By Amy Dabalos
MariGo (Mari Sullivan, she/her) is a Seattle/Los Angeles based music producer, vocalist, & instrumentalist. Drawing on hip hop, R&B, & indie rock influences, MariGo weaves her stunning vocals into a rich & playful tapestry of vibe-y, laid-back beats.
What inspired the song selections or theme of your playlist?
The women on my playlist are people who I believe have challenged and elevated the place of women in music. Some are incredible singers and songwriters who send a message of confidence, compassion and love. Others demonstrate a mastery of technology and skill such as Grimes and Kimbra. All are artists who I either grew up listening to or are currently listening to a lot of right now and lend me inspiration every day.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
Jamila Woods—her most recent album LEGACY! LEGACY! is so incredible! I love how the album is both self-reflective and full of political commentary. She’s not afraid to be bold and speak her mind but manages to do so in a sensitive and compassionate way. I am in love with her voice and the blend of jazz, hip hop, and r&b on this album.
What advice do you have for other artists?
Learn what it feels like when your intuition is triggered and follow it even if it seems illogical or nonsensical. Practice this every day so it becomes easier to follow in more difficult situations. There are so many things in this world that can lead us astray and take us away from our art. I’ve found that when I constantly choose “reason” over my intuition, I end up paying dearly for it and my art suffers. Choosing to be an artist requires a good amount of risk-taking and often these decisions don’t come with any guarantee. If everyone always chose the practical or logical path, there would be very few artists in the world!
How do you spark the creative process? What are daily/regular practices in your process, if any?
Firstly, I meditate every morning for about 20 minutes. If I don’t, I’ll immediately get carried away with my to-do list and music is pushed aside. Meditating allows me to handle my daily tasks and keep space for creativity. I also love giving myself random music assignments which often leads to more developed ideas. For example, I like learning a few new chords on guitar or transcribing a song I’ve been enjoying. Instead of sitting down and thinking that I NEED to write something (which can feel like a burden), I try to learn something new and often that is enough of a spark to get me going. Lastly, getting outside everyday and just enjoying nature is essential to my sanity and creativity.
How has your background in classical music informed your musical journey?
Because I grew up playing and singing classical music, melody and harmony are typically what I’m drawn to and what I enjoy creating the most. I love using my voice as an instrument and creating dense layers of harmonies and melodies that cover a broad range. However, having focused on classical music for a long time imposed certain limitations to my writing and creativity which have been difficult to overcome. So much time spent on technique and memorization left little room for exploration when I was in college majoring in classical voice. Transitioning my focus from classical music to “pop” music was very freeing. I was able to pick up music production quickly because of my theoretical background but was freed from the expectations and rules of classical music. Since learning Ableton Live and transitioning to popular music, all the music that has been stored inside me for years has begun flooding out, and my classical training has given me the tools and skills to bring this music to life and create entire arrangements.
What is the overarching message in the new music you’re releasing?
Self-reflection, forgiveness, and acceptance. Although it may not be extremely clear in the lyrics, this was the process I was going through while writing the EP (out on Sept. 6). I had just come out of a long relationship and started a new one without really processing the old. I had also overcome years of debilitating illness caused by exposure to toxic mold. I felt like years of my life had been taken from me. I felt like a failure in my relationships, my career, and my health. Writing this EP allowed me to reflect on my own behavior and emotions surrounding a failed long-term relationship. By becoming aware of these aspects of myself, I was able to forgive myself, accept what is and move forward without baggage. In a world where we are constantly distracted by social media and technology (myself included), we often don’t take time to self-reflect, letting old emotions of guilt and blame fester. Music is my way of freeing those locked away parts of myself so I can better forgive, love and accept myself and others. I hope that this music encourages others to do the same.
When you’re not making music, what do you do for fun/recreation?
I love being physically active in almost any way. I am a devout yoga/meditation practitioner and also teach. I love to hike, take my pitbull out for long walks in beautiful Seattle parks, bike, and swim. I read tons of books ... I’m a hardcore sci-fi/fantasy girl and can never watch or read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter too many times. I’ll go to a concert any day of the week. I also love playing video games when I have the time!
Who has made the biggest impact on your artistic journey? Any specific educators, mentors, collaborators, or otherwise?
My mom! She is a painter and encouraged my sisters and me to delve into art and music from a young age. When I was young, she would take me out of school for the day, and we’d go downtown to watch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra rehearse. That’s how I fell in love with classical music! She is always supportive of whatever new path I take in music but can also give important criticism, things other people might not want to tell me. Coming from a family that mostly works in the medical field, she made me feel that it was ok to pursue music. Not only ok but important and necessary.
Where is your favorite place to perform or make music?
I love making music while I’m traveling and have minimal gear. Even though I love making music at my home studio, it’s so easy to get bogged down with other tasks, chores and work. When I’m traveling, I have no choice but to let those things go. Also, being in a new place can be extremely refreshing and spark a lot of new ideas. Having minimal gear can help get rid of distractions, as I’m required to be more resourceful and think simply. Also, I’ve found being near water helps my creativity. Before living in Seattle, I visited my sister here and was staying in a place right on the water. In just those few days, I wrote or at least started to write 4 new ideas that I’ve now finished and one of them is on the EP (Distant Lover)!
If your music could choose a place to live on earth, where would it want to be?
New Zealand. Although I haven’t been yet, it’s a place I’ve been longing to go for a long time. The landscape is so breathtakingly gorgeous. There’s something remote and spiritual about it that draws me in. Places where the mountains meet the sea have always felt like home for me and my music.