The Road Back to Music Journalism #5: Marina V’s House Concert in Boston
First CD Purchase Directly from Artist; First House Concert
Spring and Summer 2014
I believe I first discovered Marina V via ReverbNation. The website has rankings based on its users’ listening habits and preferred artists. Occasionally during the early days of my music rediscovery when I was actively searching for new music, I would check the charts of major entertainment cities (Los Angeles, New York, Boston, etc.), figuring if someone was among the best there, perhaps they were worth checking out. Marina V sat high among those rankings in Los Angeles. Upon hearing her music, I was quickly impressed. In the spring of 2014, after listening to Marina V’s songs that were available for free download for several months, I ordered her Inner Superhero CD. It was the first CD I had ordered online directly from an artist. A few months later, I attended a house concert hosted by one of Marina’s supporters in Boston. It was an intimate affair; in fact, during the evening Marina commented that it may have been the lowest attendance she’d had at a house concert. But a small event with before- and after-concert mingling (much like a backstage event at a concert, but much smaller) was a great initial house concert experience.
Why This Was a Step on the Road Back
This was my first CD purchase directly from an artist, which is nice. The house concert was a bigger deal, as it was the first extended time I’ve had to talk with one of the musicians I had discovered since returning. To that point, my circle of music contacts still consisted entirely of people I had gotten to know during my first stint in the music business. But the house concert sparked a desire for the first time to write a live review of the concert or to arrange an interview to help the deserving musician-in-question get more exposure, to the extent I could, wishing with greater desire than I had for years that I still published a newsletter with distribution within the music industry. So yes, this was another step that increased my desire to get back into writing/publishing.
House Concert review
The house concert was fun, but I didn’t take notes and didn’t plan to write about it, so the review will be minimal and purely from memory. It was a small event, with everyone bringing snacks and wines, a lot of mingling before and after the show. At such a small event, Marina and her guitarist/husband/co-collaborator Nick Baker were able to have nice chats with everyone in attendance. Some of the attendees had discovered Marina many years earlier and had attended many similar events, so they were recalling old times. The show itself was quite energetic and dynamic, especially considering the size of the venue. Marina played favorites old and new. There was audience participation, including the passing around of small tambourines. Indeed, “Sunshine Guaranteed” was a big crowd-pleaser. And I was particularly impressed with the acoustic arrangement she and Nick were able to come up with for one of her more rocking songs, “Win.” Overall, an outstanding performance, one worthy of any venue from a living room to a concert hall.
As a side note, during this tour, Marina produced a tour documentary, Enjoy the Ride, chronicling the journey back and forth across the country, including event and tourist stops along the way. If you take a look at the trailer, you’ll even get a glimpse of your intrepid publisher from the 1:09 to 1:13 marks. (I put down my glass of wine, take a camera out of my pocket, and pick up my glass of wine. I think you’ll find the acting to be superb and believable, most likely because I didn’t realize I was being filmed.)
CD review of Marina V: Inner Superhero
Marina V’s Inner Superhero album is another step forward in what was already an award-winning independent music career filled with memorable songs. As a performer and songwriter, Marina remains one of LA’s award-winning best kept secrets, at least beyond her lucky core market, though the fan base she has built through the years is admittedly relatively large for a still-independent musician. Musically, Marina’s songs tend to be mostly soft rock, though she proves on occasion she can clearly really rock a room when she decides to; vocally, she tends to be a mix of sweet and sultry, while occasionally unleashing her vocal power.
The first four songs on Inner Superhero showcase Marina’s stylistic range. The album kicks off with “Hello,” a song that opens with piano then builds to persistent, pleading musical and vocal power. It’s a great kickoff, followed by “Run,” which may be the best song to start with if you haven’t previously heard her music. This is an extremely well-written soft pop/rock number that ought to grace soft rock radio playlists. The verses open with effective use of Marina’s trademark breathy, sultry vocals, then build along with the music. The verses, the chorus, the transitions… this is songwriting! But that’s not the song that won me over. Instead, it was the following song, “Win,” that convinced me of Marina’s versatility, talent, ability to occupy a broad enough range of musical space to produce an album that would appeal to a broad audience and that would have staying power across multiple listens. Dude, “Win” has some chops. It’s an attitude-filled, mid-tempo, arena-worthy anthem that would be an excellent choice for an ESPN college tournament end-of-day sports montage. Fourth track “Stand,” meanwhile, is a powerful piano ballad with a message that features some of Marina’s soaring vocals. The rest of the album remains solid, as well. Depending on my mood and time of day, one of those might also be my favorite. “Stand,” for example, is perhaps the most powerful ballad on the disc. And Marina’s delivery-with-a-smile adds something really special on light, cheerful tracks like “Light Up the Dark” and “Say Hello.” In fact, watch this video of “Say Hello.” Between the cheerful song and video, I guarantee you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.
Considering her talents, Marina may have an interesting dilemma in her career, though it’s one I think she can navigate easily enough if she maintains the sort of balance found on Inner Superhero. Her distinctive vocal style lends itself to almost-folky soft-pop/rock in such a way that she likely has built a significant fan base that clamors for that sort of song; meanwhile, she has the versatility as a singer and songwriter to reach farther and wider with her music, occupying the much broader singer/songwriter (and occasionally rockin’ signer/songwriter) category. I suspect a mix as found on Inner Superhero can satisfy both audiences; I, of course, count myself among those who, while appreciating a mix of the softer stuff (and she does deliver it amazingly), think Marina really sets herself apart when she mixes in the occasional more rocking number like “Win.” Combine Marina’s world-class songwriting with her vocal and performance style that seems to connect directly from artist to each individual listener (whether live, on video, or on her recordings), and she’s just “exposure” away from much greater success.
I just thought I should share that I am a supporter of Marina V via her 2-songs-a-month club, albeit at the most minimal level. Because I “joined her club” while I was not an active music journalist, I plan to continue to honor this commitment going-forward. From a broader perspective — listen up independent musicians — this is a great idea, one that allows her supporters to pledge as little as one dollar per song (which is two dollars per month) in exchange for two songs a month. I think this is something other independent musicians should consider duplicating, if it suits their schedule and career objectives. Marina releases one new original and one new cover song each month. I suspect other artists who may not be such prolific songwriters could substitute a heavier mix of covers, if necessary. As a result, for artists with a large enough following, this could provide a reliable source of secondary income in addition to the usual performance, recording, and merchandise income that’s typically more sporadic. Something to consider, though if you, as a musician, do something like this, you’ll need to dependably follow through. After all, you’re making a commitment to your fans when you do this.
In any case, now that I’ve returned to music journalism, this isn’t the sort of thing I will be signing up for from any other artists. At the same time, since I committed to support Marina while I was still a “civilian,” I will continue. I felt it was important to reveal this support; at the same time, now that I’m a journalist again, please don’t expect me to support your music in the same way, no matter how much I like it. As a journalist, I now have other ways to show my support. But yes, of course, I will gladly honor commitments I made while I wasn’t a journalist. (This is the only remaining one of those commitments.)