I've never seen anyone play guitar quite the way Marian McLaughlin does, or sing the patterns she sings. After catching her live a few years ago, I thought this could either be someone naively noodling or deliberately taking an adventure. I've come to the conclusion it's a bit of both. You can see and hear how McLaughlin pulls this off in a new video for her song "Before You Leave."
For the past three years, Marian McLaughlin has been using a technique called Dérive, a French term created by Situationist Guy Debord that means "to drift." Instead of doing something deliberate, Marian subconsciously allows her surroundings to direct her musical journey. In other words, she goes with the flow and takes chances.
"Each song I make is a dérive in its own way," she says. "They are composed and cohesive, yet full of unexpected arrangements and shifting movement. There's a vast amount of direction and space when it comes to playing the guitar, and exploration always leads to discovery. Sometimes I'll even dive into alternate tunings just to rearrange my familiarity with the fretboard."
McLaughlin's technique carries over to her lyrics as well. The words to her songs aren't about breakups and heartaches. McLaughlin instead creates her own stories and expands on existing narratives, such as the Greek myth of Persephone, or German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal's attempts at heavier-than-air flight.
Marian met the filmmaker for her new video, Zambia, by chance at a performance. Despite a number of ideas they tossed around, the film turned out to be a simple shoot in a Washington, D.C. garden. "'Before You Leave' is a song for both the wanderer and the hesitant," says McLaughlin. "The vagabond and the homebody. We're all unsettled in one way or another, yearning for adventure, but also for the comfort of home."
"Before You Leave" is from Marian McLaughlin's debut album, appropriately called Dérive, due out Jan. 16, 2014. The song features Alexia Kauffman on cello and David Klinger on trumpet. You can learn more about Dérive on Marian McLaughlin's Bandcamp page.