New Disruptors 47: Marian Call, Alaskan Indie Chanteuse

Marian Call is an Alaskan chanteuse who found an audience after winning a Firefly-related song contest in 2007. She has run her music career as an independent grassroots effort ever since. She connects with her fans constantly and directly, both through social media and crowdfunding, and sleeping on their floors during tours and house concerts. She spends a lot of time on the road, and we talked in person (appropriately enough, in my living room) right after GeekGirlCon 2013 in Seattle in October. She lives on Twitter @mariancall and is currently on tour in Europe. (Photo by Brian Adams.)

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Things we mention in this episode:

Marian didn't watch Firefly when it first aired, but she came to the show and loved it later. Her winning song was about the character Saffron, played by Christina Hendricks, and was called, "It Was Good for You Too." It became part of the album Got to Fly, which was commissioned by Quantum Mechanix, and contains songs inspired by both Firefly and Battlestar Galactica.

Marian cites the influence of They Might Be Giants (listen to a great interview on Unprofessional of one of the two leadmen, John Flansburgh) and Jonathan Coulton, who I interviewed about his life's work and his collaboration with Greg Pak on a comic-book series derived from his songs. We mentioned my recent interview with Devin Lucas, the director of the upcoming film about Dr. Demento.

Napoleon Dynamite also affected her profoundly. Spoiler horn! Some secrets are given away. (Thanks to Jason Snell for loaning me the spoiler horn from The Incomparable.)

Buffy or Willow? The eternal question, but Marian hasn't watched Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. However, Joni Mitchell and Weird Al Yankovic get shout-outs.

She's a big fan radio stations, public and otherwise, and notes that KidStar (KKDZ-AM) was part of her childhood, but it didn't survive for long, sadly. KSKA in Alaska is where she learned to edit audio.

Neither of us could remember the group that was very early in asking for Internet-based patronage of its music. It wasn't Trent Reznor, and we know Radiohead came later with a pay-as-you-want approach. Marian recalls one reward was signed drum skins. Does anyone remember who we're thinking of?

Marian's Donors' Circle was a self-created patronage system she posted in 2009, and it let her pick up pieces of her life (almost literally), return to Alaska, and get back to writing music in earnest. (Please note her correct use of the apostrophe.) Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy explains the everyday nature of contracts with patrons that described requirements as specific as the type and quantity of blue paint.

Bach composed the Goldberg Variations for Count Kaiserling, an insomniac, who hired Johann Gottlieb Goldberg to perform for him during sleepless nights. Bach was paid "with a golden goblet filled with 100 louis-d'or." Or it's possibly a made-up story.

Indie Alaska creates small documentaries, and shot this 5-minute profile of Marian. A female troubadour was called a trobairitz. Steve Martin's early-life autobiography, Born Standing Up, explains how he spent years touring constantly before becoming an overnight success — and then so popular he quit stand up entirely. Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged in Douglas Adams' Life, the Universe and Everything is bored of his immortality.

Marian funded her European trip and resulting live album with a series of quests! R. Steven coped with the heartbreak of USB duplication for his Kickstarter. Radiolab had an episode on the problem with generosity that comes in the wrong direction: blood donated after crises in which donated blood wasn't needed.

The New Disruptors is a podcast about people who make art, things, or connections finding new ways to reach an audience and build a community. Glenn Fleishman is the host, and he talks with new guests every week. Find previous episodes at the podcast's home.

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