Along with creating rich, compelling music as a solo artist, local singer/songwriter Marya Stark plays in duos like Scarlet Crow and Stark Levity, works as a music therapist, teaches compassionate communication, practices Qigong and leads workshops for freeing up the voice.
On the day that Local Santa Cruz spoke with Marya by phone, she had just returned to Santa Cruz from a short tour with Kalya Scintilla and Eve Olution. She was preparing to mix an album with Kalya and Carmen Crow (the other half of Scarlet Crow), gearing up for a full season of shows this summer and putting together footage from various community flash mobs for a video for her song “Unstoppable Joy.”
Local Santa Cruz:
Do you have a name for your style of music?
[Laughs] Okay, so I’ve been practicing this! The whole body of work that I produce is bigger than what’s online at the moment, but I’d say the stuff that I have recorded and out is indie-folk that’s steeped in the bardic arts and infused with storytelling. I have a lot of different concept albums at play right now: There’s a whole concept that’s just medicine chants for women, I’m about to release an album next month that’s all educational songs for kids, and then I have The Garden online, and a couple of those tracks are cinematic indie-folk pop music. And this music that I’ve got with Carmen Crow that’s about to come out has more of the deeper storytelling. We’re calling it witch folk, ’cause it’s witchy—it’s got these two ladies with pretty harmonies and deep, darker storytelling.
My mission with music is really to excavate the soul: What parts of our personalities and of the psyche and sub-parts of ourselves can we really explore and discover and unearth, so we can be more complete in our process? I came up in music studying music therapy, and I got really inspired to start writing songs during my music therapy training. Parts of my soul get revealed to myself through the songwriting process.
What have you found out about yourself through this process?
Well, I’ve found out that I have some pretty dynamic longings. There was a period of time when all of my songs were about heartbreak and about wanting to be seen, loved and appreciated. Those were the songs I wrote in high school, and in college I discovered parts of myself that I had compartmentalized and hidden from myself because of trauma. Certain songs really revealed root causes of addiction and of a lot of the suffering that I had gone through. My spiritual curiosity became revealed to me later, and then the part of me that really loves theater, that is really into characters and finding our sub-personalities—that’s been revealed more recently. Another part that’s been revealed recently is the one in me who is really interested in learning what the stories are that I carry in my womb as a woman, and just the stories we carry in our body. There are stories that have come through in the last couple of years that appear to be remembering other lives, whether it’s remembering my own past lives or just peering into the collective memories.
“Crossroads” seems like one of those songs. I’d be interested to know what inspired that song and what it means to you.There’s a really intense story to that, and I’m not sure if I’m going to tell the whole story here [laughs], but we’ll say that the root of that song is connected to a little bit of those past-life things, but the heart of that song is connected to where our culture’s current relationship is to the divine feminine. There’s a lot of rhetoric around the reawakening of the Goddess, and I’ve been curious about that: What is that? What does it mean? I’ve been studying history—especially European history, and specifically around the witch-burning times, when this big turnover in society was happening. The witch burnings are a very stark example of what had been happening, where the land rights were being taken away and starting to be government rights and religious rights. There was a cutting off of some of the natural rhythms and the mystical part of consciousness. That still has an impact today. If I think about how all of these women were burned alive, and what a symbol that is to society and to people now, hundreds of years later—how does that affect our relationships with each other?
That song kind of burst through my own relationship ending. I notice that if a relationship ends, you’re in this really tender portal where a lot of information gets revealed, because who you think you are is dying. The ego structures are dissolving.
That song wrote itself through me, and I had no awareness of my own self when writing that song. I had no idea what I was writing, and it took me years of playing the song and really being with it to really understand what kind of relevance it had in my own life.
Is that generally true? When you’re making music, do you feel like you’re allowing something from outside yourself to come through?
I’d say it’s about half and half. Sometimes I’ll come to the empty page with a really strong intention for a song. Other times I’ll just be bored, and some random-ass story will come through. Those songs are really fun, because they’re always surprising to me. I’ll kind of pick apart those songs for a couple weeks: “Oh! That’s what it means. Oh, cool! Weird!” And then other songs are spontaneous channelings. Those are my favorite songs. I’ll have these images spiraling around in my mind for a week or two, or sometimes a couple months—sometime years! And then all of a sudden a song will completely come through in, like, two minutes. I’ll just be writing it and watching, [saying] “What the…?” It’s fun to see the difference between songs that have to be written and songs that I feel like writing. They have a different flavor.
Any final thoughts?
One more thing I’ll mention is a documentary I’m a part of called Out of the Silence, which is a film about sound healing and the power of sound to change our body structure and affect our consciousness. This is a documentary that I started with my friend Tessa when we were in college. We did it as our thesis together. It’s in its final stages of editing. It’s something that I’m very much looking forward to sharing with the world.