Kickstarter My Heart

Marissa Nadler gives new meaning to the phrase ‘indie artist’

In 2010, Boston singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler set up a Kickstarter account to raise funds for her fifth album. She was looking for $11,000. With the backing of about 400 people, she raised more than $17,000 for the project.

Still, that cash “just barely paid for the recording costs” of the self-titled record, Nadler says — and not much else. “All the manufacturing costs, the postage and the materials — all that was still an expense. It’s a lot more expensive than you’d think.”

She launched her own label, Box of Cedar Records, to release “Marissa Nadler” in 2011, and set up a shop on the indie-commerce site Etsy to sell her music and homemade wares.

When it came time to record her sixth album, “The Sister,” released last month, Nadler opted to fund it herself, viewing it as a reinvestment in her career.

At just eight songs, “The Sister” is a companion to the self-titled effort, not a “follow-up or a competitor,” Nadler says. “It’s a pretty literal implication. I see this as a continuation.”

Both records were made with the same producer (Brian McTear), feature similar musicians and have a sparse, ethereal style reminiscent of early Leonard Cohen. The records were inspired by Nadler’s life, and the writing is more personal than in the past. “It’s grown away from storytelling into more confessional” songs, she says. “It seems more emotional and not just stories.

“It’s probably my most downcast record,” she adds — which is quite a statement, considering her 2004 debut was called “Ballads of Living and Dying.”

When Nadler plays DC9 on Thursday, it will be only her third show of the tour, and these are the first concerts she’s played in nearly four months.

“I’m looking forward to playing shows again,” she says. “It’s the longest time I’ve gone not playing a gig in a while.”

What’s taken up all of her time? More DIY promotion, via Etsy. “I spend most of my time these days boxing up records,” she says.

DC9, 1940 9th St. NW; with Faces on Film; Thu., 8:30 p.m., $10; 202-483-5000. (U Street)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.

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Christopher Porter · June 13, 2012