Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Exploratory Songwriting

Marian McLaughlin is a songwriter, singer, and guitarist pushing the boundaries of folk music. Weaving together imaginative lyrics, intricate classical guitar work, and rhapsodic delivery she creates songs of exquisite detail that are delicate, yet full of depth.

McLaughlin’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, McLaughlin 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, McLaughlin takes delight in exploring and discovering ideas.  The results are often composed and cohesive, yet full of unexpected arrangements and shifting movement.

“She occupies time and territory that few people are capable of these days.”     -Music critic David Hintz

Musical Beginnings

McLaughlin familiarized herself with guitar after enrolling in a guitar class at her high school.  Her instructor as well as fellow students provided a warm, welcoming environment that encouraged musical exploration and experimentation.  While studying art and music at George Mason University, McLaughlin attended guitar master classes led by Larry Snitzler, a pupil and friend of legendary classical guitarist Andrés Segovia. Here, she picked up more technique while developing her own approach to the guitar.

Since then, McLaughlin has played live all around the DC area in prominent venues as well as intimate house shows.  She has opened up artists such as Marissa Nadler, Cate Le Bon, San Fermin, Ryley Walker, Daniel Bachman, Arborea, Hundred Waters and Six Organs of Admittance.  McLaughlin is an active figure in DC and Baltimore’s growing music community, hosting, curating, as well as performing in unique events.  She is also an Artist in Residence at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland.  In 2014, she releassed her first studio album Dérive and collaborated that summer with filmmaker Zambia 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 multi-instrumentalist and composer Ethan Foote, who wrote string arrangements for some of her songs, which were featured in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.

Looking Forward

This summer, she plans to release her second studio album, Spirit House, which will be a continuation of her musical partnership with Foote.  Their work together represents an adventurous and original endeavor in the meeting of experimental folk-rock, chamber music, and lyrical vision. Using her classical guitar work and lyrics as a foundation to a song, Foote adds a new dimension, conceiving instrumentation, texture, color, and other possibilities of sound.  The arrangements on this album will feature a string quartet, a woodwinds player, a percussionist, and a trombone and trumpet player.