by A. Michaels Uhlmann
Purely by accident I stumbled upon and was immediately taken by the unique voice of this early 30-something year old singer/songwriter – originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – but headquartered on the West Coast in Los Angeles. Clever – although very somber – songwriting and a first German tour to celebrate the release of her debut album “Hustler” (Tonetoaster/Alive), which will be released by the end of February in parts of Europe, made me search for more and schedule a phone-interview with Ms. Stoudt, who simply goes by her two first names, Marie Danielle.
“Happy songs may not service you as an artist, well at least that was my case, 2-3 years ago,” she tells me one morning, a couple of weeks ago. That “Hustler,” who is already having an early pre-release buzz, and its songwriting compared to (among others) Lucinda Williams, would even see the light of day, is quite a surprise. Working in a cubicle in the video department of an international entertainment company to “mostly pay the bills”, Marie had put her songwriting, after a stint in New York City, on hold and kept it in solitude and private. A brush with death in an abusive relationship, made her realize “that there is more to life, than a simple desk-job.” She sent some of her demo recordings to one of her idols, Simone Felice, of The Felice Brothers, who called her back and invited her to come to Woodstock (NY) to record a debut, with him and David Baron (Grammy-nominated for Meghan Trainor) as producers. As a travel and recording partner she choose Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes) just to keep her “sane” as she put it on her Kickstarter page. With enough funds raised, the two were able to cross the continent.
What was planned as a four to five song EP, became a full-fledged album. Under the aegis of Simone she started writing more songs, some as co-writes, but all very intricate and painfully personal. “I basically learned in a bit over a year, what could have taken me ten years in experience, to craft and write songs,” she tells about the decision to continue past the limited size of an EP. Asked how she writes her little opuses, she adds: “It depends on the day, how I write. Sometimes it’s a melody, some lyrics or even a concept. And I go from there.” Originally having a punk/rock background, she cites some heavy singer/songwriter artists as her major influences and mentions Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, John Prine and icon Townes Van Zandt. “No one comes even close to Townes.” she muses about the late Texas troubadour, who penned “Pancho & Lefty,” “To Live Is To Fly” and the haunting “If I Needed You.” She also cites country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons and lauds his writing abilities, how he was ballsy enough to romanticize some of his more hardcore lyrics.
Bittersweet is her love affair not only with men “they don’t seem to work out with me” but also with her current stay in LA: “this town and especially Hollywood are nothing but an illusion. It’s dirty and the glamour is not real, even though you wish it to be real. So I’m trying to find the truth and what it is all about.” A future move to either Nashville or Woodstock isn’t out of the question, “in LA there are more people making music than listening to music.”
So these maybe some of the reasons why she paints such desperate pictures in her emotive songs, as in the beautiful opening ballad – “There ain’t no moonlight in this Tinseltown / and no more sunshine, now that you’re not around / Since that day it’s been cold and grey / I know you’re gone but I’m a love you anyway.” “Soldier,” a co-write with Simone Felice, could have been written by a post-world-war-2 author like Bertold Brecht if it wouldn’t be for the fact, that the quarrels are only relationship based. Worn out and tired, she sees herself as an old fighter, unable to stop: “Where does the soldier go when all the warring’s done / I’ve been fighting so long I forgot where I come from / but when that music plays I know where I belong.” Even though full of desperation, the uptempo feel of the recording with the full The Felice Brothers band, still let a shimmer of hope shine through.
She’s “hustling” for the truth again in “One Of My Kind” where she laments “I’m tired of running from town to town,” and in “One Night Stand” begs for absolution from her partner after the encounter: “Forgive my radio silence and my one night stand.”
Musically based somewhere between (Neo)-Folk, Pop and Americana the album invites for repeat listenings with it’s sparse instrumentation. There may be a violin, a cello, an accordion or even a trumpet, but they never overpower her distinct and somehow sultry vocals, who lure you back over and over again. “I will never tell who he is,” she insists after being asked who is the inspiration for the main character in the title song “Hustler” who “could sing a tune / To you alone in a crowded room.” but then begging to not just be another name carved into the bar, like “all the suckers he’s been through.” And even with all the gloomy darkness, there are hints of redemption and hope in these songs, a light at the end of the tunnel shining so bright, that there must be a cathartic release. Asked if I forgot anything to ask in our lively interview, Marie Danielle insists to mention that she feels very honored to have been given to record “White Shoes” by Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, which is the only cover on “Hustler.”
So if you have a chance, go see her on her solo acoustic tour, all dates are listed below her videos. If her first visit to Europe will be a success, some basic language skills were learned and else she is relying on her smart phone as a translator, maybe she will change the gold leaf around her neck, with a small little world. Right now the leaf in the shape of the United States shows in the midrib her travels from Los Angeles to Woodstock, a journey we hope she will do again to follow “Hustler.”
FEB 11 THU – Die Lagerhalle, Osnabrück, Germany
FEB 12 FRI – Artfarm, Drabenderhöhe, Germany
FEB 13 SAT – Cafe de Fiets, Bremerhaven, Germany
FEB 15 MON – Schick und Schön, Mainz, Germany
FEB 16 TUE – Prinz Willy, Kiel, Germany
FEB 17 WED – A, Berlin, Germany
FEB 18 THU – Die Rösslstube, Altstadt, Germany
FEB 20 SAT – House Show, Munich, Germany
FEB 21 SUN – Zwölfzehn, Stuttgart, Germany
FEB 23 TUE – Cocktailbar Kajüte, Lippstadt, Germany
FEB 24 WED – InForo Bistro, Brilon, Germany