For the first part of her life, her voice was a source of embarrassment and ridicule. Now, with her third album on the way, it's her bread and butter.
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"Are you insane?" she recalls him saying. "You need to pack your bags and get in your car and drive to San Diego right now. Most people don't get offered their first radio gig anywhere in California."
Her deejay career took off, but Marina says the constraints of commercial radio never allowed her the freedom of expression she'd come to love at KSCU. For that, she turned to playing her own music.
Phase II: She grabs a guitar.
An ex-boyfriend had given Marina a guitar, and she began teaching herself. Never short on ambition—as a 7year-old she wrote a letter to Disney asking for pointers for getting cast in movies—the novice songwriter was soon hitting every open mic she could fit in and scheduling mini-tours on weekends and vacations.
In 2005 she released her first album, Miss Halfway, which caught the fancy of tastemaker Alexandra Patsavas, renowned as a music supervisor for television and movies. Patsavas chose the "Miss Halfway" single and another song for inclusion in the 2006 season of the television show Grey's Anatomy, the first of several shows, including Gossip Girl, to use Marina's music.
The resulting windfall let Marina buy a new used car—one with a working driver-side door so she no longer had to crawl across the console like she did in her old ride. Friend requests on her MySpace page skyrocketed, sales increased, and a buzz in the industry greeted her second album, released by Patsavas's Chop Shop Records.
While Miss Halfway conjures images of a singer-songwriter sitting on a stool in a coffee shop, Slow & Steady Seduction was more of head-bopping, rocking affair. Even with her success, it's hard to get sales traction in a world of downloaded music, and the stress of always worrying can be overwhelming. Her 2010 EP followed a barren year of songwriting—though it, too, scored time on Grey's Anatomy.
As for that voice, Marina recently offered this take in a tweet to fans. "For the first part of my life, my strange voice was a source of embarrassment and ridicule. For the second, it was my bread and butter."
In 2010 she hit the road again—but this time in a moving van: departing Southern California for Portland, Ore., where she bought a house, gardened, made some friends. She wrote songs and poetry. In December she released a five-song EP, Spirit School, and went into the studio to record her third album.
Felony Flats is due out this summer. "Notice Me" and "I Found My Mask" are a couple of the song titles that emerged from studio dispatches. And, if the report from Day 14 of recording bears out, expect some "sexy, creeptastic, vaguely stevie-wonderful bass lines."
She hopes to host a few more dinner parties at home, then she hits the road in the U.S. and U.K. to support the new album. And, she says, "I am in the middle of a sort of dream I've had for a very long time."