Birds And Bullets Sing For Zera Marvel
We sat down with the lovely and talented Zera Marvel, formerly of Tagging Satellites, about her latest solo album Birds and Bullets Fly. We talked about the album, recording, and the Seattle music scene.
The new album is out now, and it’s your first solo release since Tagging Satellites. Tell me a bit about how it was making this album?
Zera Marvel: It is my first solo release and it took me forever to put it out! Having been in a band prior to this CD, I was accustomed to other people contributing to the songwriting process. This time around it was all up to me, and I’m not as prolific as I wish I were! It is kind of nice at the end of the day though, because even if the songs are not perfect hits that everyone loves, they are all mine.
You have an eclectic sound- sometimes country-ish, sometimes more rock. Who are some of your influences?
I am influenced more by the mood of a song, or the mood of an album, more so than any particular artist. I generally love sad chords and simple phrasing, or songs that make you feel like you could be watching a movie. Musicians that are technically good singers, or good players have never moved me as much as the ones that are a little off key but right on with the mood they set.
Where did you record this album?
My husband, Graig Markel, has a recording studio called The Recovery Room. It is really convenient to have access to the studio, but at the same time it is sometimes too convenient! I don’t feel any pressure to get in and out of the studio within a week or two therefor the recording process kind of gets drawn out over time. I’ll write a handful of songs, we will record them, then walk away for a while. Then I will write a handful more and start the process over again. Perhaps I should just book a set amount of time with him so I have a schedule to stick too. I’m not a paying customer though so that also comes in to play when I’m trying to get him to go down there on his days off!
You worked with some of the same people on this album as you did in Tagging Satellites. Is it different working with them as a solo act then as a band?
After Tagging Satellites broke up, I didn’t really believe I had it in me to play music any longer. I was kind of devastated for a while, and I didn’t think I could do it on my own. It was comforting to have my friends around when I started work on my solo material since we had all worked together for years.
I recently started working on the follow up to Birds And Bullets Fly and I am now playing with some different fellows. Graig is the only remaining Tagging Satellites member that still plays with me. It was a really nice transition and I am grateful that Jeff and Shea (from Tagging Satellites) were able to see me though, they were really supportive and instrumental in letting me find my wings.
If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would be your favorite person to record with?
I am WAY too shy to record with anyone I don’t know. Even if it was the ghost of someone I admire, I’d still be too nervous!
How do you go about songwriting? Do you have lyrics first or do you have an initial tune that sparks ideas?
I used to spend a lot of time writing words. Then I found that it is a lot easier for me to sit down with my guitar and come up with a few chords that then inspire the direction the song is going to take. It is nice to have material already written to pull from, but ultimately the songs end up taking on a life of their own and kind of guide the words into place.
Do you feel like there is still a vibrant music scene in Seattle?
Definitely! I feel like it is getting better and better all the time, which means more competition! Which is great because I think that it raises the bar and makes each band/artist have to step up their game.
Do you feel like it is any harder to be a female artist in the Seattle music community?
Well, I don’t know any different, so it’s kind of a tough question to answer. As far as I can tell, it is hard to be a musician/artist no matter what sex you are and no matter where you live. Art and music all come down to personal taste and opinions and marketing.
I think it is equally difficult for every guy I know that has written beautiful songs, but still has to slave away at a crappy day job. It is hard for anyone, male or female, when you have a dream that you follow without much regard for your future. As I get older I think it scares me more and more because I’m still not able to settle into a “real” job situation, because I am not ready to give up my passion for playing music, regardless of my financial situation or future quality of life.
Are you doing any touring with this album?
I love touring. Having said that, I’ve never had the privilege of being on a financially successful tour. I don’t have the balls to ask my band mates to hit the road with me, and pay their own way, because that isn’t fair. It is difficult when you don’t have the support of a record label and a booking agent.
Where is the new record available?
It is available online through CD Baby. MP3s are also available though CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, and a few other on-line retailers. Here in Seattle, it is available at my favorite local record store, Sonic Boom.
Story by Melissa Suther
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