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An Evening with Marian McLaughlin

Marian McLaughlin by Casey Allen 1.jpg

Marian McLaughlin is a songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist the pushes that boundaries of folk music with imaginative lyrics with intricate melodies.

Marian’s adventurous approach to music was inspired in part by Situationist Guy Debord’s theory of “dérive”, where one sets off on an unplanned route, letting their surroundings subconsciously direct the journey, "with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience". She applies this practice to her songwriting, letting instrument or idea guide her. During an interview with NPR Music, Marian explained how she sees parallels in her songwriting to dérives. She primarily writes in an intuitive manner and taps into her stream-of-consciousness when constructing lyrics. Noting that there's a vast amount of direction and space when it comes to playing the guitar, and exploration always leads to discovery. The results are often composed and cohesive, yet full of unexpected arrangements and shifting movement.

Marian started learning more about music during her high school guitar class and enjoyed bouncing creative ideas around with friends. She picked up more technique at George Mason University while attending master classes and private lessons with Larry Snitzler, an accomplished concert guitarist and pupil of legendary guitarist Andrés Segovia.

Since then, Marian has played live all around the DC area from prominent venues to intimate house shows. Marian has been an active figure in DC and Baltimore’s growing music community, hosting, curating, as well as performing in unique events. In 2014, She recorded her first studio album Dérive and collaborated that summer with a filmmaker to create a video for her song “Before You Leave”, which was featured on NPR Music’s blog All Songs Considered. She frequently collaborates with songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Ethan Foote, who wrote arrangements for her album Spirit House, some which were featured in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.

This past fall, Marian will released her third album, Lake Accotink, an environmental song cycle about humanity’s multifaceted relationship with nature. Overwhelmed by ongoing ecological issues, Marian began working on Lake Accotink as a way to to process the effects of progress. Throughout this lyrical journey, she observes humankind’s gradual impact on the environment, acknowledges the ebb and flow of natural cycles, celebrates existence of all life forms, and meditates on impermanence. Even when facing challenging concepts such as land fragmentation, plastic buildup in our oceans, and climate change, she makes sure to continuously set positive intentions for a hopeful future.

Marian's stream-of-consciousness storytelling acts as an anchor for Lake Accotink. The album leans heavily toward a chamber folk genre and features a rotating cast of ensemble members. Lake Accotink explores other musical directions, from experimental rock to sampling field recordings. Marian also pushes her own musicianship on this album by playing piano, harp, drums, and synth on top of singing and playing guitar. In a live context, Marian works with musicians that she really admires to creative intimate and innovative performances.

Later Event: June 13
Click DC Photography Workshop