The follow-up to her 2016 EP Veracity, Revival marks a deliberate return to the sparsely adorned sensibilities of Marsh’s early work. Although Veracity mostly delivered an elaborately arranged breed of electro-pop, it was the stripped-back closing track “Dear Love” that emerged as Marsh’s breakthrough. Prominently featured on an episode of NCIS: New Orleans, the ukulele-laced ballad landed on a host of curated Spotify playlists, amassed over 5 million streams on the platform, and ultimately inspired Marsh to rethink her sonic approach.
“Little by little I had all these experiences where just being myself and letting my songwriting stand on its own seemed to be what really connected with people,” says Marsh, who received a standing ovation after her solo acoustic performance at McLean’s sold-out show. “I used to think I had to be so much more than that, and have all these different layers happening in my songs. It was kind of a smack in the face, telling me that I never needed to change who I am or what I want to do with my music.”
Produced by Eric Novod at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park, Revival centers on Marsh’s finespun melodies and powerful voice, an instrument she handles with uncommon grace. In creating the album, Marsh and Novod assembled a lineup of local musicians, recording live to infuse every track with an undeniable energy. And despite unfolding with the occasional sonic flourish, Revival maintains a certain lucid simplicity from song to song. “On the last record, it was like we were taking each demo and constructing an entire city around it,” notes Marsh. “With this one, I was really protective about keeping the essence of the original version of the song, and letting the focus stay on the melody and the story I’m telling.”
On lead single “Take Me With You,” Marsh brings that dynamic to a delicately arranged reflection on her days on the Jersey Shore. “That song goes back to all those nights of hopping in a car with a bunch of my friends, playing open mics and then stopping at a diner on the way home,” says Marsh. “It’s about that youthful feeling of experiencing freedom for the first time and how exciting that is—even if you’re just doing something completely innocent like drinking a smoothie in a diner.”
With its intricate guitar work, lush piano tones, and lovingly detailed lyrics, the quietly epic “Take Me With You” bears a bittersweet mood that endures for all of Revival. “Writing these songs brought up a lot of memories of being a teenager, and how challenging it is to try to figure out who you really are,” says Marsh. “There’s also a lot of looking back at the people and places that shaped me, even if they’re not a part of my life anymore.” But while Revival offers up everything from the stark melancholy of “Kids” and elegant intensity of “On the Count of Three” to the soaring serenade of “I Need You Now” and poignant balladry of “Stay with Me Now,” Marsh imbues each song with a brightness of spirit that makes even the most wistful moments feel gently uplifting.
Mostly raised in Hopewell Township, Marsh discovered her preternatural sense of melody as a little kid. “I’d just hear songs in my head all the time and start humming them,” she says. “My mom would ask, ‘What song is that?’ and I’d tell her, ‘It’s my song.’” After taking up piano at age 11 (“I started learning and just couldn’t get enough of it,” she recalls), Marsh began putting those songs to music and finding her voice as a writer. Though she mainly grew up on classic rock—thanks to her mom and dad, former musicians who toured around playing parties and off-the-cuff gigs after high school—the release of Adele’s 19 proved instrumental in her development as an artist. “My music always had such a huge jazz influence to it, and I was never drawn to writing your typical pop song,” says Marsh, who was the first vocalist ever to take part in her high school’s jazz band. “When 19 came out, I finally felt like maybe there was a place for the kind of records I wanted to make.”
After cutting her teeth at those Jersey Shore coffee shops, Marsh headed off to William Paterson University to further sharpen her craft. During her time in college, she also took up ukulele, partly as a way to make her act more portable. “One night I was going to play an open mic, and I ended up pushing my keyboard there in this shopping cart that was randomly outside my dorm,” she remembers. “It got to the point where I was like, ‘Maybe I should pick up another instrument just to make this a little easier.’”
As Marsh steadily built up a following, she began scoring more and more gigs around New York City, including shows at iconic venues like The Bitter End and Rockwood Music Hall. In addition to her City Winery gig with Don McLean—an opportunity that came her way after her performance at The Outlaw Roadshow, a musical showcase co-curated by Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz—she’s also shared stages with artists like Andy Grammer, Gavin DeGraw, and Howie Day in recent years. Now known for the lively contrast between her lighthearted stage banter and emotionally charged performance, Marsh aims to make each set as intimate as possible. “Whether there’s five people or 5,000 people in the crowd, you’ve got to play your heart out,” she says. “I just want to give people moments that move them in some way.”
With the release of Revival, Marsh hopes to deepen that connection, and possibly inspire listeners to reflect on their own formative years. “There’s a definite feel of nostalgia on this record, but to me it’s a positive nostalgia,” she says. “It’s good to look back and see that even the tough situations or negative experiences helped you to grow, and that it’s all a part of becoming who you are today.”
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