The Nashville Bridge – Darrell Marrier Interview
Rose water brought their conceptual Americana style Country – Rock hybrid Opera, Shotgun Wedding to Third and Lindsley in Nashville, Tennessee with a six piece band that featured duet vocals by lead singer Darrell Marrier and Jenika Marion that kicked off with a mock shotgun wedding with the “father” leading Darrell to the stage with gun pointed letting him know that he better marry his daughter after apparently taking things a little too far in a Romeo and Juliet type love affair.
Jenika then comes onstage in a short wedding dress with a bouquet and begins singing duets with Darrell reminiscent of the Robert Plant / Allison Krauss project with a visual straight out of real American life in the 1930’s with music and a story line rooted in times gone by when the parents got involved to make things right and make sure the young man married the daughter after taking advantage of a situation as they saw it.
Through the songs and music, you can really tell these kids are in love and want to tell the story from their perspective. There are hints of everything from Johnny Cash and Tom Petty to reggae type inspiration in the actual orchestration.
Each song has its own tale but the production is strung together in kind of a Sergeant Pepper meets Tommy sort of way where Jenika finally tosses the bouquet to an audience that comes from today’s world where marriage is a big question mark that many don’t want to deal with.
A shotgun wedding was a way to demand a young man show honor and respect and was usually answered in the affirmative. The concert itself was a benefit to Room In The Inn, transitional housing for homeless families and individuals. Attendees were requested to dress in 1930’s shotgun wedding attire and bring an item to donate to Room In The Inn.
Rosewater is a side project built out of song concepts that lead singer/ songwriter Darrell Marrier started formulating a few years ago and consist of members of the rock band Fragile, a band from Wisconsin and Minneapolis area with ties to Nashville.
The Marrier Brothers, Darrell and Chauncey have worked with their parents and friends to build well over a hundred homes in Mexico through their 501c non-profit known as the Hands Foundation. They decided to turn their attention to the homeless Veterans this time around and their shows now feature a benefit aspect that give fans an opportunity to participate in giving. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the show in Nashville went to a local homeless transitional housing project, Room In The Inn.
The Nashville Bridge caught up with Lead singer and instigator of this new project Darrell Marrier backstage after the show.
Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: When you started writing this project, you were thinking about how Cash wrote?
Darrell Marrier / Rosewater: It started way back with a buddy of mine that’s here at the show and came all the way from Tulsa, Oklahoma tonight. He and I were involved in a shotgun wedding of sorts. We were involved in that situation and it stuck to us that day standing outside this little chapel [laughs] and we said to ourselves, “We need to start a band called Shotgun Wedding.” It was he and another buddy and I. I knew they were not really serious about it. It was just kind of joke. But, in my mind something clicked. So, from that day forward I started working on songs just here and there. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it or if anything was going to come of it. I thought that just down the line I would just try it out. It was “roots” kind of music. As I developed it, the idea for the story came first of what these two people would go through, where they might be from, what might happen in the story then I started writing lyrics. It kind of developed from there.
TNB: Do you think that the Country Music aspect came out because of the storytelling?
DM: It did. That is why I wanted to set it in that time period. We set it in the “30’s.” That was kind of the era we wanted to be in with this project. Now, the music doesn’t always sound like it’s from that time but that’s when the story takes place. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened with an actual shotgun. But, it was that idea that got me thinkin’. I was going back to Johnny Cash as the first sound I wanted to reference. The first sound I wanted to reference on the project was Cash. It was that old simple “train” songs as you call them, storytelling and that was where I wanted to go with this project. I just wanted to go back to telling stories. I hadn’t heard enough of that, you know, recently in modern stuff. It [Modern Country Music] doesn’t tell enough stories. It’s more about being “poppy” and trying to come up with some new beat.
TNB: Like “Red Solo Cup.”
DM: Yeah. Exactly, a lot of this Pop Country is not doing anything. They are losing the “roots” you know. So, the thing is there are some people doing it [real storytelling] but in my mind I wasn’t hearing enough of it. So, Cash was the first thing that was on my mind and that’s the first few tracks. The first track that I wrote was “Shotgun.” It was based on that “train” beat.
TNB: The snare.
DM: Yeah, that shuffle with the Bass.
TNB: The only time outside of a Cash type thing that you hear that was probably on Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz.”
DM: [laugh] Exactly, that was the thing. So, that was the first song that I ever tried to put together. I was writing kind of wherever I could write. I would just try to demo songs out then one day..
TNB: You came here three years ago and you had no “Tennessee” in you.
TNB: It was good Rock and Roll very reminiscent of some Hard Rock bands from the “70’s.” Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would have a connection with Tennessee?
DM: No. Not at all. At that point, three years ago we were doing that Rock thing. We had that record out with Fragile. It was just at that point that we took a break from that. It was not a hiatus or anything. All the bands use the hiatus thing, “We are on a hiatus” but, we just thought it was a natural break. You play for a while then you try to push the thing as far as it can go and it comes to a stop and so we had a longer break than usual. So, I was getting kind of restless and I was just sitting. That’s when I decided to try this out. I demo’d it. I just wanted to put something together to give people an idea. So, I just slowly decided I was going to show this to some people. I showed it to the boys to see what we could put together. That’s when it started and they all jumped on. I was lucky enough that they wanted to try this thing out. That’s how it happened. I pitched them five demos and then we got the band together and put a show together in our hometown at this winery, a nice outdoor show. As we developed the sound it became a theme and the record was going to be a concept record.
TNB: What is interesting about that is there are not a lot of Country concept records.
TNB: I’m trying to think and it’s really hard to think of one.
DM: Yeah, not right off the top of my head. I know concept records are not the most popular thing right now. Complete records are not very popular right now. Everybody wants a single and done.
TNB: But the whole thing is this project is very cohesive.
DM: Right, I knew it had to be that way. So, whether it was the popular thing to do or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s what is going to happen. It’s what the story is meant to be. So, I started writing in an “Arc,” which is not real easy because you have to fill in all the pieces of the music but not make it sound like it is just telling the one story. I wanted each song individually to be its own thing. So, I tried to do the best I could. It was really difficult but a great challenge. I was really excited about it and then it started coming together and I would just pick out a title from somewhere. I would pick out a title like we need a song about this and I would just write the song based on the song title. Once I got inside the story, you know, just inside the characters…So, this wave of creativity just hit me and I couldn’t stop writing songs. I still can’t.
TNB: Do you feel like it is a path now?
DM: It is. I think so. We haven’t stopped or quit the other band [Fragile] we are in, I just feel like we are all pretty committed to try this thing out because it just kind of blends everything together that we have always wanted to do and adds the storytelling element and the thread of the story that we are telling and it is pretty exciting to play. Also, adding some of these “roots” elements is exciting to us.
TNB: I still hear Rock influences, a little bit of Robert Plant…
DM: Oh yeah.
TNB: A little bit of reggae in there.
DM: Always Plant, another thing that was a big influence on me was the Robert Plant and Allison Krauss project Raising Sand.
TNB: How did you decide to do the duets?
DM: That was something right away that I figured out right after the story came to me. It was like when we’re doing live shows we gotta be able to play it out that way so I knew we would need a female singer like this young lady that just walked in.
TNB: Now you have Robert Plant & Allison Krauss going on.
DM: Yeah, it was that early on during writing that that record [Raising Sand] was hitting me at the right time. All of that album is so good, you know and the way they blended that; he’s a rock and roll man and they blended his vocals with hers and that sweet bluegrass voice of hers is unbelievable and then of course, T Bone Burnett [producer, Raising Sand] is a mind blower on that. He set the foundation for all of that.
TNB: He has done that for a lot of Artists. I didn’t know if you knew that he is the Music Director for the Nashville TV series.
DM: I do. I have kind of followed him ever since. I mean I kind of knew about him before Raising Sand.
TNB: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.
DM: Yes, that was another one that was on my radar but that Raising Sand was a big thing at that point and I started hearing the way the duet thing would work. It was perfect, that’s it.
TNB: It also had electric and the acoustic thing blended up’
DM: Exactly, it’s got all of it and that was what I was after and that was the perfect timing. Then I heard that record backwards [Raising Sand track listing]. My buddy had it burned backwards. When he imported it, it was exactly backwards which changes the whole record. I’ve heard it both ways. I like it better backwards. It opens with “Your Long Journey.” It’s just a mandolin, acoustic thing.
TNB: Did you listen to the Band Of Joy album at all?
DM: I did. Another one I really liked.
TNB: Buddy Miller was the bandleader. Darrell Scott, who is a phenomenal songwriter, is like the Utility player.
DM: The lead guitar guy in our band is a huge fan of Buddy Miller.
TNB: Buddy Miller can do anything from Gospel to Rock.
DM: He’s one of them guys. So, I was listening to that and watching what was going on. It was with those kinds of things in mind that I started setting the tone of what I wanted this thing to sound like, definitely the duet vocals, the blend, the man and woman duet thing. You know, whatever was right. A lot of this record is going to have that.
TNB: Did you work with Chauncey [brother, guitarist] on the songwriting or instrumentation? Who did you work with?
DM: Most of the demos, I did it. As far as them, I would put the demos together structurally, because I was so into it. I was so in deep.
TNB: You got your brother on the mandolin.
DM: That is when I started adding those guys. I said this is what I am after.
TNB: Do you think it’s interesting that your keyboardist / violinist, Christopher Marion, is living down here now?
DM: Yes, and so is his sister. The drummer Adam Box that we have had him since 2010has lived down here. As quick as I could, I brought the demos to these guys and we basically had the trio with my brother who is always the guy I write with and Chris the Fiddle man.
TNB: That is the core of the songwriting right there.
DM: That is the core. It is the orchestration. In the rock and roll project [Fragile] it’s the three of us. This happened to be something that I was cooking up on the side. So, songwriting wise I was kind of cooking this up. As far as instrumentation goes, those are the guys you want. It’s hard to say enough about Chris, he’s an incredible player. His sister, Jenika Marion is the singer.
TNB: They are from up there, right?
DM: They are from up North and they just moved here. Those were the two I immediately wanted. All the people in the band are people I wanted. It’s basically all the guys from Fragile. It’s all five and then we added three. I wanted Jenika to sing, no doubt about it, because she did some stuff with us in Fragile. When we were playing, she would come up on stage, once in a while and she would cover that song, “As Long As I Can See The Light” and she would come up and just blow everybody away, you know. We grew up together. I grew up with Chris. I grew up with Jenika. We grew up with Matt and Karl is part of my family. He married my wife’s cousin, you know what I mean? So, it’s just all a family thing.
TNB: You have great vocal range and are able to do a lot of things but what I notice that is different from Fragile is the challenge of the melodies, having enough distinction between songs. Do you feel the same way?
DM: Oh, definitely. It was a welcome challenge to create those melodies like you are talking about. It was very important, because sometimes you are relying on the same kind of chord structure and they can come across as simpler sounds underneath. You’ve got to come up with a melody over the top of that thing to make it interesting.
TNB: How do you feel your songwriting process evolved through this project? Has it helped you improve your songwriting process?
DM: Yeah, big time. I got into more storytelling. Fragile was kind of the same way. There was some storytelling going on but not to this depth and type.
TNB: There was more of an esoteric poetry approach with Fragile.
TNB: In other words, you would sit down with Fragile and think about what you were writing instead of this style, where you are actually telling an American story.
DM: That’s better than I can say it. Fragile was actually more abstract. That’s exactly right and this is meant to be things that you can relate to. Things you know immediately. You don’t have to hunt and fish around for what it means. It’s right there for you and that’s what I liked about it because it changes the whole way you write so it wasn’t only a challenge but it frees’ you up to just anything. So now, going forward, I think it’s definitely becomes easier. It’s like this: I got this musical section. I need a verse over it and click it just happens.
TNB: I could see that the way you are doing songwriting now that it is going to be easier to say” I’m thinking about this story,” and on you go. It is just a natural process, like; next year is another album of Rosewater.
DM: I’m thinking ahead already. In my mind, it kind of opened the floodgates. I am about an album and a half ahead. I have an EP planned. A side story. This story could go and go. So, in my mind it just keeps going on. So, I have an EP planned and a second record that I am already working on: A full length thing. I know full length things are not popular, but who knows about that. Who can explain how to release music or how to make it in music?
TNB: It’s like if it’s collectible vinyl it’s put out on Record Store Day, who knows. Things like that.
DM: We are going to release this on vinyl. It will have the download thing with it but vinyl was what this was meant for so maybe we are going back where this probably isn’t the best thing to do in modern music.
TNB: Who cares?
DM: Exactly, this is what it is suppose to be. We don’t want people to lose the roots where are all this stuff came from and that’s what this project is about. You know, we put together a little family band and making the music that I think is really important; the history of music. The stuff that set up all the stuff that is happening now and we can’t just all forget that stuff. So that is what is important now.
TNB: Obviously you are from Wisconsin and the band has some Minneapolis roots and you have all of that support up there and you have this thing going on with Tennessee now for about three years and now you have a couple of band members down here …
DM: I know.
TNB: When are you guys moving down here?
DM: Little by little, man! Piece by piece, it seems like people just get drawn to Nashville. Our bassist, Matt Ozowski is drawn here. He’s like “I don’t know, every time we come down here, it’s like, what are we doin’? Why don’t we just stay?” I don’t know. It’s very possible because this is a great town. We always have a great time when we are here. Amazing things happen when we are here. The people you run into. The people you meet.
TNB: I could really see you guys really fitting in down here with what you are doing now.
TNB: It would work very well.
DM: We are going to try to be down here as much as we can. This is where we wanted to kind of send this thing.
TNB: I was talking to your Mom and I told her you need to get a Condo down here.
DM: [laughs] You talked to Mama?
TNB: Yeah, you need to move down here for at least a year.
DM: Yeah, no, I agree. I think to make this thing work we are going to really have to, we are going to push it and we are going to need to be down here a lot. That is definitely our target. This is the place for this sound to be at.
Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom