Anyone who’s ever stumbled onto an unexpected, satisfying live artist knows what a treasure it is. The feeling only improves when said artist makes himself readily available to open up regarding his inspiration, goals and the role of music in his life. By this definition, Marc Von Em is quite a find.
Having been some sort of musician since the early age of seven, Von Em is no stranger to the power behind it and work it takes to be successful. A few years after his beginning in choirs, Von Em began dabbling in guitar and by age 14, he was writing his own lyrics.
“I’ve been writing music since I was about 14. A couple of years after I started learning guitar,” Von Em remembers. “I started experimenting with chords, and I was really into listening to music that my parents and brother were listening to. The Beatles and really old stuff like Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, I definitely had a wide variety of songs coming my way. I had a natural draw, an attraction to creating songs. A lot of that came from listening to the chord progressions and melodies that were in those songs.”
With influences like these, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Von Em’s music is pleasantly melodic, instrumentally bare and lyrically organic. Though he has mastered the art of conveying his soul and experience through song, he maintains that this accomplishment was a process.
“Then it became more a challenge to make my own sounds and not just imitate,” he explains. “Somewhere in my college years, somewhere between 18 and 22. When I got to college I was like ‘Look at all these songs I wrote.’ Hearing a lot of other musicians, I thought maybe these are a little corny or not quite my own things.”
From this point, Von Em set about creating something new and establishing his own style, drawing from inspiring musicians as well as his own experience and methods.
“I was always attracted to musicians that were really good at what they do, lyrics or singing or playing their instruments,” Von Em says. “I have a kind of double sidedness to me where I like something to be tight and precise but at the same time I want it to be a little raw. Initial inspiration should be something really raw and strong, That always seems to be the strongest. You wanna keep capturing that somehow, you don’t wanna lose that.”
Around this time, he also picked up the harmonica as an instrument, which proved to give his music a unique sound that simultaneously serves to concrete his stylistic identity.
“The harmonica is a different animal completely. Everything about it.,” Von Em explains. “With guitar you use your hands With harmonica, it’s almost like a wind instrument. You have to learn how to breathe and use your breath. It was interesting, but I picked it up pretty well. Harmonica and wind instruments are related to breath because you use that power or subtlety or whatever you wanna do. I love the challenge of trying to figure out an instrument you don’t know. It was already kinda in me, some of the styles, but once I introduced the harmonica it probably brought in more of that blues sound and made me dive into some more blues type of music.”
Just as his progression to his musical identity has been a process, Von Em has experienced the struggle behind striving for financial stability and success as a musician. Of his four full-length albums, his most recent release of Crash, Boom, Pow in January 2012 has finally drawn much deserved attention to Von Em and his music. An ariose compilation of beautifully written music and intimate, unadulterated lyrics, Crash, Boom, Pow introduced Von Em to his first sold out show experience.
“We did a show in Peekskill, NY at Twelve Grapes. It sold out first night and they had to book a second show,” Von Em recalls. “It was my first sold out show. It felt really good and was a little bit of a surprise. My wife and I were trying to promote as well as possible. I got the cover of that local magazine, did a big Facebook promotion, and at the same time, papers came out. All the sudden in like a few days it almost sold out. By the end of the week it was sold out, so they decided to add another date.”
Appreciative and humble in addition to being a talented artist, Von Em does not fail to acknowledge the role his wife and fans have played in his success.
“It’s a hard business, but at the same time it’s a passion too,” Von Em says. “It’s trying to find something that doesn’t feel like work. She really helps a lot. She’s taken photos, she’s helped me write my bio and put my website together. A big thing she did was a lot of the design and graphics for Crash, Boom, Pow.
With the release of his newest album behind him, Von Em now plans to focus on expanding to new cities and securing a booking agent as well as other important team members. Having entered songwriting contests and secured a place at Inertia Festival, Von Em seems to be well on his way up the ladder.
Originally published September 18, 2012 on NewYorkSocialStatus.com