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9/8/14

Interview with Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond by Jason Osburn

“I think the human experience has more than one way of expressing itself and if our voices are the sound of souls and hearts, then shouldn’t they have infinite variety of colors and expressions?”
There are few artists alive today with acclaim across such varied genres as Shara Worden whose uncategorical project My Brightest Diamond will release their fourth LP "This Is My Hand" on Sept. 16th.
My Brightest Diamond photo by JulienBourgeois


From notable indie rock releases to writing and performing baroque opera to associations with visual and artistic geniuses alike, Shara does it all with ease and beauty and with her incredible vocal talent guiding her path like a beacon.
Shara has certainly taken her audience on a journey. After earning a BA in vocal performance from University of North Texas she then found herself living in Moscow where she produced a self-released EP titled ‘Session I’. She then moved to New York and studied opera. Later she joined Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers live ensemble and in 2006 Asthmatic Kitty Records released My Brightest Diamond’s debut album, ‘Bring Me The Workhorse’ followed by ‘A Thousand Sharks’ Teeth’ in 2008, and 2011’s ‘All Things Will Unwind’, which featured songs written for the chamber ensemble yMusic.
“Along with her often-gorgeous singing, Ms. Worden presents an ambitious series of arrangements…the songs glow with rumination…”
—The New York Times


On her latest journey My Brightest Diamond returns to rock music yet deeply immersed in masterful composition and the electronic, and don’t leave out the marching bands. Shara based the album on the Daniel Levitin book, ‘The World in Six Songs’ and wanted to answer the question: “What is the value of music?” I found the article she wrote for The Talkhouse about Katy Perry’s album ‘Prism’ a very insightful avenue into her thought process surrounding the new album.
“The artist has no choice but to keep moving forward and developing, and hope that enough of the audience will come along so that they can keep doing what they do.”
Check out the video for ‘Pressure’ off of the new album:
http://www.mybrightestdiamond.com/videos/


Shara has just returned from Europe where she performed her most recent opera at several festivals. She will be kicking off a World Tour with a performance at the Max M. Fisher Music Box on September 19th. (Tickets available here)  I recently had the opportunity to ask her some questions:
Me: You recently returned from a European Tour which is something seemingly common for you. Obviously you have a supporting fan base there. How is touring and performing in Europe different than in the United States?
Shara: I wrote an opera last year and we performed it at several festivals in Europe.  It was commissioned by two European houses, and I received government support from the country of Holland, as well as Belgium, so of course being awarded a government grant in the States is highly unlikely.  Without that support, I definitely wouldn't have written an opera.   
Me: You have collaborated with some amazing talent including musicians such as Sufjan Stevens, and Bryce Dressner and artists such as Mathew Barney and Mathew Ritchie. As someone who generally performs as a solo artist now how do you feel these collaborations effected your direction?
Shara: Definitely the work with Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, which started with the filming here in Detroit 4 years ago, has had a really huge impact on the latest My Brightest Diamond album.  Bepler was working with perhaps 50 or 60 horn and percussionists and I became so addicted to this idea that I made my whole album with that instrumentation with my band members and piles of synths, but I definitely have to give credit to the work in that film.  It really changed my life in so many ways.
Me: Often people are classified as an 'artist' or a 'musician' or a 'dancer' but you transcend classification combining elements of so many different arts into your performance. Can you explain how that has helped or hurt your career?
Shara: I categorize my work in three ways, and first is that I am a songwriter & singer (so that's My Brightest Diamond), then I am a composer (that's the opera side and arranger in me) and then I am a singer for other composers, like the David Lang or more classical pieces, and also I see myself in that role any of the times I pop into another project as a guest vocalist like with the Decemberists, Blind Boys of Alabama or Vinnie Paz, etc.  I think I have a really interesting life and artistically I'm always really challenged and working with amazing people.  I think what has been difficult is the communicating to the public what it is I'm doing and that people really see it as a single artistic gesture, which it is in my mind, but the "um, now what do you do?" question gets a little hard to answer.
Me: You went to school in Texas and found your way to New York via Moscow there are probably more stops in there I am leaving out, but my question is what brought you back to Michigan? Of all the places you've lived and traveled why is this where you choose to call home?
Shara: I used to come through town on tour, and see my best friend from high school and I just loved it every time.  I was always so jealous of the life she was leading, cause she had city life, as well as fresh peaches off the tree in the back yard and honey from her hive.  It seemed so idyllic to me.   So when the chance came for me to live here, I took it.  I grew up listening to WJLB non-stop and Night Moods, and so many other radio shows here completely impacted my life, so if nothing else, I feel like the radio here feels like home to me.  Kind of funny huh?  But that's true.  I lived in 9 states by the time I was 18 years old, but living in Michigan in the late 80's, early 90's was certainly a wealthy time in music and it shaped everything for me.
Me: Are there any local Detroit or Michigan acts you follow?
Shara: I love A.D.U.L.T., Wajeed, Shigeto.  They all kill the game.
Me: You will be on the Wits show on Minnesota Public radio with Neil Gammon on November 8th. Are you a fan?
Shara: I am now!
Me: Anything you would like to mention about your upcoming show at The Music Box on September 19th?
Shara: YES!!!!  Hometown show to kick off the album release and the world tour.  I'm so proud to start everything here.  It feels good.  Hopefully we will melt faces just right.   


A very special thank you to Shara Worden, Asha Goodman, Andrea Troolin, Justin Becker and John Beeler.
Jason Osburn is a Kimchi and craft beer fueled artist, graphic designer, chef, daddy, and writer.
(not necessarily in that order)
Ringleader of MiCraftBeerCulture Magazine
Jason@MiCraftBeerCulture.com