Andrew Mars is a vocalist, songwriter and anthropologist. They have co-written a full-length ballet, been involved in site-specific performance art and are the head writer/producer of the chamber punk recording project, Settled Arrows. Their work has been featured in film and radio around the world. They are a published essayist speaking on the topics of mental health, the creative process, and art as resistance. Their music can be found at: www.settledarrows.bandcamp.com
LSDC: How have the social shifts of 2020 impacted your life as an artist?
AM: 2020 has been a major reset for me. I feel that I closed a circuit of the first era of my work as a solo recording artist and am experiencing a fresh start. The next level. A whole new vibe is emerging in the work that I am making. A joyful gratitude born out of grief and experience. Ready for bliss. Ready for peace. Increasingly aware that art is powerful, but power isn't art.
LSDC: How has the broad emergence of this digital realm influenced your creativity/artistic work?
AM: My debut album was called Public Privacy. As an anthropology student in the early 2000s, I wrote my thesis about identity creation through the internet. The digital age is very much on my mind as a thinker and artist. I recorded many portions of my debut (field recordings, vocals, a string quintet, etc) using only my cellphone. The performances I did during the pandemic were lo-fi and filmed like a selfie. I became inspired by using the screen and the internal/external world of our accessible and omnipresent technology to elevate expression and to see how much I could transform that simplicity into something complex and conceptual. Public Privacy. It has been a concept, an ethos, an aesthetic.
LSDC: Have you produced any new work, live or digital?
AM: I have mostly been taking a moment to pause and reflect on where I have been and what I have made so far. I began an Instagram series called "my songs" where I discussed a particular song in detail and/or created little vignettes from home for each song. I have begun work on my next album, Nectar, which I hope to have completed for Spring 2022.
LSDC: How would you describe yourself as an artist, and/or your work, as we step into the year of 2021?
AM: As an artist I am a peaceful resistor to the former norms of the academy. I am a classically-trained pop musician with the heart of a punk making delicate, unusual, accessible conceptual albums that are virtuosic and relaxed, emotional and philosophical, intellectual with deep feeling, airing disappointments and the shadow while offering comfort and light.
LSDC: How have you maintained balance and regularity in this time? What does your daily/artistic regimen look like?
AM: Music is the great healing force and major discipline in my life. The act of singing requires a healthy level of self-awareness, nurturing the body and mind...so that is the constant in my life that keeps me whole. During the early months of the pandemic I very much took to walking for hours through the empty city. Nature stepped up her presence during that time so the herons, bald eagles, swans in flight, ladybugs, snakes and groundhogs have been literal forces in my life keeping my perspective intact.
I overdosed on discipline as a young vocalist and would practice scales and classical art song sometimes too much. So with a newfound focus on finding mastery thru balance of specific routine with gentle freedom, my daily routine now begins with yogurt, vitamins and humming. Lots of humming. This revs my engine in a gentle way so that I can maintain a healthy vocal discipline even in the off days. Every day my mind is set to the work of whatever project or concept or song I am working on (and sometimes the projects that will come AFTER the current one). So much happens in that internal space of reflection. An outside observer might think nothing is going on, but my mind is active building worlds and symphonic gestures that eventually get recorded. My next project has several moving parts that involve my current team of collaborators, so therefore much of my thought lately has gone to delineating order of operations to record songs that were improvised by a group that ultimately have become new compositions of which I am the anchor.
Official video for Andrew Mars' original song,
Photos by Chris Sikich for Magnet Magazine