concept as random and silly as a one-night stand toothbrush. It’s been such a treat to share this story every night and learn how directly people can relate to something like this, too.

Did you face any challenges while writing and recording your new EP?

Because this was my first studio-produced EP and I’m still very much shaping my sound and style, the five songs were recorded in three different studios with three very different producers. I think because of that, it’s not as cohesive as it could be sonically, but I’m still learning what I want and need in working with others to produce my music. “Test Drive” (track 1) and “Better Without You” (track 5) were written over a year and a half apart, and I think that’s pretty evident within the span of the 18 minutes it takes to listen through the project. But overall, I love this EP and am so proud of all of the work and learning that went into bringing it to life. I’m working with a few of the same producers on my new music, and already having an established relationship from The Deep End recording process has only elevated what we are creating next.

Is there a specific sound or tone that you try to achieve while onstage? While recording?

Although a number of my recorded songs include synthetic beats and samples, my five-piece backing band and I stick to the authentic track-free performance arrangements on stage. That comes with its own set of challenges, especially in making the songs compete with the fully produced ones, but it pushes us to be really tight and full of energy. I want the audience to see how I wrote each song (me and my guitar), but feel the range of emotions the band brings to the live arrangements. While in the studio, however, I’m very meticulous in recording each instrument piece by piece, maintaining the fine line between competitive pop production and the vulnerable imperfections that come with being a singer-songwriter. I want listeners to really feel me through my music, but really know me when I’m sharing the room, on the stage in front of them.

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