Maren Ord
click on image to visit artist's website | image © Nettwerk Records 2004

Maren Ord

interview and album reviews

Waiting (2000) | Not Today (2004)
review and interview © Russell W Elliot 2004 | all images Excel Entertainment 2004 | used with permission
click on images to visit artist's website | formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows | Last updated: 24 October 2004


Singer songwriter Maren Ord has released her second recording, a dynamic six track EP entitled Not Today (Ranbach Music (USA) 2004) produced with Randy Bachman on the heels of her award winning debut album Waiting (Capitol Records (USA) 7 25906 24102 8, 2000). Maren's latest offering reveals a maturity that has come with age as well as experience and the material demonstrates that her brilliant past certainly illuminates a bright future. In contrast to her highly accessible Brit-pop debut, Maren's follow-up EP delivers heavier electric guitar-based and rocking arrangements.

Driven by her songwriting smarts, wielding voice and rocking pop acoustics, this feisty Edmonton native was blown into international attention at an early age. By seventeen, her debutl album Waiting, had spawned more than 23,000 spins from its three singles, was nominated for a Juno Award, landed her a spot on the Lilith Fair Tour and catapulted Maren into the whirlwind of professional music. With such a swirling success, one might wonder how she could possibly kick things up a notch for her second album. She joined forces with rock legend Randy Bachman (The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive).

Maren Ord
image © Excel Entertainment 2004
 

Maren's material will appeal to fans of Chantal Kreviazuk (review), Heather Nova (feature) and Tara McLean (reviews 1 | 2). We caught up with Maren during her fall tour to promote the new EP for an exclusive interview that explores the making of the new recording, her feelings about the industry and lessons she's learned and she has grown in the business. We also review her debut album Waiting and new EP Not Today below.

Maren order is no longer Waiting. On Not Today she clearly tells the world that she has arrived. "New music from Maren Ord has been a long time coming, but great things come to those who wait," sais Canadian Music Network. "Ord's newest offering is a fantastic pop rock tune that leans much in the vein of Michelle Branch (review). If this new recording does not win you over, then have your ears checked. Pop tracks don't get much better than this."

Randy Bachman played an instrumental role in the development of Not Today helping it soar musically as a co-writer, guitarist and producer. "He plays all the guitar solos in there and you know it's him," Maren said. "He's got his own little flavor and it adds so much."

On being involved with the album, Bachman adds, "I've always considered myself first and foremost a songwriter. So for years I've had my ears open, looking for the perfect voice to sing some of the more rocking songs I've had the music for. I'm so glad I found Maren to work with. She has the most perfect voice. She has absolutely perfect intonation and control." We could not agree more. The six-track EP certainly demonstrates a maturity in sound and style from Waiting but gives up some of the musical accessibility in the process. A full length album will likely be more varied.

Interview

Musical Discoveries: Hi Maren, can you tell us what it's like working with Randy Bachman?

Maren Ord: Hi Russ! Randy is great. Basically, I recieved an email out of the blue from a family friend--he is related to Randy somehow--that Randy was interested in working with me, and asked if I would be willing to give him my contact info so we could get in touch. I was more than willing of course, so he flew out to Utah where I was living at the time and we began to collaborate, just to see how we worked together. I think we both enjoyed the progress and how the other worked, because the next thing I know I am out in Salt Spring Island recording in his studio!

So how did things progress once you got together?

He is magic to work with, in the sense that he really let me fly in the songs we collaborated together. If I didn't like something, he'd be very professional about it and allow me to keep going until we agreed on something that we were both happy with. I mean, song-writing generally is a risk taker and you never know how a song will turn out when you are trying new things. I was very pleased with how the EP came together.

One of the funnest parts was that I got to be entertained daily in the studio by his talents. But more than that, he was a great partner and friend. And a very generous and down to earth man.

  Maren Ord
image © Excel Entertainment 2004

The second EP was recorded on Salt Spring Island with Randy Bachman produsing the album this time. On the first album, we had hired many different studio musicians, including strings and what have you. On this EP, it was basically me, Randy, and a hired drummer. We were the musicians, and we made it work.

What can you tell us about your musical background?

I grew up in a musical family of ten kids. My Dad is an opera singer and teaches voice at the University of Alberta. My Mom is also a voice teacher and piano teacher. I never really took lessons from them, just recieved some great critiquing on my perfoming and how I sang.

I did, however, take piano lessons from my Mom, which I am so grateful for now! I love to play, ... but sadly, I was a better sight-reader when I was fourteen. I play a lot by ear these days. It's the easiest way for me to play anything. I am working on the sightreading these days though. Yikes!

So how did you get started in the business?

I also have many older siblings that have incredible voices which also write, not for a living, but as a hobby, which is how I started. Writing music for me was just a hobby, and performing those songs was a big leap for me. A radio station here in Edmonton, Alberta--where I grew up--was throwing a song-writing contest when I was fifteen years old for song-writers. My oldest sister, Shannon, urged me to compete in it and send in my tape of four songs of the five that I had written, so after a lot of pushing, I finally just did it, not thinking it would become anything. I ended up being one of six winners in all of Alberta and to promote the album they recorded two of my songs, but it to a compilation CD and chose my song to be on radio.

Then what happened?

I suddenly was the major hype of the city, and it spread all throughout Canada. Instantly I had to learn how to perform with a band, because I was going to be playing for a roomfull of record reps that wanted me. Terry McBride was one of those guys. He also manages such artsits as, Sarah McLachlan, Dido, Avril Lavigne, Cold Play, Sum 41 and a further list that is pretty much endless. Before signing me, he gave me the opportunity on several occassions to perform on the same bill as Sarah McLachlan on her Lilith Fair tour by the time I was seventeen years old.

I also wanted to finish highschool before signing with anyone. So as soon as I turned eighteen, many contracts were put under my nose. I signed with EMI/Capitol records for the world, and for Canada I signed with Nettwerk records. I also signed a publishing deal with Sony. Lots of paper work!

Maren Ord
image © Excel Entertainment 2004

What artists have influenced your work?

After getting out of highschool, I flew out to Wooodstock New York where I began working with Stephen Hague at "the barn" studio. I also flew out to St John's Wood, England for a couple months where I worked at the RAK studio as well. What excited me was that "Radiohead" had done many recordings there, and I got to play the same piano as Thom Yorke! I also met the band Travis there as I was recording the same time they were recording a new single. Very nice guys. The experience on a whole was amazing! A totally new experience, and it was wonderful to see parts of the world that I never thought I would see.

After meeting the band Travis, I went out and bought everything of theirs and became a huge fan. Since then, their music has incredibly influenced my style, I think. I also love Dashboard Confessional, and Jack Johnson. Just recently I had grown a love for John Mayer. Amazing guitarist, that kid. There is also an artist by the name of Debra Fotheringham that I've performed with on many occasions, and her music gets me everytime. She's got it.

The second EP was recorded on Salt Spring Island with Randy Bachman produsing the album this time. On the first album, we had hired many different studio musicians, including strings and what have you. On this EP, it was basically me, Randy, and a hired drummer. We were the musicians, and we made it work.

What was it like having a hit album at such an early age?

The success of my album helped me grow up really fast. Since a lot of the hype was centered around me all throughout highschool, I felt a lot older than I really was. I don't remember what it is like to be sixteen because I am not entirely sure that I lived it.

Maren Ord
image © Excel Entertainment 2004
 

I just remember flying here and there, recording in this studio or that, and by the time I got back home and had my own time, I would try to play on whatever sports teams in highschool I could or go to dances and try to be a normal kid. It was not easy.

However, everytime I began to feel that way, a fan, or someone who had heard a song of mine would tell me how they had been touched by my music in a way, and that fueled me to continue going.

Please contrast the differences between your first album and the new EP.

My debut album was quite soft--kind of a Brit-acoustic-pop-alternative sound. There are some upbeat songs on the album of course, but in comparison to my new EP it is nothing. This new EP of mine is definately more rock-guitar based. If you like electric solos, you will like this album.

What's the reaction to your new EP been like?

It's hard to say how far this EP will go and how far I will go as a musician. It's really up to the fans. If people come out to my shows and buy my CDs, then I am flyin'! However, me being a religious person, I really count on God a lot for what becomes of my life.

I am just trying to make the best decisions I know how and live my life in a way that I would hope is pleasing to Him. If I make it or fall, I will know it is because it is God's will. Besides, I already find quite an amount of success in my labours thus far.

Fans reactions? I have had everything I think. My last tour to the States, I signed a guy's chest, which was a first for me. Some jump up and down and can't speak, and some respond like I am a normal person, which I like to try to come accross as!

Why was their such a long gap between your debut album and this new EP?

Business affairs and money. I've grown up a lot and learned a lot from working hard and losing everything, to getting up on my feet and getting there again. This business is not easy, and until you are actually involved in it, I don't think anyone really knows what it is like. Sometimes it is great and you can fully trust the people you work with, and sometimes you just can't, sadly.

How would you describe the influences to your songwriting and vocal style?

Strictly from experience and feelings and observations I have. I would never write a song that didn't mean anything to me. How could I possibly sing a song everynight live for the rest of my career that didn't have any meaning to me?

  Maren Ord
photo Barry Gnyp
image © Excel Entertainment 2000

Will music videos be released to support the publicity of the new EP?

In Canada, I have already released a music video--it is my fourth so far--for the single "Life is a Train" and it is in rotation at MUCH MUSIC here in Canada as well as MTV Canada. I have also released the single to radio here, which is being recieved well.

What are your interests outside of music?

I love to play soccer and swim. I also love art and love to draw and sketch. I've always thought that I would become a fashion designer someday, who knows! We'll see.

How do you think the internet has influenced your musical career?

Because of the internet, I have fans all across the world in areas I have not yet travelled, and plan to someday because of their support in different areas. I recieve fan mail from all across the world, mostly Japan, Australia, Germany and Turkey. It is crazy!

What are your musical hopes, plans and dreams?

Well, when I first started writing music, it was to express my self, my feelings, my thoughts. All I wanted to do, and all I thought I could do was have that for me. Now that I have the opportunity to share my music, my feelings and thoughts to the world, I hope to shed a greater light on who people are and what they are capable of doing. As I said, I am a religious person and God is a huge part of who I am. I would be lying if I said that I didn't want people to feel a sense of goodness in the world through my music. I would love to see a changed heart or a better world through my music. Good God-fearing role models are lacking in the entertainment industry, and I would love to be a power that stands for good and wholesome.

Reviews

Maren Ord-Waiting
image © Capitol Records 2000
 

Waiting. The debut album from Maren Ord is an eclectic 12-track collection of alternative singer songwriter and Brit-pop style songs. The evocatively delivered material showcases Maren's crystalline vocals and features her work on piano, keyboards and acoustic guitar on half the tracks. Arrangements are contributed by a vast array of other artists including Jerry Marrotta (drums), Brian Minato (electric bass), Bill Dillon (electric guitar), Luk Ducet (acoustic and electric guitar), Andy Duncan (percussion) and a further supporting cast detailed in the lovely liner notes. Photography for the booklet is by Barry Gnyp.

While the entire album is addictive, some tracks indeed stand out from the rest. The album draws the listener in with the mid-tempo opening number "Perfect," demonstrating the range of Maren's vocal abilities from the start. "Sarah" is a lushly arranged and upbeat rocker cowritten by Maren and her sister Karen. Lush vocal harmonies work perfectly with rich instrumentals and a strong hook. Such is the case once again in the emotionally delivered in "Beautiful." Listeners will be entranced by both stunning vocal work and dramatically produced arrangements in the standout "Harsh Words." Our editors were drawn to the penultimate track "Speak," a torch ballad superbly sung in West End/Broadway-style atop almost lone piano arrangements. A clear demonstration of Maren's extensive talent and evocative vocal delivery is captured in this one track.

In addition to the upbeat tracks, Maren's debut album includes a variety of heart-wrenching ballads, including "Swallow," the dramatic ballad "Tonight" and acoustic textured "Just Like You" and title track "Waiting," torch ballads with lovely vocalise interludes. Maren's vocals continue to soar in alternative singer songwriter-styled tracks including "Just Like You." Another album standout with tension developing in the verse with its release in the powerful chorus is the stunning number "Relate To."

The album concludes with "Everyday," a tune that serves as a great bookend to the opener "Perfect." Sung atop lone piano accompaniment until light instrumentation joins to fill after the first verse, the stunning track demonstrates the singer's virtuousity in range and power as well as the songwriting. It commands the listener to replay the album from the start. The album's prior acclaim is certainly well deserved and echoed here.

  Maren-Not Today
image © Highway Records 2004

Not Today. The dramatic difference between Maren's debut and the new project is evident from the first seconds that Not Today begins. While the debut was produced well, the arrangements on Not Today are much thicker and rock-oriented. Maren's vocals are also up a notch with no loss of clarity or texture. "Life Is A Train" opens the album with crisp percussion perfectly complementing guitar-laced arrangements and harmony vocals supporting Maren's powerful lead. "Thanks For The Memories" is somewhat gentler permitting Maren's vocal sensuality to shine through against Bachman's rich guitar licks. The EP continues with the powerful pop tune "Say Goodbye" with an almost spoken lead vocal. The melody in the chorus runs against percussion producing an interesting result.

The EP continues with the standout track "Hiding Place," an evocatively bluesy rocker with vocal and style links to Maren's debut. Listeners will certainly be drawn to the power in the title track "Not Today," the hit song that most dramatically demonstrates the development in Maren Ord's style on the EP. Maren's vocal work varies between almost spoken and sung with soaring vocalise excursions and layers of harmony vocals in the powerful chorus. Guitar solos atop vocal layers in the song's mid section work really well. The EP concludes with "Where Are You Now," a tender torch ballad sung evocatively atop contrastingly thick guitar arrangements. The power in Maren's voice allows it to work well. We can't wait to hear the next six tracks.

After what seemed like unbeatable success with Waiting, Maren flies forward with Not Today proving her growth as a writer and performer, delivering rock influenced pop songs without letting go of what has gotten her this far. "I just want this album to be a breath of fresh air for people," Maren says. She has succeeded!


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