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Boston singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler brings Strangers on tour to Ireland

Boston-based singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler has just released her superb seventh studio album. Ahead of two Irish gigs this weekend, she talks to Brian Campbell

Marissa Nadler plays Dublin and Cork this weekend

WHILE Marissa Nadler deals in dark but dreamy indie/folk/rock, the Boston-based singer-songwriter certainly has all manner of heavier influences.

As well as turning her hand to Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath covers, she admits that she had a definite 'grunge’ period as a teenager.

“I was really into Nirvana and Hole and that kind of stuff. I started playing guitar because my brother played it and then it was also the age of MTV, so you’d just come home from school and sit down and watch music videos on TV.

“Everybody wanted to play guitar and be in a band because it was a cool thing to do. I started writing songs after that.”

In line with her slightly heavier influences, Nadler has Wrekmeister Harmonies – a collective billed as an “avant-doom/drone project” – as her backing band and support act on her current tour, which takes in Dublin and Cork this weekend.

“People should definitely get to the shows early if they like heavy music. It’s not what you might expect from coming to my shows, but I hate listening to a whole night of the same kind of thing.”

She counts late US guitarists John Fahey and Jack Rose among her heroes, but when you listen to the poetic lyrics and spellbinding vocals on her epic new album Strangers, it’s easy to understand why Leonard Cohen has been such a big influence on her.

Nadler wrote about 60 songs in total for the new record, before whittling it down to 11. Among the standouts are Skyscraper, Janie In Love, All the Colours of the Dark and the title track.

“On the whole the lyrics revolve around the broader themes of isolation and searching and strangers. I don’t actually see the title track as the centrepiece; I just think it was a good name for a record.

“Janie In Love is definitely a beast to play live, because it’s one of the more complex songs that I’ve written; there are so many layers. We’ll aim to play that one live, but I have so much material from other records. I’ll probably do a section at the end of the show where it’s just me on my own, for people who prefer the more intimate stuff.”

One of the most intimate songs on the album is the stripped-back closing track Dissolve.

“The record was originally going to end with Waking, which is about waking up from a dream about the end of the world, but there was just nowhere else Dissolve could go – it had to go at the end,” says Nadler.

Looking forward to her Irish dates, Nadler says that “pretty much everybody I grew up with was Irish” in Boston. “My husband’s last name is Ryan, so you can’t get much more Irish than that.”

She says the first concert she ever went to – with her parents – was Jethro Tull and Procul Harum, while getting to see an Elliott Smith gig when she was still in high school was another highlight.

Nadler says she is very happy with the cover art for Strangers, which features a striking photograph of her taken by Ebru Yildiz.

“At first I was worried that it would evoke a 'not confident’ vibe because in the photo I’m hiding my face, but it’s quite powerful. I look a little muscular in it.”

Did she do a bit of weightlifting to get in shape for the photo-shoot?!

“There’s no need for weight-lifting when you’re a touring musician, because you’re always lifting things. I’ve got some guns,” she laughs.

Marissa Nadler plays the Button Factory in Dublin tomorrow and Cyprus Avenue in Cork on Sunday. The album Strangers is out now on Bella Union (www.marissanadler.com).

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