Meet atmospheric indie-folk songstress Marya Stark

Let your mind wander to the gently rolling hills surrounding Glastonbury. Here, Marya Stark found inspiration within the ancient folk-lore of the Chalice Well for her latest album, Sapphire. Released via Rose Bard Arts, the album displays the songstress’s ethereal vocals and takes listeners on a journey of mysticism. Self-confessed “musical mid-wife”, Marya Stark guides other rising musicians through their own creative processes, imparting her unique story-telling methods and inspiring her students to step outside of mainstream media expectations.

We sat down with the bard, eager to hear more about her perspective on life and the endless possibilities it holds.

Tell us about you, how long have you been producing music? What inspired you to start? 

I’ve been producing music on and off for about 9 years, though writing songs for much longer. I was inspired to produce music cause I wanted to be able to share the songs that I was finding along the creative road. Producing music is really fun, and I am definitely still learning so much about the process. I’m inspired by production because it’s a documentation of sound into a form that can last for a long time, as long as these formats of digital information sharing stay continuous. 

I’m also inspired by music production because of the way it is a process of bridging worlds – this incredible imaginative infinite world of the muse lives right on the other side of reality, and the process of production to me is like carving a pathway between these worlds that live on top of each other to finally be in relationship with the listener. There is so much enrichment that happens for the human heart and spirit when we finally get to hear what’s going on out there. So I find that music production is a viable form of humanitarian work. Lol. Plus its experimental, almost like making order out of chaos through experimentation and dedication to the craft, which I find helps me to grow as a person.

The music industry is super competitive these days, was there a moment in your life that you wanted to give up on music? How did you manage to stay focused and achieve what you want? 

Music itself isn’t something I could ever give up. Music is the realm I live and breathe in. It’s like water. It’s not optional. It’s a compulsion. It’s about survival for me.

I don’t always get the industry aspect of it though. I think I’m a slow bloomer when it comes to understanding and participating successfully in the music industry. I think the poison in the fabric of most industries that are trying to sell beauty and mystery turns off the artists who are in it for the pure love of art. It all seems a little fabricated and strange, and not really what devotion to the Muses is about. Though I can understand why there is an industry around music, especially if that means people get to discover music they might not have otherwise without the machines and systems. The business is built in order to ride the dragons of the creative ideas that called music folks to the task. 

I find myself always trying to honestly balance these worlds. Staying focused on the art itself is the thing I attempt to stay grounded in. If I achieve something on the wings of the industry, then that would be nice in some ways, especially if it facilitated me to make more art and share with more folks. But the promise of industry success is definitely not the reason I’m an artist, nor does it determine my resolve to make music in any way. Mostly the idea of a music industry map is something I acquired from other people, it’s not something that the music inside me ever had much to say about. My muses are trying their best to get me to pay more attention to them as it is, and not get too distracted by the outer providence of what happens to the music once it’s out.

How would you describe your creative processes? Who writes the lyrics to the songs? Are the music and lyrics written in conjunction, or separately?    

My creative process is such a wiley animal. It cannot be contained in a paragraph. She is ever-changing, like the weather, though there are some patterns if you pay close attention. I write my lyrics, though occasionally will co-write and toss ideas around with another songwriter and producer. Music and lyrics are written together, apart, years apart, sometimes on the heals of each other, sometimes on different planetary systems. There is really no one way into a song. Each song has its own path, its own way. I like to think of it as dating. If every person you dated followed the same pattern, that would get kinda boring and predictable. I don’t think creativity wants to be predictable. Sometimes the song calls for spontaneity and innovative ways of going about it. Sometimes through a new instrument, or a new word, or a colour, or a place, or a new conversation. Any number of ordinary things can suddenly open a door to the mystical world that is the realm of song inspiration. I call this process “Courting The Muse”. Gotta take her on fancy dates. Switch it up. Keep things interesting. Expand out of habits. Let go of expectations or preconceived ideas of how its gonna go. Then you get out of the way, and something just takes you. Then you are in the flow. Then you are inside the music, and it’s taking YOU on a ride towards fruition

Where does inspiration come from? 

I imagine it comes from the same place all of creation comes from. I bet we could write anthologies of philosophical tropes about where it comes from and still never get close to a satisfying answer. For me, currently, inspiration comes from me devoting everything I’ve got to being in love with my life. Which some days is harder than others. But it’s a process of devotion to the mystical nature of love, and nourishing within my own self some acceptance of the erotic messiness of being alive in a body for a finite amount of time. 

What’s your favourite track from the album and what other bands/artists are you listening to right now?  

My favourite track right now is ‘Rose Lineage’. I just love this song, I felt like I travelled a long way to find her. Like some missing jewel of my soul, that sent me on a scavenger hunt across the ages to retrieve.

Right now I’m listening to St. Vincent, Danheim, and Ramin Djawadi. 

 What’s next for you?

More albums. More music videos. More teaching online courses about creativity and songwriting. More shows, hopefully, one day. As much music and creativity as I can stand. With touring on pause, I’ve gone back into the studio, and am working on some new tunes. Stoked to see how much music I can record in the next few years!