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Interview: Denise Marsa

Denise Marsa “Sanctuary”
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1. How have your past experiences influenced your songs?

My songs incapsulate the experiences and how I have processed them, both in my personal life and in my career. The songs help me to file them away and even more, compress those experiences into a relevant timeless form – the three-to-four-minute song. Much happens in a song if you’re paying attention. There are very few things that take only that much time to convey something, and get it done with the intention of moving people.

2. Can you walk us through your creative process for “Sanctuary”?

I started the track in 2002 when I was living full-time in West Hollywood. I had gone to LA for my second publishing deal with Warner/Chappell; it was the last song I wrote while living in California full-time. A relationship had ended, and I was looking to put it in a capsule. It was my way of completing things. I started the song with the guitar, bass, and synth sound which you hear throughout. I was working on my Ensonique synth keyboard that I was writing on at the time. I was angry and hurt and it sounded like how I felt. I added a delay on it, so it was constant. Then I added the arpeggio piano part and then strings.

I then took the semi-finished track and sang all the vocals in a friend’s studio, mixed it quickly, and then I moved back to NYC and hadn’t thought about it much until it popped up in my iTunes player a few months ago. I have been working with Paul A. Harvey on a few new tracks and thought to myself, “Paul could make this track soar.” He is an outstanding musician and guitar is his main instrument. I sent him references for the track, which is what I do when collaborating with others. I sent him “Kiss Them for Me” from Siouxsie and the Banshees and a Jack White track from a live Saturday Night Live performance; I loved the energy. And what he came back with fit perfectly. All my vocals, including the harmonies, were already mixed on the original track, and I did not have the stems (raw files of each track). I had to re-sing all the vocals over the original vocals, exactly like I did in 2002, so they matched my voice and so we could get more level on my voice, with the now added instruments. I also added the bridge vocal in 2023 section during the process, “Love yourself as much as I love you”, which I think now, looking back, is the basis of the song. We finished producing it in 2023 which is very atypical of how I work. I enjoyed the process.

3. How can “Sanctuary” help your fans?

I love this question because it is why I write songs. I am very nurturing, and I want to be in your (the listener’s) ear, giving you what you need or what can help you get through the insanity of life today or emphasize the joy. Just look at the past three years; that’s a lot of experiences and music has always helped humankind to deal with things. It’s our common language and it heals and inspires, for me, more than any other art form. It is visceral, commanding so many senses and memories since the start of time.

Addressing the energy of the song “Sanctuary,” it’s the leaving that people find so hard, when in fact, leaving gives you more room to understand yourself and your needs. Maybe “Sanctuary” will help others to understand and stand up for themselves.

4. Who are your musical influences?

I have so many however the main artists, bands, and producers have been and are Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Keane, Daniel Lanois, Laura Nyro, Sting, Chaka Khan, Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66 featuring Lana Hall, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. I love classical music.

5. Who/what is your inspiration?

Everyday life mixed with my imagination and experiences. I am very visual, so I see something and it sparks me and I hear what I want my next song to sound like. I start to jot down words. I even wake up from a dream, dreaming I am writing a new song or performing it and sometimes I am not sure if it’s real or a dream. I wake up and have the song in my head and I sing it into my phone. I have had quite a few recent songs come to me that way. I am also now visualizing music videos as I work on new songs. I did that with the “Float” and “Float (Remix)” videos featuring The Cowgirl & The Alien. I was actually mixing the first track “Float” and started visualizing the entire concept for the music video scene for scene.

6. What can fans take away from “Sanctuary”?

Peace of mind and strength.

7. Were there any creative blocks when creating “Sanctuary”? And if so, how did you get around that?

Luckily no. Just lots of space and time, a forgotten song brought back or presented perhaps at the right time.

8. What’s next for you?

I run my own indie label, KeyMedia Group, and we have recently been promoting singles from my back catalog. We are currently working on “ALL THIS TIME ALONE.” I wrote and released it in 2021, as an anthem or almost a prayer for the pandemic as many of us were feeling so alone and isolated. There is a section that has a gospel feel to it and I am crying out – “Lord, help me to understand.” That was a first, adding what some might call religion to one of my songs. It feels like so many are crying out right now. We have a lyric video to accompany the track featured on my YouTube channel put together by my company’s visibility and social media manager, Meggie Dimitrova : https://www.youtube.com/@denisemarsamusic

We are planning to release a new album, PIVOTAL, in 2024. Starting off the album with a new track and music video, “Kiss Me in The Rain” (Remix). The music video is part three of the music videos featuring the animated The Cowgirl & The Alien characters first introduced in our “Float” and “Float (Remix)” music videos.

I also want to perform more in 2024. It’s a part of my career I have neglected: live performances, connecting with fans. I have put on a concert/show together called THE PASS, with songs and vignettes about my life and music career through the decades. The goal is to present the show live more in 2024!

These are really good questions, thanks for asking them and thanks to you and your readers for their support! As I am finishing this up on Halloween, Happy Halloween 2023!!

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