t seems as if there’s rarely a pause in the creative life of Shara Worden. Producers and musicians are always knocking on her door with offers for tours, collaborations, and genre-defying projects, and luckily, she’s up for any challenge. Maybe it’s the fact that she sounds great on any instrument she picks up. Maybe it’s her powerful but delicate voice that brings opportunities to her, as bugs are attracted to bright light. Maybe it’s simply because she is exactly that—a bright light.

Worden, who also goes by the moniker My Brightest Diamond, is in high demand nowadays. She has performed, recorded or collaborated with popular artists such as The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, and Stateless, and she’s selfless both onstage and her songwriting: Her immaculate arrangements and beautiful layerings truly honor the song rather than the composer. On her solo material, My Brightest Diamond weaves dark melodies and enchanting orchestrations that contrast her angelic vocals, which can hop from baritone to falsetto on a whim. Her driving guitar riffs, which wouldn’t be out of place on a rugged indie-record, add an extra dimension to her music and stage presence.

After finding success with 2006’s Bring Me The Workhorse and 2008’s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth (both on Asthmatic Kitty Records), Worden decided to rework her albums instead of charging towards new material; look for Tear it Down, a remixed version of Workhorse, and four remixed versions of Shark’s Teeth soon.

Currently on the road with The Decemberists, Worden is looking for her next collaboration and her next muse; there won’t be a new My Brightest Diamond album until sometime after 2010. In the meantime, we’re sure she’ll stay busy as ever, whether she’s backing yet another world-class artist, gardening at her Detroit home, attending her book club, or commanding the stage. (We hope for the ladder)


Story by Jon D’Auria

You seem to always have your hands full with new projects and exciting musical collaborations. What’s been on your plate lately?

I’ve been out on the road with The Decemberists as an additional musician/singer, which is amazingly fun. I love their music and their new album, so performing with them is such a privilege. On my own time, I’ve been dabbling with electronics and new tools, as well as working on a project called “The Long Count.” It is a mix of ideas that I’m working on with Aaron and Bryce (Dessner) from The National and Kim and Kelley (Deal) from the Breeders. It is going to feature a 12-piece chamber orchestra and should be a pretty amazing experience.

Bring Me The Workhorse and A Thousand Shark’s Teeth are both incredibly diverse records with cohesive themes as well as notable progressions in your songwriting. What can we expect from your next album?

I think I’ve departed from harmony, as odd as that sounds. All my previous works are based entirely on harmony. Shark’s Teeth was me working out years of my own harmonic language. Everything had a purpose and a method to it. Now, I’m not so concerned with that. Now I’m interested in rhythm. But rest assured, I have ideas and plans and stuff (laughing).

You are a gifted and fluent multi-instrumentalist. Do you typically use one particular instrument to write?

It always comes back to my guitar. I keep buying things—I always come across random instruments like a ukulele or a piano from Kenya—and it’s good, because timbre is the catalyst of songwriting for me, so the more variety I have, the more my creativity sparks. Guitar, however, is the instrument that makes me feel the most “at home.”

What inspires you to write the way you do?

Sounds and colors. I’m learning to cultivate colors a lot more and make them my sonic motivation. The impetus is a very personal one. I don’t write a ton of songs, but when I do it’s like pregnancy and childbirth. It is very special to me.

You had a very well-traveled and musically unique upbringing. How does this affect your songwriting today?

I think it affects my songwriting a lot. I lived in nine different states growing up, so I was exposed to so much so young. Everything around you affects you and influences your outlook, so being a musician, you somewhat transform that into your art. It also made me not associate with one particular genre. I never settled, and hopefully I never do.

With that in mind, how do you go about writing your lyrics? Do you approach them as poetry, or in after you’ve written the music?

Well, when I’m really lucky, they come out in finished form exactly at the same moment the music happens. It is uncanny how it works, but instead of hearing a line or a chorus, every word of the song will just come out with the music. If they don’t reveal themselves like that, however, I usually draw from an experience or something I’ve taken from my past. I take a blank sheet of paper and fill it in non-linear ways. I don’t do a journal; it has to be just about the song.

If you weren’t a musician/songwriter, what would you be doing with your life?

I would be a gardener. I just moved to Detroit, so my recent task, when not on the road, is making my garden happen. I get so much joy out of it. I could just do it full time and be totally satisfied.

Name a vice of yours aside from gardening and music.

Fantasy books, definitely. My book club is constantly pulling me away from my life, but I have to give in. I’m reading Robin McKinley’s book Sunshine right now and I just can’t seem to put it down. Even worse, I can’t wait to discuss it with my club.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

I’m going to put out one more remix EP by DM Stiff of Shark’s Teeth. I’m on the road with The Decemberists through the first week of November. I’m going to contribute vocals to Sarah Kirkland Snider’s next album, which is much more classical than anything. And then, come winter, I will be working on the next My Brightest Diamond album. I’m sure in the meantime a thousand other things will pop up, as they always seem to. My garden and my book club will both fit in there somewhere along the way.


What do you feel the overall purpose of music is?

I really don’t think that it has to have a purpose. It’s an expression of being alive. I used to think that it had to have a purpose like a hope or lightness to it, but I listen back and I dislike that concept now. Anger to anger, sickness to sickness, art doesn’t have to have an objective. If you look at the body of someone’s work, it reveals their true purpose for creating and the phases that the music carried them through. I saw Leonard Cohen live last week and it was immensely profound. For a man in his 70s, he was so open and vulnerable. He went from suffering to religion to sin and sexuality and then ended with halleluiah. It was a profound and beautiful glimpse into his life, and he resonated with me on a lot of levels.

And what are you listening to right now?

We’re doing a harp cover, so that’s spinning a lot right now. I just got a beautiful record by Annie Clark—St. Vincent—called Actor (4AD, 2009) that I’ve been loving lately. Otherwise, I’ve just been hashing out a lot of my own stuff lately.

You’ve worked with many amazing musicians in your career. Who would you want to work with that you haven’t already?

Funny you should say that. I was recently contacted by David Byrne of Talking Heads, who said he wanted to work with me on something. I was so excited! He would definitely be on that list of people whom I wish to collaborate with.

What has been your most memorable moment on stage so far?

Oh man, so many come to mind. Some nights, my only job is to stand onstage and go, “do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do.” And that can be so much fun by itself. Actually, we had a super-special evening two weeks ago at Radio City Music Hall. I was onstage with the Decemberists and the Dirty Projectors, and Sharon Jones and Feist came up with us to do the final song of the night. The collaboration and the generosity were overwhelming. We all had the willingness to do anything, and the result was amazing. I have goose bumps just thinking about it! 

Photos provided by My Brightest Diamond

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