Most people get to choose their calling in life while, for some, life just seems to make that decision for you. For 23-year old Academy Award winner, Marketa Irglova, the latter scenario seems to have been the case. In 2006 at the age of 18 she was chosen to act and write music for a small independent movie that would thrust her into a global spotlight on Hollywood's biggest night. That moment and the subsequent success of her musical career as one half of The Swell Season were the furthest thing from her mind when she accepted the role of "girl" in the film Once. There was no plan in place, no career path, just a teenager enjoying an opportunity offered from a friend which led to a magical moment and the current of life sweeping her up and taking over.
"Fame and success are like a bird, the more you chase it the more it runs from
you. However when you stay in one place and do the work, there's a chance that bird might just land on your shoulder bringing you everything you ever wanted. My life has been spent constantly in motion, but after I met Marketa and slowed down that the bird seemed to land right on my shoulder. I think it was her that it was drawn to, not me"
It's been over three years since Oscar host Jon Stewart called Irglova back out onto the stage at the Kodak Theater to let her finish her acceptance speech. The first time in the shows history actually, and a moment that vaulted her from fairly well known to Yahoo's most searched person in only one day. The adage: "be careful what you wish for" could only be applied if Irglova had wished for any of it, but she never did. While she'd always intended to make music with the hopes of touring the world, being famous was the last thing she ever wanted or was in search of. In the days, months and years that have followed, she has remained busy with music -touring and recording with The Swell Season and as a vocalist in the band Iron and Wine. Along the way there have been a few opportunities too good to pass up, such as, loaning her voice to an episode of The Simpsons and giving early feedback on the upcoming musical version of Once, which is slated for Broadway in 2012. The two constants throughout have been the way she's conducted herself as her life was turned upside down and that creating music was at the forefront of her desires.
These desires will all come to fruition on October 11, 2011 when Anti Records will release Anar, the first full-length solo album from Marketa Irlgova. Citing references ranging from Otis Redding, to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, to the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Super Star, Irglova pulled from numerous influences to create a delicate balance of ethereal vocals and expanding instrumentals on her 12-track debut. Irglova was able to use Anar as a creative outlet to document and express her personal experiences with music and self-discovery over the last few years, making this album highly personal and an emotional journey. These songs are an insight into a soul mature beyond her years, who found herself at a crossroads. With nowhere to go but forward, the album was born from a period when Irglova began her move from the serene, pastoral landscape of Ireland to the energetic, modern surroundings of New York City.
Shortly after moving to New York City, Irglova was invited to play at Zora Space by good friend Jake Clemons (who appears on Anar). An intimate art and performance room in Brooklyn, Zora Space created a true feeling of home for Irglova, a haven of fellow artists, musicians and fans from varying cultures and experiences. In this intimate environment, Irglova felt comfortable sharing her solo music and experimenting with new sounds. Interested in how various rhythms and melodies are born of different cultures and traditions, Irglova began searching out new outlets of expression. During this time, Irglova met Aida Shahghasemi - a Persian drum player and vocalist - with whom she felt an immediate musical connection. Irglova and Shahghasemi started performing together regularly. During these performances, Irglova crafted new songs with a solo project in mind. Raised in the Czech Republic as a classically trained pianist and vocalist, Irglova had established a new relationship with music while in New York with the help of Shahghasemi and the melding cultures at Zora Space. It is through these experiences, that Anar was born.
Irglova also found visual inspiration for her solo album while spending time at Zora Space. During a performance, Irglova was drawn to a painting on exhibition, "The Last Fall" by Iranian artist Nahid Hagigat. Immediately taken by the contrast of color - a crimson red pomegranate placed on a shining golden background - Irglova purchased the painting and knew it should be the symbol for her solo album. That painting adorns the cover of her debut record, and the albums title Anar, is the Persian word for "pomegranate". For Irglova, the pomegranate, which is a fruit tied to fertility and abundance, stood as a symbol of the fertile land of creativity she began to explore after her move to New York. Visually inspired and finding that the new songs were coming together quickly, Irglova chose Chicago to record and continue on her new journey.
Engineered and produced by Tim Iseler at Soma Studios in Chicago, Anar features a number of Chicago's finest musicians, most of whom Marketa had never worked with before. The freshness of this challenge along with the energy of these musicians are part of what appealed to her as she continued to follow the muse. Included on the album are Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Frank Rosaly (drums), Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Jeb Bishop (trombone) and Rob Bochnik (guitar). Iseler and Shahghasemi in particular were key to the creation of the album and both will join Irglova on the road in support of Anar.
In the coming years, Anar will come to represent the creative outlet that documented the personal journey of this phase of Irglova's life, so comes for her and us the next chapter. And the next chapter is sure to be as exciting, personal and rewarding as the few that came before it.