Marie Litton of PrettyMouth on how heartache and hard times tend to give you perspective
"My voice is a bit twangy," says Marie Litton. "It works with dark, quiet music -- but bands don't like to play quiet. The band I have now is perfect for my voice, but it took me a long time to find them." After fronting the locally-renowned Ghost Buffalo for six years (with ex-husband and former Planes Mistaken for Stars guitarist, Matt Bellinger) Litton parted ways with Ghost Buffalo and Bellinger, and channeled her seemingly endless energies into Lil Thunder, an outfit not unlike her previous band.
"I don't have a rock voice," says Litton. "In Ghost Buffalo, everyone was fighting over who could be louder. And I was singing next to huge stacked amps. No one could hear me. I love to play rock, which is why I'm still with Lil Thunder, but those guys are all grownups; they're getting married and buying houses -- they don't want to tour. I'm not a grownup, I'm a musician."
Though Marie will qualify that statement with the fact that she's also a waitress, an endeavor she's eager to leave behind for a life 100 percent devoted to music. "If I'm not playing music, I get depressed. Since Ghost Buffalo broke up, it's been the hardest three years of my life. My friends are always telling me, 'Wwhen you're on stage, or writing a song, it's the only time we see you happy.' It's an anti-depressant for me. If I don't have it, I'm screwed."
And for a time, that was the case with Litton. While enjoying playing with Lil Thunder, there was a softer, ultimately darker sound that Litton was after. She'd spent her post-Ghost years in a luge of therapeutic songwriting, and was eager to find a band that could not only pull off her brand of sonic fragility, but could go the distance as full time musicians, and one of those folks turned out to be Lief Sjostrom.
"I saw Lief play cello at Paris on the Platte," she recalls, "and said to him, 'You need to be in my band.'" Fortunately, Sjostrom's band was breaking up at the time, and he, too, was looking for an all-consuming project. As was Ryan Longenecker, who was enlisted on drums in what was to be called PrettyMouth. In this three-piece, Litton found a collection of musicians who were interested in playing more consciously ethereal music. "They make my songs sound amazing," Litton she points out.
After only being together a few months, PrettyMouth recorded the album, Satan in Clothes, a collection of emotionally dense, musically fragrant songs that compliment Litton's indie-twang vocals. "There was a time when wanting was believing/All the mistakes didn't seem so wrong," she sings on the Neko Case-esque "Certain Sacrifice," a pair of lines that could interchangeably describe the hindsight of both romantic love and musical partnerships.
"I ask you: How can you write a good song at 21?" Litton concludes. "I've gone through a lot of shit. I've been married twice. Years and heartache give you perspective as an artist. I'm a better writer now than I ever was. You write your best when you have to."