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Marlaena Moore talks new album, songwriting and collaborating

By Troy Hasselman, March 19 2020—

Edmonton singer-songwriter Marlaena Moore has been slowly establishing herself as one of Alberta’s most promising musicians. She has garnered opening slots for big names like Jennifer Castle, Chad Vangaalen and a now-legendary set before Angel Olson at the 2016 Sled Island Music & Arts Festival. Her latest album Pay Attention, Be Amazed! is set for release on March 27 and marks a massive leap forward for Moore. The album is co-produced by Chad Vangaalen and Lab Coast’s Chris Dadge and includes contributions from Scott “Monty” Munro of Preoccupations-fame. The album is preceded by singles “Xmas Oranges” and “I Miss You.”

“I Miss You” is paired with a dance number-inspired music video starring Moore. Moore was set to play at the Palomino Smokehouse in Calgary on March 21, but the show was cancelled after the Palomino temporarily closed in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Gauntlet spoke with Moore about the music video, her new album and her songwriting process.

The Gauntlet: Could you tell me about how the dance concept for “I Miss You” came about?

Marlaena Moore: I am a self-identified classic film and musical nerd. Ever since the idea of being in a music video at all came as an option I’ve literally never thought to not dance in it. That’s where that idea came from, and finally having a song that actually has enough of a beat that you can dance to is pretty fun. I presented it to Dylan Rhys Howard, the director, who is an old pal of mine and shared with him my fantasy and dream of what I wanted to realize and he executed it beautifully for me. It was fantastic.

G: The new album is a lot more collaborative than your earlier work.Chad Vangaalen, Chris Dadge and Scott “Monty” Munro are all involved. What was it like working with those people and getting into a more collaborative zone?

MM: It was so beautiful, honestly. Making that record was probably the most creatively rewarding experience I’ve had. Just being able to be really open and trusting with individuals who are so unbelievably talented as well as being humble and open to ideas was just such a great thing. Especially the environment we were recording in, in Chad’s converted garage, so it’s just a really relaxed vibe the whole time. I’ve also never had the experience before where I’m recording for essentially two weeks straight all day everyday. That was really nice to hone in on that and really take the time with it. 

G: There’s a lot more added instrumentation on the album. Is that more the artistic direction you’ve been heading in or is it always something you’ve wanted to do and are now in a position where you can?

MM: Honestly, it was a position I’d been wanting to head in but have never really had a chance to. Because all of my other records were self-funded and basically about getting as much work done as I can within a short amount of time. I really loved Gaze but because of the time limit we were under and the financial constraints it’s a pretty sparse sounding record, so I’ve been itching to add a lot more for quite a long time. It was kind of nice to be able to fulfill some sonic fantasies if you will.

G: This album is made in a different headspace than Gaze (2016) and Beginner (2014), of course. When you play that older material now do you have a harder time relating to it than you did before?

MM: Oh definitely. The thing that is kind of spooky about your own material is that the meaning behind it and the things you learn about yourself take on new meanings as you continue to play that material. One of the only songs from Beginner that I still play is “What You Need” and I wrote that song in 2013 and still when I play it I’m able to draw new meaning from it. When I wrote “Xmas Oranges”, I wrote that when I was still in a relationship, not really thinking anything of it. Playing it now after that relationship, it’s pretty telling and sort of strange that I was able to hear things and see things that I couldn’t even see when I was writing it. I think songs can take on new meaning as time goes on, which is interesting.

G: Your work is really autobiographical. Do you find that you have to live for a bit before you’re able to write about things or do you find that you have to constantly be writing?

MM: Because I write songs relatively slowly, I’m always writing down as many ideas as humanly possible. Whenever I’m going through a hard time, I do weirdly feel the need to break out into song like in a musical or something just to work things out in my own head. Even though the material and fully-formed songs take a little bit longer to flesh out, I’m trying to constantly have new concepts and ideas.

G: With the added instrumentation, how have live versions of songs from this album been working out?

MM: It’s a rock band, essentially. It’s funny because when we had to work out some of the more orchestral tunes in a band setting. Going into it we were like ‘Oh man, how are we going to do this?’ Most of the time it’s been like ‘Let’s just play and see what happens’ and we play it and that’s just the song and it’s totally fine and great. When we were approaching how to do “Xmas Oranges” live, that one’s a Monty-special and he basically played every single instrument on it, there’s cello, pedal steel and trombone. We went with the simple piece rock outfit and went to jam it and that’s just how it was. Just a good old-fashioned four-piece rock band.


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