Marie Hines Bio

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller

Marie Hines

Supporting The Tide and the Sea

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a creator. She cooks dinner, she bakes cupcakes, she’s an avid DIY-er, and true to her Southern charm, she’s not afraid to get down in the dirt if it means cultivating something colorful and fragrant. Drawing inspiration from nature, The Tide and the Sea boasts music that mimics the fine lightness of a summer wind and the rolling current of a cool autumn stream. By broadening her scope and expanding her thematic obsessions, Marie has fallen right into place between Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, an artist as vibrant and smart as she is talented.

Marie nurtured her musical abilities early while growing up in small-town South Carolina: “I started taking classical piano when I was about six. Music was kind of something I developed on my own. I started writing at the age of twelve.” And something struck with a chord with Marie, who moved to Nashville in 2005. “I came to ‘Music City’ to surround myself with people that were better than me. I knew I needed that constant challenge in order to become a greater musician.” Marie found inspiration among fellow songwriters as well as larger acts like Norah Jones and Coldplay, all the while developing her own class of bright, satiny melodies.

Those familiar with Marie’s debut, Worth the Fight, or her follow-up EPs, The Living Room Sessions and HeartCrash, will recognize her characteristic feminine grace, billowing piano refrains, and incandescent strings, but there’s something new and exciting in this collection of love songs. On The Tide and the Sea, Marie’s brush strokes are broader, more confident. Like a bright-eyed bride lifting her gauzy veil for the first time, letting the sun dazzle her and the wind brush her skin, the young singer/songwriter is stepping out and making strides.

“The title comes from the idea of love as a push-and-pull; it’s a tug-of-war type thing; it’s a dance. The tide rises and falls back into the sea, but it always falls back into the sea. Love is not easy, but when you’ve found that one right person, it is constant,” says Marie. “I guess that is maybe how I experience love. It’s comforting and protective, and these songs have that theme in common.”

The Tide and the Sea begins briskly, a crisp breeze fluttering through spring grass, playful and steady. “My Love Will Never Fail You,” the expansive, glittering single, makes confident declarations on the origins of love with lyrics like, “I don’t believe in chance. I think it’s the choice we make, and I choose you for the rest of my days,” its melody expanding into broad, undulating layers of a soaring orchestral spectrum. “In My Arms,” co-written with fellow Nashville songwriter Justin Halpin, is a richly textured, sanguine tune with a spirited rhythm that reminds Marie, “Yes, I’ve had my heart broken, but it’s all washed away when you have this one person.”

The golden, ebullient “Always Been You,” another Justin Halpin co-write, boasts the title lyric – “You be the tide; I’ll be the sea. The rise or fall brings you home to me, brings you home to me. It’s always been you, love.” – and acts as the magnetic, whimsical cornerstone of Marie’s rosy ballads. “Forever Falling for You,” co-written with Justin Tam of Nashville folk band Humming House, is a glowing, ethereal track with lyrics warm and hopeful: “We’ll build a house someday; we’ll build a home in the meantime.” And the lilting, dramatic “Forever Mine,” co-written with Justin Halpin and featuring background vocals by Marie’s new fiancé Ben Ringel of Nashville blues band The Delta Saints, swells and diminishes in arresting, elegant strokes, closing the album with an exultant, richly resonant ballad of halcyon love, repeating the chorus: “Oh my love, my life, always you and I, steady as we rise; be forever mine.”

Marie’s music has seen commercial and critical success with a feature in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2010 and 2011 and the top prizes in the Intel Superstars Competition, the Intel Video Superstars Competition, and the Avon Songwriting Competition. Following the release of Worth the Fight, Marie embarked on a national tour, playing venues like LA’s famous Hotel Café, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, New York’s The Living Room, and cafés, house concerts, and coffeeshops all along the way. In 2012, she was invited to play Toronto’s NXNE Festival.

Marie’s songs have provided background music for hundreds of wedding videos; MTV, iTunes, Hallmark, Delta Airlines, Spotify, and Forever 21 have showcased tracks in various capacities; and the music video for “Perfect Kiss” was featured on CMT Pure.

Marie Hines Bio

Supporting HeartCrash

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a creator. She cooks dinner, she bakes cupcakes, she’s an avid DIY-er, and true to her Southern charm, she’s not afraid to get down in the dirt if it means cultivating something colorful and fragrant. Drawing inspiration from nature, HeartCrash boasts music that mimics the fine lightness of a summer breeze and the rolling current of a cool autumn stream. By broadening her scope and expanding her thematic obsessions, Marie has fallen right into place between Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, an artist as spirited and smart as she is talented.

Those familiar with Marie’s debut, Worth the Fight, or her live follow-up EP, The Living Room Sessions, will recognize her characteristic feminine grace, billowing piano melodies, and incandescent strings, but there’s something new and exciting in this collection of songs. On HeartCrash, Marie’s brush strokes are broader, more confident. Like a bright-eyed bride lifting her gauzy veil for the first time, letting the sun dazzle her and the wind brush her skin, the young Nashville singer/songwriter is stepping out and making strides. “With HeartCrash, I wanted to do something that wasn’t safe. I wanted genuine and natural and raw. These songs embody where I am now, I think.”

“Hammer,” written from the perspective of a character in a book, opens the album with the leaden lines, “You never think your lover’s words could kill you, and you can’t foresee the blow that is your last,” and continues to unfold into an rolling instrumental landscape that explores the windswept valleys of slighted love. The unshakable title track was a new experience for Marie; “it didn’t come out of love or lack of love; it came out of anger,” she claims. A song about “a collision of two souls, the realization of clashing opinions and irreconcilable differences,” “HeartCrash” stomps out a driving beat, sullying forth with words like “I won’t stay, stay around for you to take, take me down, down, down.”

“Mending” is far and away the most complex song on HeartCrash, piano rivulets spilling into swirling ocean depths, dissonant strings surging and eddying into a roaring cascade. “The song has a steady 4/4 rhythm, then a 3/4 rhythm enters in the bridge. The different rhythms layer together perfectly,” Marie reveals, “and to me, it feels like two people falling in love.” The single “Perfect Kiss” is a playful acoustic refrain, silvery and gleaming in its idyllic innocence. “It’s a very personal song,” she says. “It’s a snapshot of the moment I realized I was blissfully happy in my relationship, and that I had found the person I want to be with for the rest of my life.” And “Poison in the Well” is a potent, pleading struggle to let go of the past, an emotion that elicits the strongest vocals on the record.

Marie’s debut album saw critical success with a feature in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2010 and 2011 and the top prize in both the Intel Superstars Competition and the Avon Songwriting Competition. Following the release of Worth the Fight, Marie embarked on a national tour, playing venues like LA’s famous Hotel Café on the West Coast, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, New York’s The Living Room on the East Coast, and cafés, house concerts, and coffeeshops all along the way.

More recently, Marie’s songs have provided background music for dozens of wedding videos, iTunes, Hallmark, Delta Airlines, Spotify, and Forever 21 have showcased tracks in various capacities, and the “Perfect Kiss” music video is in regular rotation on CMT Pure.

Marie Hines’ new release is available on February 28, 2012. For more information about Marie and HeartCrash, go to http://www.mariehines.com.

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Merry Ellen Kirk Bio

Supporting Firefly Garden

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk is a poet. Perhaps “songwriter” is a more commonly used term, but it’s also too commonplace for Merry Ellen’s glittering narratives, songs that spring up wildly from her subconscious and bloom into vibrant, lilting melodies. Her sparkling piano refrains sweep and spill into fresh, sweet rivulets of notes; her lyrics weave bright, halcyon tales of dream sequences, the light and dark polarities of the human experience, and beauty in its many forms. “I write about light and dark a lot… good and evil, dreams and reality, the darker and lighter parts of the human soul,” she explains.

Despite the undeniable tension in her thematic obsessions, Merry Ellen Kirk explores her dichotomies with grace. She writes songs with the cool effortlessness of youth, sings with the jaunty simplicity and breezy flair of a practiced performer, and plays with fleet fingers and subtle polish. In cultivating her own sound, Merry Ellen has employed a few key elements from her predecessors: the classical prowess of Tori Amos, the natural poise of Sarah McLachlan, the quiet pensiveness of A Fine Frenzy, and the bold whimsy of Regina Spektor.

Growing up a missionaries’ daughter in Mongolia has had its effect on Merry Ellen’s music, creating a refreshingly broad perspective from so young a person. “I think it mostly comes out in my approach to life. I feel like more of my songs are about the world and making the world a better place. My music is about seeing the world and being better for it.”

Of her unconventional childhood musical inclinations Merry Ellen reveals, “In Mongolia, they don’t have pianos, but I knew it was always something that I wanted to do – play piano. So when we moved back, I started taking lessons.” They were the tiny seeds of something greater, a glowing catalyst dawning on Merry Ellen’s path. “It was definitely a huge risk to just put myself out there and start doing this full time when I was seventeen. I had only written a couple of songs, but I knew that it was what I wanted to do.”

A true Nashville singer/songwriter, Merry Ellen works best under pressure, dividing her artistic talents among multiple projects – like serving as half of burgeoning folk duo The Shakespeares and developing a pop venture with fellow songwriter Rachel Pearl – all the while tending her own flowering repertoire. “I’m inspired by other artists, and sometimes things in nature, too, because God’s the artist there. I write songs from those moments.”

On her sophomore album, Firefly Garden, 21-year-old Merry Ellen spins a gossamer web of silvery tunes that glints and glistens with morning dew and lightly stroked piano keys. “Every week for ten weeks I recorded a song, and it was really therapeutic for me. It was freeing,” she says. “I think that’s what the album is about: all this crazy stuff is happening around you, but it’s important to find your inspiration and your beautiful place in life.”

The record, produced by Shakespeares counterpart Aaron Krause, is an enchanted glimpse into Merry Ellen’s sun-dappled mind, a veritable Eden of lush emerald canopies and richly tinted florets in which her music becomes the soundtrack to a verdant dream like delicate chimes floating on the billows of perfumed zephyrs. Among the high points of Firefly Garden lie the colorful, saccharine lyrics of “Candy,” which are a cleverly draped disguise for a faintly melancholy word on chimeras and the hope and sorrow they arouse; the muted, jazzy, rhythmic tune “Do You?” that channels a Pieces-of-You-era Jewel or even a dusky Corinne Bailey Rae; the exquisite “Masquerade,” an intricate, tortured tribute to Romeo and Juliet that features a rolling, minor piano and a heavy, fragile despair; and “Clair de Lune,” a lovely, diaphanous interpretation of Debussy’s famous melody complete with Merry Ellen’s own lyrics, that swells and ebbs like salty tides breaking lazily on gleaming white sand, a performance both deeply felt and lavishly played.

“I feel like everything that happens in your life kind of goes into your songs. It’s something that becomes part of your music. Who you are is your music.” Becoming so helplessly entwined with one’s music is a silent commitment to see the world through different eyes, an unalterable promise to commit one’s life to the glorious immortal verse. That poetry is what sight would be to the blind, speech to the dumb, walking to the crippled, and life to the condemned, but Merry Ellen Kirk sees, speaks, walks, lives, and she has poetry.

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Marie Hines’ “Worth the Fight” Review

Album Cover

Marie Hines

“Worth the Fight”

December 2010; Independent

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

It’s an extraordinary occurrence when you think about it – finding words that say what you truly feel, melodies that express the very ebb of your thoughts. These sorts of discoveries are more than important in the world of music; they are vital, dynamic.

As a woman myself, I’m a huge advocate for the female singer/songwriter. Show me the folk rock poignancy of Ingrid Michaelson or Lisa Hannigan or eloquent piano pop perfected by Regina Spektor or Sara Bareilles, and I will show you my own heart spilled over into the words of a song. I love realizing girl talent, finding a new voice. There’s something about delving into their lyrics and figuring out their notes that is empowering, delicately victorious, and rare, which is why Nashville’s newest songwriter Marie Hines is such a remarkable discovery: she is a charming combination of all of the above.

Marie Hines is breezy and bright, but with something of an old soul. Her fondness for strings and silky piano keys is enough to grab my attention, and her gentle vocals and silver-tongued lyrics make her my new favorite. Marie’s debut album, Worth the Fight, is a passionate and shimmering collection of melodies that span a poetic horizon, exploring the rosy depths of a young girl’s heart with the expressiveness of a worldly, elegant hand.

The album begins with the title track, cool and energizing – with lines like, “There’s bigger pictures to paint/More horizons to chase/Something better in searching, reaching/Burning, bleeding black and white” – and warms up quickly with the sugary single “Wrapped Up in Love,” a buoyant tune of idyllic, lighthearted affection: “Slurring sonnets like love drunk poets/Take a sip, pass the glass around/Til we fall out of time, lost in a rhyme/It’s so easy being me when I’m with you.”

Other highlights of Worth the Fight include the magnetic, brisk-tempoed “Better” and the lithe “LoveStung,” with its melancholy strings and honest lyrics: “We’re lovestung, so lovestung/We’re scared to death but we’re learning the thrill of the fall.” The refreshing bleakness of “Long Way to Letting Go” is both moving and memorable, and ardent, lustrous “Over You” stands out as both haunting and beautiful, closing the album with tender lines and striking emotion, the music swelling richly, resonantly before fading out with the quiet undulations of a cleansing rain.

Marie Hines is going to be an exciting artist to watch in 2011. Worth the Fight is brimming with potential and promises to be merely a springboard into bigger and better things. I can’t wait to see and hear more, but for now, I’m going to cozy up and just listen.

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Marie Hines Bio

Supporting Worth the Fight

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a dazzling blend of old and new. She writes with the scope and eloquence that comes with age and the purity and hopefulness of youth. Marie’s rosy piano melodies accompanied by her telltale string quartet glow with grand turns of phrase and idyllic themes of love gained and love lost. “I write about things I’ve experienced because that’s what people can relate to. I want to be a part of people’s lives. That’s the reason I make music,” she says.

With her debut album Worth the Fight, Marie Hines is growing up, discovering what she wants to accomplish as an artist and flowering into who she wants to be as a person. Marie’s southern charm, gentle femininity, and enchanting affection for cupcakes and ballet flats attest to her cheery warmth as a person, but Marie’s songwriting goes beyond poise and passion to exude a quiet elegance, luminous and ornate. “A lot of my lyrics come straight from the pages of my diary,” she admits. “I’ve written songs when I have been in the absolute depths of heartbreak, and for me, it’s a release because I’m able to channel that emotion and energy into that song.”

Marie nurtured her musical abilities early while growing up in small-town South Carolina: “I started taking classical piano when I was about six. Music was kind of something I developed on my own. I started writing at the age of twelve, and it was awful.” But something struck with a chord with Marie, who moved to Nashville in 2005 to attend Belmont University. “I came to ‘Music City’ to surround myself with people that were better than me.  I knew I needed that constant challenge in order to become a greater musician.”  Marie found inspiration among fellow songwriters as well as larger acts like Norah Jones and John Mayer, all the while developing her own niche somewhere between the honest lyricism of Regina Spektor and the graceful instrumentation of Sara Bareilles.

The first glimmering notes of Worth the Fight feel like waking up in the morning; the realization and enlightenment in the title track are both delicate and spirited: “There’s bigger pictures to paint/More horizons to chase/Something better in searching, reaching/Burning, bleeding black and white.” The album’s first single, “Wrapped Up in Love,” is a blushing tune that radiates silvery bliss with lyrics like, “Slurring sonnets like love drunk poets/Take a sip, pass the glass around/Til we fall out of time, lost in a rhyme/It’s so easy being me when I’m with you.” The two songs establish a strong presence and expressive foundation for the rest of the album, and they’ve already received national attention for it: “Wrapped Up in Love” was featured in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2009, and more recently, “Worth the Fight” won 1st place in the Intel Superstars Competition, Singer/Songwriter Division.

Other gems of the record, produced by Eric Kinny, include the resonant lilting “LoveStung,” which stands out as an ode to the fine complexities of valiant love, rich with willowy strings and striking lines, the most memorable being, “We’re scared to death but we’re learning the thrill of the fall;” and sprightly “Paper Heart,” a brisk, quirky autobiography. Of the track, Marie reveals, “I set out to write a song that was completely honest about who I am – both the good parts and the bad parts.” “Beauty” is a rolling, piano-laden tune of empowerment, with words like, “Flowers don’t choose their shades/And butterflies don’t paint their wings/Don’t change me, no/Don’t save me, I’m just fine;” and the smoldering “Over You” closes the album with the melancholy waves of a cleansing rain, the strings swelling with sincerity, the vocals heavy with grief. “I think it’s important for people to experience heartbreak, and I think it’s also important for people to experience what it feels like to break someone’s heart,” says Marie. “People have to experience the good parts of life, and also the bad parts, because together, they bring you to a place where you really understand what it feels like to live.”

Marie Hines releases her debut album on December 14th, 2010. For more information about Marie and Worth the Fight, go to http://www.mariehines.com.

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Rufus Wainwright’s “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu” Review

Album Cover

Rufus Wainwright

“All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu”

April 2010; Decca Records

By Emily J Ramey

Rufus Wainwright has uncanny chameleon-like tendencies, and while every subsequent project bearing his name surprises and amazes me, the man has yet to run out of new personae to perfect.  He can genuinely and utterly reinvent himself, embodying a virtuoso of a different sort for practically every day of the week, extents to which he has explored with brilliant poise for the whole of his career.

From the subtly graceful singer-songwriter of 2001’s Poses, the religiously- and politically-charged libertarian of the Want albums of 2003 and 2004, and the fabulously brash baroque pop sensation of 2007’s Release the Stars to the Judy Garland impressionist of Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall and the opera composer of 2008’s Prima Donna, Rufus Wainwright has become a modern Renaissance man, devoting himself to brooding over the irony of contemporary culture.

All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu is yet another incarnation; however, it seems an avant-garde venture apart from all prior endeavors: the album consists solely of Wainwright’s undeniable tenor and the lilting chords of a grand piano.

I recently received my first turntable as a gift, along with a few LPs to start my library (Abbey Road, a Frank Sinatra album, and Songs for Lulu).  Somehow vinyl seems highly appropriate for this dusky tribute to Shakespeare and the “dark, brooding, dangerous woman that lives within all of us,” the two of whom share the album’s title references.  A few of the highlights of the album include the opening track, “Who Are You New York?,” an ornately delicate, swelling ode to the city, with lyrics like, “Saw you in the rainbow/Saw you in the dark/Saw you on the landing/Of the Empire State Building/Who are you?/Who are you New York?;”and the silky, opalescent ballad written for Wainwright’s sister “Martha,” which reminds me of a dewy spring morning in the French country.

The sonnet songs – “Sonnet 43,” “Sonnet 20,” and “Sonnet 10” – are elegant and blithe but bear occasional minor tones or dissonance that grates gently upon the ears; and “The Dream,” poignant and feathery, with contrastingly heavy lines like, “The dream has gone away/The earth could not play/The earth just spins in place/Throwing things away/And I am left behind/Corrupted crushed and blind/All for a dream/That in truth was never really mine.”

Rufus Wainwright is all talent and glamour with something a little sinister about him too… a darker side that might overwhelm him at any moment, if he’d let it.  I think All Days are Nights is Wainwright as close to this shadowy threshold as he has ever been before, and the album feels desperate and bold because of the risks it symbolizes.  This time, listening is dangerous, and a bit lustful, but don’t let that stop you.

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Landon Pigg’s “The Boy Who Never” Review

Album Cover

Album Cover

Landon Pigg

“The Boy Who Never”

September 2009; RCA Records

By Emily J Ramey

Landon Pigg is the archetype of good singer/songwriter, folksy and eloquent, sentimental and warm.  And his second full-length album, The Boy Who Never, is the perfect soundtrack for a cool, wind-whipped, burnt orange autumn, which to me, always seems an ideal time for introspection and wit.

The Boy Who Never, as a title, projects fairy-tale fantasy, youth, and playfulness onto Pigg’s new music.  On the album, Pigg starts out carefree and whimsical, breezing through his best-known song “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop,” and into a few more fresh and upbeat tunes.  Then, the 26-year-old songwriter becomes somber and hushed, fading the album out with delicate grace and poignant weight.  The feeling of the project as a whole is of seasons changing, fall diminishing into frosty, quiet winter.  The Boy Who Never lacks climax or revelation, Landon Pigg clearly trading shocking revelations for subtle discoveries.

A few of the most memorable tracks include the crisp, cheery opening tune, “This Far;” the smooth and brassy tune, “A Ghost;” the golden, enchanting single “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop” with its gentle, lofty vocals and sugary, sentimental lyrics; the sweet, eager “Take a Chance” about taking risks in relationships with witty lyrics like, “I didn’t wanna be tied down/But now I see/Not being tied down/Ain’t the same as being free;” the steady, clever “Speak to the Keys” with its catchy, imaginatively musical chorus; and “Look So Tired,” a hushed and feathery ballad, with lovely, soft piano accompaniment by Landon himself.

Landon Pigg seems to be maturing as a songwriter before our very eyes.  He undoubtedly knows how to write a charmingly love-stricken hit for national fame, but I don’t think he’s lost an understanding of the importance of writing as himself.  The down-to-earth, silver-tongued Nashville native is growing up, regardless of the deceiving title of his album.  I feel comfortable speaking for Music City when I say, we’re proud of him and where he’s headed.

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