“I really like the warm tones of this guitar and the beautiful design. When I got the guitar, I almost felt like it was made for me and was a perfect fit.”
Marissa Nadler is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and fine artist based in Massachusetts. Since the early 2000s, she has released seven official studio albums, as well as several EPs and covers compilations. She is currently signed to Sacred Bones Records and Bella Union Records. She has collaborated with many well-known musicians, including black metal’s mysterious Xasthur, Angel Olsen, Okkervil River, and Father John Misty. In 2016, she graced the covers of the Wire Magazine and Spin Magazine, following the release of her latest full-length, Strangers.
PRS: What S2 model do you play and what aspects of your S2 guitar drew you to it?
MN: I play a S2 Singlecut Semi-Hollow in Antique White. For many years, I only played acoustic guitars and am almost exclusively a fingerpicker. I was looking for something that would cleanly translate the sound of my picking style but be more adaptable, sonically, because of the innate nature of an electric guitar.
I find the semi-hollow was a really good choice for me because I didn't have to change my right hand style to become an "electric" player and my style of playing really comes through. I really like the warm tones of this guitar and the beautiful design. When I got the guitar, I almost felt like it was made for me and was a perfect fit.
PRS: How do / did you go about finding your own sound as a guitarist?
MN: Well, a lot my style came about because I'm a lefty who learned on a right-handed guitar. It was the only guitar in the house. As a teenager, when I was learning, I wasn't immediately given a lefty guitar, and didn't want to wait for one. I was eager to learn and eager to start writing songs. So, I just learned righty. My right hand, at first, was very resistant and I remember sitting on my bed in high school for hours at a time trying to keep a rhythm. Eventually, it clicked. But, the most natural way of picking for me has always been to use just my thumb and first finger. Sure, I've had a lot of people give me unsolicited advice over the years, but most often have heard how I should really add the rest of the fingers. For me, though, as is the case with most art forms, there's no right or wrong way to do something. I play a version of the Piedmont blues style of playing, which I arrived at first by my own limitations but then grew to really love the clarity of having less fingers involved. I alternate the bass notes with my thumb and play the melody with my first finger. I fell in love with finger-style guitar at a very early age, listening to Joni Mitchell and early Leonard Cohen records. From Joni, I also became very involved in open tunings. Some of my first tours, dating back to well over a decade ago, were with American Primitive guitar players like the late Jack Rose, James Blackshaw, as well as a long friendship with the critically lauded Glenn Jones. I learned a lot from them about technique and the exploration of the instrument and definitely have to mention them as having a major influence in my development as a guitar player.
PRS: Do you have a favorite or most used pickup position? If so, what do you like about it?
MN: I honestly have found them all useful. When I want the clarity, especially if I'm picking a stripped back solo song, I'll use the treble pickups. I use a combination of the treble and bass pickups when I'm playing with my band because the clarity pokes through while also adding some warmth and body. To tell you the truth, I'm still discovering some of the combos that I can use.
PRS: What do you do to warm up before you hit the stage?
MN: I generally, if there's time, do a full hour of vocal warmups. I particularly like Joy Askew's vocal warmup tape or the Reinhart School of Music warmups. Then, I often listen to my favorite music before stage to remind myself of the "why," which is often easy to lose sight of in this industry. I should say I do scales or something but I don't. Maybe I'll start.
PRS: What song or album could you listen to three times in a row?
MN: Joni Mitchell's Hejira was the first thing that came to my mind. But, I could probably come up with a bunch to fit that description. I think she was around my age when she wrote that album and the lyrical themes have been deeply resonating with me lately.
*Read Marissa's interview with Spin Magazine.