A chat with singer-songwriter Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond

The mining process

Sep 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

With a catalog as dense as hers, it only makes sense for My Brightest Diamond singer-songwriter Shara Worden to reinvent herself with each album. As is certainly the case with her newest release, This Is My Hand. Even though she's an accomplished musician and a classically trained vocalist with a degree from the University of North Texas, Worden believes the collective experience between the artist and the audience to be more significant than showing off what she learned in a classroom. This informs the approach she took when writing her new album, specifically the rhythms and vocal melodies.

Worden, whose family moved quite a lot, lived in nine states by the time she was 18. In retrospect, she realizes how moving around affected the type of musician she became, picking up her love of classical in various school choirs, punk rock in Texas, and rap and R&B while living in Ypsilanti. Elements from each of these genres are evident on the new album. However, it remains cohesive, despite the amount of time she took to make it.

The songstress has collaborated with artists like David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, and Laurie Anderson, as well as appeared in acclaimed artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney's film River of Fundament, which was filmed in Detroit, where Worden has lived for the past five years. To promote the new release, My Brightest Diamond is going on tour, kicking everything off at the Music Box here in Detroit.

Metro Times: How do you choose the musicians you work with on My Brightest Diamond projects?

Shara Worden: Without a muse, it doesn't exist. I really need my muses — really really need them very specifically. I hated the flute — just hated the flute — and now I met this beautiful creature Alex Sopp, and she's a brilliant flutist. Suddenly, I just can't get enough piccolo on any of my music. [Laughs] I was just inventing things for her to do.

MT: You utilize the drum line on the album — what was your muse for that?

Worden: I went to the Thanksgiving parade, and I was just sitting on the sidelines weeping. I could not stop crying. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen because here's all these people dressed up as trees or clowns or candy canes or whatever, and that lady could be a lawyer, that lady could be a dental assistant. All these people living out their fantasies in this theater of the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade. So, I thought, "I want to do that. I want to make a parade."

MT: How do you approach the writing process?

Worden: Music is my job and my joy. I treat it like an office job, so I really like keeping office hours. I was intentional about setting aside a week here, a week there, to work on these songs. I would go in with rhythms I was interested in, and I was really concerned with the tempos. So, the first writing session, I went in with my keyboard player (and producer Zac Rae), who ended up producing the record, and we just made a pile of beats that we liked. I didn't have any lyric ideas at all. We made 10 or 12 ideas over four days. Nothing was really finished at that point, just sketches at tunes and kept chipping away and working on things over time, which I've never done before. All Things Will Unwind, I wrote in three weeks.

MT: You've worked with so many artists — do you have a dream collaboration?

Worden: I really am curious about the producer Flood. He's done a lot of records that I really, really, really like. — mt

My Brightest Diamond plays the Music Box on Friday, Sept. 19. Doors open at 8 p.m.; 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-576-5111; dso.org; tickets are $18.