Wherever You Go, There You Are: Ali Marcus

I often contemplate the concept of Nature vs. Nurture: do your genes, where you grew up, or how you grow up, shape the kind of person you become? Perhaps all three are correct. Most of you probably are wondering where I’m going with this. Why am I so preoccupied with the science of human development? Particularly when it comes to writing a feature for a local music magazine… Ali Marcus. That’s why.

I caught up with the Seattle-based singer/songwriter one afternoon, and she reassured me that the above aforementioned subject material is a central focus in her music. What that means actually is that context is what is most important to the development of Marcus’s folk stories – even if she does name Bruce Springsteen as one of her musical influences.

“I graduated with a degree in music from University of Virginia,” explains Marcus. “Folk music is very strong there.”

Marcus is a seasoned traveler. She has lived in Anacortes for the last two years, but if you’re looking for a connection to the Pacific Northwest you won’t find one. She moved to Capitol Hill after graduating from college and seeing Paris.

“I moved here not knowing anyone,” confesses Marcus. “I am very place oriented though.”

When asked about how her genre of folk/Americana is received in the Pacific Northwest, Marcus is committed to the idea that Seattle in particular is constantly waiting for the next big thing; what’s new, whether it is hip-hop or grunge rock. “People who are nerdy about fold music like music,” she explains.

Not surprisingly, Marcus yields a variety of crowds wherever she plays, from young to old, including toddlers, she says.

Despite having shared the stage with famous musicians such as Tom Paxton, Dar Williams, Jolie Holland and Danny Barnes, Marcus designates two sisters, also singer/songwriters, who were her camp counselors growing up. The sisters, also known as the Nields, were a duo that she admired greatly and based much of her own musical sound on.

So what is Ali Marcus’s sound?

As a result of my own listening experience, I can tell you that her delivery is the opposite of bitter (a hot, female John Denver comes to mind). Her lyrics are sweet and soulful, reminiscent of Ani DiFranco, or Neko Case. Marcus’s voice is delicate and finds a wonderful partner in her acoustic guitar.

Marcus captivated audiences three years ago with her album Miles and Miles and Miles. Since then, she has amplified venues up and down the I-5 corridor, from Seattle to Los Angeles. Her ambitious touring schedule takes her to the East Coast as well during the year.

Americana Hotel is Marcus’s next album. The June 22nd release date has been three years in the making.

“I have been working relentlessly on my new album,” she explains. “I’m looking forward to the release party at Empty Sea Studios in Seattle,” a home to many burgeoning acoustic artists, including Marcus.

With a hectic touring season in front of her, Marcus hopes that her music will continue to please eclectic, folk-loving audiences everywhere, and ultimately self-sustain her as a working artist. She explains that playing venues is her only source of income.

“I have learned over the years how to break even,” confesses Marcus. “Sometimes I even end up with a little more than I expected.”

If you missed her at the Green Frog on May 25, she will be back with her guitar and folksy melodies on July 21at the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema event on the Village Green. See Marcus’s website for specific tour dates and samples from her upcoming album at www.alimarcus.com.