Born in Arkansas and then raised all around the country, Shara Worden came from a musical family of traveling evangelists. She went on to study operatic voice and then classical composition after a move to New York City. Shara began issuing recordings as My Brightest Diamond in 2006. Shara has also worked with David Byrne (on his concept musical “Here Lies Love”), Fat Boy Slim, Bon Iver and The Blind Boys of Alabama.
Interview with SHARA WORDEN (My Brightest Diamond):
In an interview with Cool Hunting you mentioned the notion of having a “sustainable life as an artist”. What does this mean for you right now and why does this matter?
A sustainable life as an artist means to me that I can keep doing what I love to do in a thriving manner. I love writing songs. I love making studio recordings. I love connecting with an audience in performances whether that’s with orchestras, or in art museums, or in punk clubs. Art is play and discipline. There is a partnership that I have with my whole business team and I’m fully aware how I could not do what I do without them. It’s my desire for the business to remain solvent so that we can keep developing, just like any other business. That said, Art is always mine and if my work doesn’t pay for itself, then that will be a learning lesson. I’m not anxious to learn it should that happen, but I trust in something greater than what I can see. When we look at history, in times of war we have seen artists make great works of beauty even in horrible prison environments. I don’t wish that on anyone, but it’s a reminder that no one or no situation can take the experience of creation away from any of us. We have the imagination!
How much does geography matter to your process and product?
Very much! I practically have to move to a new place for every album! I lived in New York for almost ten years and felt like I needed to rub shoulders with people who were in a really different conversation and so I moved to Detroit. I think my music changed a lot to a “we” perspective, because I was asking social questions for the first time. For the album “This Is My Hand” I was thinking of the concert experience as this tribal gathering and I realize now how influenced by Detroit this idea is, because one is not infrequently in the situation where people will gather around a fire pit in a backyard and pull out a guitar, or at a house gathering, for someone to throw on a Stevie Wonder record and have a dance party in the kitchen. I wanted to facilitate that feeling in my own way.
How concerned are you with your body of work, and the place of each piece in relation to that? Or is each piece isolated in your mind?
I feel like I’ve been experimenting to create a kind of personal unified theory, a way of bringing together all the things I care about and also to stretch myself, to discover what I am capable of as a composer and a performer. The balance of storytelling, visuals and music, the interplay of acoustic and electric instruments, the “scientist” and the “populist” in me, all of my work is about playing with these elements, and changing the balances in one direction or another. I see myself as a curator in what projects I choose to do as well. I don’t expect everyone to like everything I do, but I’d like them to at least investigate it for a bit.
What is the biggest reward for you with artistic collaboration?
Being challenged! Learning! Getting to find out that you can do something you didn’t know you could do. Discovering another way of doing something and then bringing that into your own work. Meeting nice and interesting people. Getting a beautiful and different result you couldn’t have done if you would have worked alone.
How would you describe your current relationship with beauty? To what degree is beauty a conscious choice for you in your craft?
We need beauty to simply exist. Thankfully nature is there and we can just drink in the beautiful sky at any time (I’m typing this in the van on tour, while the sun is setting and the sky is absolutely glorious!). The sky will never be the same as it is in this moment. That’s amazing! At the same time, there is contrast here. There is suffering. There is the struggle of getting from here to there. From desire to creation, and that struggle needs to be reflected in the work in one way or another, otherwise we feel the work is sentimental. So it’s always a challenge as an artist to reflect the human experience and it is very much related to cultural perception.
What artists (of any medium) do you find yourself currently returning to? Who do you recommend?
Nina Simone. Anselm Kiefer. Diane Arbus. Tim Fite. yMusic. Me’shell Ndegeocello. Pierre Boulez. Prince. Matthew Barney. Jeff Buckley. Robert Wilson. Tom Waits. Alexander McQueen. Jean Pierre Jeunet. Judy Dench.
View Shara Worden’s work here.