Giving life to mystic worlds within stories, dances, and universes born of the heart, Marya Stark creates from someplace profound; she makes the invisible visible. Carrier of myth, mystery, and medicine songs. Sometimes melodies manifest from spaces esoteric, others through the untold intimacies of a messy interpersonal relationship. Marya Stark understands and communicates archetypal voices, assigning them their own personalities in her songs; she sings hymns for nature guardians, serenading the great mythic heroes that live inside our collective memory.
In September 2023, Marya released her fifth solo LP, Weightless; an exquisite collection of songs soft and vulnerable, human and dreamy. Something of a departure from 2020’s grandiose Sapphire, on Weightless Stark’s trademark celestial tones swim and soar atop delicate, barebones arrangements, basking in the dark heart of the cello, courtesy of collaborator Barry Phillips.
A baptism in surreality summoned from the depths of political and cultural unrest, Weightless was recorded at the end of 2020 and into the next year, just before Marya moved away from her beloved, longtime homebase of Santa Cruz, CA. Unpacking paradoxes of longing and wonder, reclaiming creativity in a time of chaos, and elegantly side-stepping the oncoming apocalypse, Weightless is Stark’s latest in a string of stirring sonic ceremonies, another lucid excursion through the caverns of the soul.
Multi-instrumentalist, multimedia enchantress, self-confessed storyteller, bard, and muse, Marya Stark originally hails from Phoenix, Arizona. She found her voice in the high desert, and marks a memory as a very young child singing herself into an ecstatic state as the embarkation point for a lifelong dalliance with sound art and music therapy. Later embracing poetry and songwriting in her early teens, her brother Nick gifted her a guitar in high school; by then the cauldron was already swirling and her fuse officially ablaze.
Classically-studied at the Arizona School For The Arts, Marya’s passion for psyche, sound healing, and myth led her to both an international touring choir and BA in Music Therapy from Chapman Music Conservatory. Her senior thesis project evolved into A Fork in the Road, a live concept album tracing someone’s journey through Addiction Recovery, a music therapy program Stark operated for several years.
This formalized training catalyzed Marya into a prolific period early in her career punctuated by emotionally-charged, introspective songcraft. Frozen time capsules illuminating her own human experience. Nascent explorations in soul retrieval and energetic psychology through expressive arts and ritual performance.
A decade-long run of critically-acclaimed records would patiently and intentionally unfurl. Beginning with 2012’s ambitious The Garden and its potent single “Crossroads”, a gossamer rumination that put Marya on the map in more ways than one. She spent a few years establishing herself in the live element, collaborating with like-minded artists, and making an imprint on the West Coast festival circuit. Sophomore album Qi Songs for Crystal Kids followed in 2016, blending expressions of youthful exuberance with curriculum based in energetic medicine.
Like rivers flowing inspiration, Marya’s myriad musical influences are tributaries to an artisan journey. Creatives who have unlocked doors of perception, if not defiantly kicked them down so Stark could float through, alternately angelic and fierce. Metabolizing painful relationships and the transparency of self-disclosure by way of Alanis Morrisette’s “raw-dog truth-telling”. The bizarre ghost-story channeling of Regina Spektor, and Anais Mitchell for fostering a penchant for riveting storytelling and character depth.
Stark’s earliest forays were touched by Dashboard Confessional’s hemorrhaging heartbreak and full-throttled rage. She soaked up Radiohead’s soothing, poetic nourishments in existential dread, Bon Iver’s field of energy and sad, sweet, beautiful world.
Along with Carmen Marie Gutierrez, Stark is one-half of seminal witch-folk duo Scarlet Crow. Their 2017 LP Remembrance, co-created with empyrean electronic producer Kalya Scintilla, offered six original compositions from each woman. The vibe harkens back to witch-burning times, Magdalene laundries; archetypes of antiquity coalescing with soundscapes of the now. Remembrance offers meditations steeped in self-discovery, exploring lost Oracle codes and integrating exiled elements of the Divine Feminine.
The following year, Stark unveiled yet another sacred musical space, the stripped-down, sacramental Lineage (2018) very much influenced by international women’s movements and illustrated with simple, ancestral instrumentation. Deeply informed by circling with mentors, personal studies around womb work, and the Yoniverse Monologues, Lineage is among Marya’s most popular releases, a minimalist, spiritualized sojourn dedicated to the opening of voices, collective womb healing, and the power within newly-spoken revelations.
If each album embodies a different room in Marya’s proverbial house of bards, then 2020’s Sapphire creates its own opulent fantasy world, an enchanting elucidation intended to thaw the frozen heart and restore balance to the waters within. Crafted in concert with producer Joshua Penman (Akara), whose contributions and arrangements helped Stark bring her vision to fruition. A mature record of refined dream-pop, phantasmagorical folk drenched in tantalizing sonic wonderment, heavenly harmonies stacked gloriously atop unconscious aeros, set against the serenity of elysian strings and harpsichord. Sapphire presents a spellbinding remedy for the chaos of these confounding times, evidenced by the supernal single “Stargazer” featuring kindred soul Elijah Ray.
During the global shutdowns that followed the release of Sapphire, Stark found comfort and creativity in what began as a digital songwriter’s circle with four other gifted female artists: Leah Song and Chloe Smith (of Rising Appalachia), Tina Malia, and Ayla Nereo. Collectively, they co-founded Starling Arrow – a bi-coastal, modern Americana folk-roots ensemble. Brimming with majestic five-part harmonies and tender acapella lullabies, the quintet unveiled their magnificent full-length LP Cradle to the world in 2022.
With the autumn winds of September arrives Weightless, a definitive juxtaposition to the opulence of Sapphire, yet equally compelling and complex. Stark set an intention to hold people as they traversed an unfamiliar, ever-changing realm. Voice limber and wisdom in the words (“How Did the Song?”), Marya reveals a more transparent view of self (“Under My Skin”), leaning into lush string arrangements (“Cloudburst”), examining reflection and mortality (“Crucible”), playing with her own pentameter whilst masterfully-wielding sublime tension and release (“Weightless”).
Weightless was ably-assisted by some longtime allies in engineer Andy Zenczak, who’s been making magic with Marya since debut album The Garden, and numerous projects and tributaries between. Similarly, Grammy-award winning multi-instrumentalist Barry Phillips has been a trusted collaborator for a decade; he composed and performed the string arrangements on Weightless. Daniel Berkamn, who also appeared on Sapphire, blessed the follow-up project with his ethereal kora and ondomo sounds.
When Marya Stark is not composing music or performing onstage, she is a mentor to artists and women. She teaches courses in The Art of Voice, Cultivation of the Muse, and Songcraft. Stark is the founder of the Temple Of The Muse, leading inner alchemy through immersive expressive arts containers and womb wisdom. She currently lives in Grass Valley, California.
words: B.Getz. Sept. 2023
purchase Marya Stark: Weightless here