Fem: You’re a musician. Who has served as your primary source of musical inspiration?
Marz Corbeau: I didn’t really get into music seriously until college when I started working at the campus radio station. I started jotting down lyrics and trying to learn some covers as I came across music I really liked. But what pushed me to finally start recording was catching an interview with Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee on NPR one day. Hearing her talk about the very personal process of recording her first album made it seem more accessible. It gave me the courage to record my first EP.
Lady Lamb inspires me a lot lyrically. The way she blends the personal and the metaphoric and plays with song structure just really pushes me to be more creative with my own songwriting. She’s unapologetically emotional and genuine and with a music scene that’s over saturated with artists singing about indifference, she’s wholly refreshing.
Female and queer indie artists in general really inspire me to keep going. Any time I come across a really strong female/queer fronted band it makes me want to rush home and start recording. It’s like they’ve started a conversation I desperately want to be a part of.
F: How do you approach your writing process when you’re trying to come up with a new song?
MC: Lyrics kind of come to me at random times, usually when I’m not focusing on writing, and I jot them down and save them for later. There’s a note in my phone called “Orphan Lyrics” where I keep all the lyrics that haven’t found good homes in a fleshed out song yet. Those usually wind up being a chorus or a hook. My strongest lyrics usually come to me when I’m living and experiencing.
When I feel like I’ve got enough to start working with, I tend to sit down and build a few chord progressions and slowly start piecing them together. I know when I’ve got a good song when I want to keep singing it over and over. That usually means it’s really capturing something I want to put into words in a way that feels good to sing. And that tends to be what I measure everything by, whether it feels good to sing.
I also try to be as raw and naked as I can possibly get lyrically with my solo stuff. Part of what I turn to music for is to feel understood and seen. I’ve been in bands and it’s too easy to hold back when you’ve got thundering drums and throbbing guitars to pick up the slack. Doing bedroom pop has taught me not to rely on instrumentation to make an impression, that lyrics can cut deeper than any riff.
F: A lot of your music focuses on exploring your mental illness through your relationship to the land, specifically Appalachia. Could you elaborate on this? Why do you think there’s such a strong connection between the land and your mental illness?
MC: Honestly, that’s still something I’m trying to figure out. I just really relate to the mountains. Aside from the obvious “ups and downs” metaphor, they’ve been exploited and poisoned and destroyed and yet they’re still going strong. They will outlast us all, they’re fundamentally resilient. Appalachians kind of have a love-hate relationship with outsiders for that reason and I think I feel that toxic mix of excitement and distrust in my personal life.
A lot of the industries in West Virginia are built on tourism and there’s a strange kind of tension that comes along with that. I definitely feel like, especially romantically, a lot of people I’ve known have been tourists – drawn in by the excitement and the scenic views that come with dating someone who has a mood disorder but the uncomfortable reality forces them to keep moving. I feel a bit like I’ve been mined – for experiences, for art, for other people’s transformative realizations.
The mountains are getting used up and I worry I am too, but I like to believe I’m just as resilient as they are.
F: You also mentioned that you’ve struggled to find and maintain safe living situations. In what ways has music and artistic expression been a source of solace for you?
MC: I think I’ve moved roughly 13 times in the last 4 years for various, often unpleasant reasons. At some point, I think I gave up on ever getting that “home” feeling from a place and started getting it from music. It’s my center. No matter what else is going on in my life, I can make music and some how that’s enough. It’s everything I could ever want from a home – comforting, familiar, controlled, safe. Even if I didn’t always feel physically safe in a given situation, music always allowed me space to feel safe emotionally. It gives me a sense of autonomy, agency, and self worth.
F: You’re very passionate about sexual health and more inclusive health research. Why is this such an important cause for you?
MC: I firmly believe that people have a right to information about their own bodies. Exclusive health research and withholding sexual education are two ways society really denies people that – either by not searching for the information people need or by making it inaccessible all together. Sexual health in particular is such an undervalued component of wellbeing and society makes it incredibly difficult to make well informed positive decisions regarding sex. I think it makes us less whole and I’m just really passionate about reclaiming that piece of health for myself and for others.
F: Would you say small communities speak to you on more of an artistic level as opposed to urban areas?
MC: Definitely. I’m not terribly interested in places with overwhelming opportunity and what people do when they have most everything they need or want. Our society places enormous importance on suburban narratives, on urban struggle. There’s lots of really humanizing media focusing on those settings. But rural places are continually a site of horror. It’s dehumanizing and simplistic. Rural lives are complex and multifaceted in a way we don’t often see in art, music, and film.
I’m interested by what people do under enormous restraints and isolation, how we connect when we’re limited, and how we understand each other in the absence of comparison. I’m inspired by the people who stay.
It’s not always easy and it’s not always beautiful but it’s absolutely meaningful.
Marz Corbeau is a singer songwriter currently based in Central Kentucky. You can tweet them @marzcorbeau or find their music at monongalia.bandcamp.com.