Karen Marrolli ~ Twilight Songs

Karen Marrolli

Karen Marrolli

Singer-songwriter, composer and conductor Karen Marrolli has everyone talking about her new EP called Twilight Songs. All four of the songs are beautifully arranged, and Karen Marrolli’s voice is lovely.

I asked Karen to tell me about the making of the EP: “I wanted to document some of my guitar songs. It started out with the idea of recording only one song with someone who knew what they were doing. I went to Frogville Studio here in Santa Fe and worked with Bill Palmer. The project quickly went from one song and grew into a complete work. All four songs are guitar songs with piano. We added cello arrangements and overdubs of background vocals. I’m glad that these songs exist. It’s so wonderful to hear them and have them out in the world. It’s like birthing a baby. I’m really proud and excited.”

I wondered if there was a back story to the EP that Karen Marrolli wanted to share. Karen told me: “There’s a line in one of the songs that says, ‘you’re just a twilight song.’ I made that the title of the EP. Three of the songs are very much an example of how songwriting can come out of the ether. I’m not really sure where they came from, but these are songs where my better angels came out to help. I’m sure a lot of songwriters can relate to that feeling that they’re co-creating when they write.”

My personal favorite song and video are for the single Sanctuary. The scenery is amazing. It reminds me of the Painted Hills, here in central Oregon, but I assumed the video was filmed in New Mexico, where Karen Marrolli lives: “The song has this idea that there’s somebody out there in the world that makes the world a better place, just by being there. So, I wanted something impressionistic for the video. I did it all myself. New Mexico makes it really, really easy to take great pictures. I shot the video about an hour outside of Santa Fe, at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú. This is where Georgia O’Keeffe spent a lot of her time, after she came out to New Mexico. The whole area has an artistic vibe and spirituality that I thought would be a fantastic backdrop. I put my video camera on a tripod and ran barefoot around the hiking trails, which was very entertaining to say the least.”



Karen Marrolli has been singing her entire life, and she wrote her first song at age 12: “I was engaged in all these musical pursuits, much to the chagrin of my parents. I went to Westminster Choir College and later to Louisiana State University. I was involved with a lot of classical and choral music. I became engrossed in classical composition. I was drawn to conducting and learned how to be a conductor. I did a few choral arrangements, but I didn’t really write songs after that until I came out to New Mexico.”

Moving to the Southwest changed everything for Karen Marrolli: “It was like Boom! The Southwest is an entry point for many artists. That happened to me. When I came out here, I started composing in all kinds of genres and the songwriting came back. I wrote a lot of songs that came out of one particularly emotional experience. That was the genesis of it. Now, it’s taken off into this wonderful way of communicating.”

Karen Marrolli is the Director of Choral Ministries at the United Church of Santa Fe: “The United Church of Santa Fe is what brought me out to New Mexico, as I was completing my doctorate. The church is one of these places where no matter how different you are, you fit in here, you’re welcome here. It’s a very exciting and affirming environment. It’s also a wonderful place to work, because I love to work with amateurs. I love teaching people. I love connecting people with music on a deeper level. In a worship environment, you are giving someone something spiritual that they really need. I also direct several other groups: The Zia Singers, The Santa Fe Men’s Camerata, and The Cantu Spiritus Chamber Choir.”

She also has a choral works publishing business: “I was inspired by the person I wrote my dissertation on, Irish composer Michael McGlynn. He does digital sales on his website. I thought, ‘what a wonderful business model.’ So, that’s what I started to do. I have sold some pieces to choral directors around the country of my own works that I’m publishing myself. I also have other choral works that I publish through MorningStar Music.”

Karen Marrolli and chorusYes, there’s more! Karen Marrolli also publishes a blog about her work and music projects. What does Karen see as the benefits of blogging? “It helps people to gain a deeper understanding of me, because many people are curious about me as a conductor. I’ve also done a lot of writing about why the pieces and songs were written. For example, I wrote a desert mass. Then, I wrote a post about what was going on in the mass and the different songs. I have a song called Beulah Land, and you might not understand what that song is about unless you’ve spent time in the desert. All those beautiful red rocks in the Sanctuary video were formed over thousands of years, weathering storms. It’s similar to the way we’re formed. The song is about our oneness with the land. The land can stand there and look different from what we might think is beauty. We are the same way. It’s because of what we’ve been through.”

Like me, Karen Marrolli feels that Twitter has been her best vehicle to expanding her outreach. We met on Twitter.

What advice does Karen Marolli have for other artists who are multi-genre and work on multiple types of activities that support musicians? “I’m a classical musician and conductor on one side, and I create music in all sorts of genres from folk to pop to alternative on the other side. As a woman classical musician, I’m expected to fill a role. I need to be seen as very powerful. When I step into the arena of songwriting, being very vulnerable in those intimate songs, it’s easy to be afraid that I’m losing my power. Actually, my vulnerability is my strength. So my big piece of advice is to be brave and to own every single arena that you’re in. Don’t ever feel that you should not be doing what you’re doing.”


What is up next for Karen Marrolli? “I’ve just come off a busy season, so I hope that sleep or hiking is up next. I’m interested in doing some more recording in some different genres. There’s another song on the EP called Rain that I started a video for. I really want to get back to that and put out a second video, because I got a lot of really good feedback on the first one.”

Karen Marrolli does play out near her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She’s also trying to figure out how to put together a house tour or find some smaller venues to play in outside New Mexico. Well, I hope she comes to Portland.

The Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Karen Marrolli and roseKaren Marrolli

Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now