Meet Marielle Kraft, new Musikarmageddon Solo champ
While sheer talent won 22-year-old Marielle Kraft the championship of this year’s Musikarmageddon Solo singer-songwriter competition, it was her strategy of connecting with the audience that carried her to that point.
The April 7 competition at the baby grand drew 15 of the area’s top singer-songwriters. Each performed four original songs, competing in head-to-head battles to determine the outcome. Runner-up was Amanda Nolan from West Grove, Pa.
This year’s competition had five judges: Jim Smith of Metropolis Records, Rob Matera of Arden Concert Gild, Jim Miller of Out & About Magazine, Lischele Knight from The Grand’s Board of Directors, and last year’s Musikarmageddon Solo winner, Kaloni Baylor.
Pop artist Kraft says she intentionally started out strong with her catchiest crowd favorite, “Hey You,” which contrasted with the slower, emotional trend of the first round. Next, she focused her energy on sharing herself as a solid lyricist and storyteller with “How Far You Feel,” a significant move because she considers herself a songwriter first, musician second. In the song she explores the paradox of a long-distance relationship, and how the feeling of distance shifts back and forth from physical to emotional.
“The hook of the song is ‘How far you are but I can’t tell how far you feel,’” says Kraft.
Later, she shifted tones with a dramatic “scathing” song that she describes as angsty and beat-driven with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “I was the test ride of my ex and now she’s his joyride.”
“That’s always a fun one and it gets the audience going,” says Kraft. “I ended it in the finals with the song called ‘Box,’ my newest and most vulnerable song, where my emotion is still very raw. I was confident that hopefully I really connected with the audience at that point and gained their trust enough.”
Obviously, she did.
Says Joe Trainor, founder of the competition and local music mainstay: “Marielle showed a clever intensity in her material that, when coupled with her wonderful voice, pulled the listener into her story. And that’s how you win competitions.”
The crowd and fellow musicians left a huge imprint on Kraft.
“In that room, most of them had never heard of me and these songs, but I felt so appreciated because of the silence while artists played and because of the inclusive applause of all genres,” says Kraft. “Even if people came to support a specific songwriter, I feel like people understood it was a night of appreciating music—a celebration, rather than a competitive contest. The other songwriters were so supportive of one another, waiting backstage with high fives and smiles.”
Originally from Rhode Island, Kraft is a self-taught guitarist and vocalist, with a list of influences topped by Taylor Swift.
“She writes every single song she puts out, at the top of the charts with full control over her lyrics,” says Kraft. “That’s something I admire so much about her.”
Kraft, who has been playing guitar since age 16, has a handful of EPs under her belt, including Today Tomorrow Someday and Gibraltar Sessions. Last year she launched her performing career. “It built the act of me, rather than me in my bedroom strumming a couple chords,” she says. “I’ll be doing music fulltime this summer.”
And for now, her plate is full. The recent University of Delaware graduate is a fulltime middle school English teacher in Charles County, Md., and after school she coaches high school lacrosse.
“I teach during the day, coach at night, and almost every single weekend I’m traveling for shows,” says Kraft. “It’s three things I love so much.”
The Musikarmageddon winner’s package consists of a recording session with Ray Gagliardino/Studio 825, a cash award, gift cards and more. For more, visit mariellekraft.com.