For the first part of her life, her voice was a source of embarrassment and ridicule. Now, with her third album on the way, it's her bread and butter.
By Sam Scott '96
Life on the road is more grit than glitz, admits singer Anya Marina '96, who spent much of 2009 criss-crossing North America in support of her second album, Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II, a fix of sly, jaunty pop that grooves under her waifish, winking voice.
Early in her tours, she might have opened for Chris Isaak in front of 2,000 people one night. But on the next, she was just as likely strumming alongside a 4-H tent of goats and miniature ponies at a state fair. And every morning, it seemed, she was peeling herself off another Holiday Inn mattress.
But the daze of rental cars, airports, and livestock clearly took Marina somewhere. Her album garnered a three-star review in Rolling Stone, while Spin magazine profiled her "breathy, Cyndi Lauper–like warble" in a full-page article. She appeared on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live. In September 2009, her infectious single "Move You" won Song of the Year at the San Diego Music Awards in her adopted hometown. By 2010, the state fairs had led to spots at major music fests including the Lilith Fair and South By Southwest.
But perhaps nothing said "making it" like her inclusion on the soundtrack for New Moon, the sequel to the vampire blockbuster Twilight. Marina's "Satellite Heart" was the sixth song on an album filled with indy-rock all-stars including Bon Iver, the Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie.
On the Twilight music tour, she found herself part of a pop music juggernaut. "The crowds were massive," she says. "There's nothing that will prepare you for those screams. The kids don't even know your name, necessarily, or which song you wrote on the soundtrack. They just know you're part of the Twilight thing and their brains are exploding."
Marina found her way to music through a career as a deejay, a craft she stumbled into as a student at Santa Clara. In Swig Hall, the English major meant to take the elevator up, she accidentally went down, and she found herself outside the basement offices of KSCU. Student radio called her.
A Howard Stern devotee, Marina cultivated the same kind of edgy frankness on air as her hero. On her first shift, in the wee hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., she opened up about just having put her dog to sleep. Before long she was debating more sensitive topics. The Circumcision Hour, for one, became a weekly feature on the merits of said practice.
The experience was key in getting over insecurities about her voice. Long before her voice earned her national plaudits, Marina was teased about her high-pitched, child-like tone. Even her doctor once told her she had the larynx of a very young adolescent.
"I had no confidence whatsoever with regards to my voice," she says. "KSCU played a huge part in me getting over a lot of lifelong embarrassment about it."
Her show caught the attention of fellow KSCU deejay Mike "No Name" Nelson '96 (see "Revealed! The truth behind No Name!"), who was just beginning his professional career at KOME in San Jose. Nelson roped Marina into his new station, working the phones, writing promotions, and doing voice-overs.
"I would just sit in the on-air studio at KOME for hours asking about segues and how he knew what he was going to say," she says. "I can't believe he didn't kick me out."
Nelson was also key in getting her to take her first professional deejay job. Marina had mailed off tapes of her KSCU shows and KOME voice work to a program director who offered her an overnight weekend gig in San Diego for $8 an hour. The financial math didn't impress Marina, but Nelson offered some brotherly advice.
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