It’s difficult to even know where to start when trying to encapsulate the wholeness of Patti Smith’s contributions to the world because they are practically boundless. In one moment in time she could be wild-eyed and wailing her resolute punk poetry, and in other she could be invoking tears through a written memory of a person she loved and lost. No matter the form, everything she transmits into the world radiates a palpable wisdom, and such an earnest deluge of emotion that its effects linger far after you first experience it. In a similar way, local musician Nona Marie has captivated audiences with the sparse and plaintive beauty of her incredible voice in groups like Dark Dark Dark and Anonymous Choir as well as the mind-melding warped weirdness of RONiiA. Nona is incredibly talented across genres and styles and we are anticipating her interpretation of Patti Smith with such excitement. Here’s what Nona had to say about Patti’s importance to her personally:
Do you remember your first interaction with Patti Smith’s music? What was it?
I don’t really remember a first time, but somehow I came to know her music and love her. She is one of those influences whose songs have always been there somehow, supporting my work, without me even realizing it.
What about her music resonates most with you?
Sometime in 2008 I saw the Dream Of Life documentary and I was really able to connect with her. At a time when I was traveling a lot and playing tons of fun and weird shows she exemplified being a young artist and really celebrated herself as an individual in the world. A true punk queen just doing her thing and not letting anything stop her.
Patti constantly vocalized her appreciation of art, poetry and writing? What are some artists outside of music that are especially influential to you?
I read the poetry and essays of Gloria Anzaldúa after high school and she helped form some positive idea of myself as an outsider and a feminist on a mission to fearlessly present an authentic version of myself to the world. She writes about borders within race, culture, gender, sexuality, the inner struggles of our psyches and the outside influences of oppression and trying to thrive in a dualistic patriarchy. She really turned my world upside down.
I have always been influenced by my friends and their artistic ambitions. Lauren Roche, Tynan Kerr, Andy Mazorol and Annika Kaplan are just a few of the talented and hard working people that are constantly creating new inspiring work and push me to dig deeper into my own musical world to discover new works.
Patti Smith is also known for interweaving activism into her songwriting. What musicians today do you think do this most effectively?
Lizzo is an inspiration. Her lyrics and videos tackles racial profiling, police brutality, body shaming. She is such a positive force in the world, we are lucky to live in the same city with this queen.
How do you think the systems and institutions that Patti reacted against with her music decades ago differ to the ones we face today?
The struggle as a female musician has changed, but is still real. Women are still fetishized and put on display, marginalized and condescended. There is still a lot of work to be done.
What Patti Smith song hits your heart the most?
Land/Horses is really heavy hitting. The lyrics are sung with an unhinged passion, it’s clear from her performance that she’s a true poet.
What did you learn about yourself as a musician while reinterpreting these songs?
Rock & roll is super fun! I just want to be in a rock band! Just kidding. But kind of. Patti Smith’s lyrics are passionate and politicized. She makes me want to be more honest and upfront about my point of view.
photo by Serene Supreme