An Interview with Marina Strah
Written by Reid Smith on July 11, 2017
Last week I had the chance to sit down with Marina Strah, a 2014 Kent State graduate, to talk all about her latest single, upcoming album and what inspires her music. Currently rooted in Westlake, Ohio, Marina is performing around three shows a week locally. I was lucky enough to see her latest show at Around the Corner in Lakewood, and I was impressed to say the least.
Marina played an awesome set packed with covers of Amy Winehouse, Vance joy, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Tom Petty and Bon Iver just to name a few. She also played a handful of original songs and some really unique mash-ups. My favorite was her mash-up of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers and ‘Heartless’ by Kanye West.
Marina easily is one of the most outgoing, kind and vibrant people I’ve ever interviewed. She spoke passionately about her music and told me all about the journey it took to create her latest single. Check out the interview below to hear all about her inspirations and what’s next for her as an artist.
How did you get your start in music?
My dad is a drummer, so he started me on the drums when I was twelve. When I was getting ready to leave for college, I realized I couldn’t take a drum set with me, so I decided to try out guitar. The first time I ever sang was my senior year of high school for a talent show. I wasn’t supposed to, but we went on stage for soundcheck and I kind of just sang for a soundcheck and realized I was able to do it.
Who or what inspires you when you’re writing music?
When it comes to writing, it’s definitely personal experience. I have never written a song that wasn’t at least based off of something I went through or something someone close to me went through. It’s storytelling, so sometimes I’ll write about something and then embellish it in a way to make the story a bit different.
I am also inspired by other artists, movies and books. If I ever hear a line that really catches my attention, I’ll always think ‘that could make such a cool story for a song.’ So really I just pull inspiration from everyday life.
Some of my favorite artists to listen to for inspiration are Sara Bareilles, Amy Winehouse, and Natalie Taylor. I love Sara Bareilles for her lyrics, and I love Natalie Taylor for her melodies and arrangements.
How many instruments do you play in total and which is your favorite?
I play the drums and guitar but primarily and I do vocals. I also try to get into a little bit of piano, I can fake my way through whatever I need to but I don’t know enough to say I know how to play piano.
Tell me about your latest single, Tides.
When I released ‘Tides,’ it was the most vulnerable and intimate song I’ve ever put out in my mind. It’s all about feeling like you’re hitting rock bottom, where you’re at your lowest point and you don’t know which way’s up anymore. It’s about not knowing how to get back to a better place and to the place you were before. It’s about not being afraid to get to that place to figure out where you need to be. The whole feel of the song is that the changing tides are going to pull you in whether you’re ready for it or not, so you might as well just let go and let life happen the way its meant to, it makes it easier.
What have you been working on in the studio lately?
Oh man, so much! I have never been so excited for anything in my life. I am so freaking proud of this music, it’s unreal. Being a songwriter, you could ask any musician or any creative type of person, you are your own worst critic. I put an EP out called Run Away before ‘Tides’ and I can’t listen to it anymore. Not because I don’t like it, but because I know what I am capable of now. I really genuinely feel like there’s potential for this new stuff to do something bigger, I am so excited. It’s a really new sound for me, and I think when people hear it they’re not going to expect it, which I love. We want the first single to be released mid-August, hopefully sooner.
What have you learned in the last year about your music and yourself as a musician?
I have learned so much, it’s ridiculous. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need to stop trying to put music out that other people are going to like. I need to put stuff out that I am proud of, and that I like. The people who are going to appreciate that are going to be loyal, and they’re going to find the music and stick with it.
None of this is about getting famous. I get to wake up and do what I love everyday, that’s already enough for me. I would never want to get famous for doing something that I’m not proud of. For example, putting out a song and saying ‘okay I want to write this cookie-cutter pop song because it’s what people want to hear from me.’ I want to put out a song where people go ‘holy crap, this is Marina.’ I think staying true to your mindset, your roots and your values and not faltering from that is the biggest thing I’ve learned.
Do you ever plan on leaving the Westlake area and taking your music elsewhere?
A couple years ago if you would’ve asked me this, I would’ve 100% said I am moving to California and no one can stop me. I love California, I would go back there in a heartbeat. I interned out there for five weeks by myself, I didn’t know a soul. I flew out, found a stranger to live with, and just made it happen. If you ever get the chance to do something like that, do it. Go by yourself and discover places on your own. It was the coolest thing in the world. I learned so much from it. I also learned from that trip that if I can make something happen with music, I want it to happen in Cleveland. I want to be here, Cleveland is such a great city and the music scene is picking up so much. There are so many underrated acts and artists coming out of Cleveland, and I want to be a part of it. I’ve been busting my butt to get as known as I can here and it’s finally starting to happen and I don’t want to abandon that. I love Cleveland.
You can check out more of Marina’s music on Spotify.