FOLK singer Mariee Sioux has garnered critical acclaim over the past decade for her gorgeous melodies, powerful and thoughtful lyrics, and incredible voice.
She’s a rare combination of poet, musician, activist, healer, and storyteller—someone truly using art in the way it’s intended to be used.
Her music, which has been compared to the songs of artists like Joni Mitchell and Joanna Newsom, is delicate and thought-provoking. She writes frequently about issues and stories relating to her Indigenous heritage, and speaks of music as a form of healing.
Sioux is coming to Savannah on Tues., July 23 for an evening of music at East End Provisions, and we spoke to her beforehand about her career so far.
Your music is so poetic at its core—it reminds me a lot of songwriters like Joan Baez. There’s a feeling of the protest folk music of the 60s, in the performances and lyricism. Where does that come from?
Sioux: What I’ve come to realize, after a decade into this process, is that I really feel like it chose me. The songwriting, the music—I never imagined being a musician. I never imagined performing in front of people. It’s even still challenging for me to get up and perform in front of people, because I’m pretty reserved and shy unless you know me well.
I really feel like this music comes from the ancestral plane. That’s what I’ve come to realize from visions that I’ve had. For me personally, it’s a form of ancestral healing that I’ve come to find is something I’m able to heal a lot of things from my lineage through. A lot of the music, I don’t even remember writing. And then there’s some that I’ve totally worked more on. There are some that have taken years to become what they are.
I just feel like this musical path that I’m on is a healing path. I write this music to be able to heal from experiences I’m going through, and then in turn it’s kind of been reflected back to me. People have a lot of healing experiences that they’ve shared through listening to the music I’ve made.
In talking about those times where you don’t remember writing a song—I’ve heard people talk about that before and I think that’s so interesting. Is there a specific song or instance that stands out as one of those moments?
Sioux: Definitely. On the new record, Grief In Exile, for sure. "Black Snakes" is probably the most like that. I hadn't written a song in, like, a year. I'd just been going through a lot and was coming out of a difficult breakup. I didn't really do a lot of music stuff for a bit. I was about to go out to Standing Rock, and was preparing for that journey which was a very big moment. I did eat a little bit of mushrooms [laughs]. I sat at my altar, had my guitar and started playing it, and then I started playing the song's guitar part. I really just sang the song into being.
It just came out, and I was singing the words and melody. It was a seriously spooky experience. It was truly the sense of channeling something into being in real time. It’s a very, very potent song for me and it means a lot. It holds a lot of messages of Indigenous prophecy in it.
Playing music is one of those things that can be a spiritual experience for people, and it can also really formulate who you are as a person. If you could identify one significant way that music has impacted your life, what would that be?
Sioux: It’s like my connection to life. It’s my connection to people, to humanity. I feel like the reason I follow this path is because of other people. People have told me stories and shared with me what the music does to them.
This is my duty and my calling to do this work. With the kind of music is and the healing realms, it’s different than going to clubs and playing in a band. It’s very transcendent, very trippy and a very musical experience. It helps me really connect with other people and to really see into the mystery. It’s so mysterious to me where the music comes from. The album is out there having its own experience. It’s part of me, but it’s really just its own entity. And that’s really psychedelic.
Music is really my life path, and it’s led me to all of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had.