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Marina Allen Follows Her Own North Star

Writing love songs was never really Marina Allen’s thing. “It almost felt like I wasn’t interested,” the 31-year-old Los Angeles songwriter says. “I’ve been in love before, but I don’t think I really could write about it in a way that I felt like I had something to say.”

But all of that changes with Allen’s new album, Eight Pointed Star, out June 7 via Fire Records. Over nine tracks, she spins wistful tales in tones of folk and Americana that mark the first love songs she’s ever written. Some venture beyond romance, like the crushing opener “I’m the Same,” which documents the dissipation of a friendship. Others, like the new single “Deep Fake,” is a meditative love song for the internet age. “Love is sitting in your beloved’s loneliness and letting it be,” she sings. 

“As a recovering codependent person, that was a huge lesson for me,” Allen says. “The best thing that we can do for our loved ones is just sit with them and not try to fix it or rescue them. When you really love someone and you can empathize with their pain and suffering, it’s a lot easier to sacrifice yourself than to live your own life. I spent a lot of years hiding in someone else’s pain, and it wasn’t really until I stepped into music that I was able to find my truth again.”

It’s a late April afternoon in New York, and Allen is sipping a cappuccino at Veselka, the beloved Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village. In a few hours, she’ll perform a couple blocks away at Webster Hall, opening for Real Estate. Because she’s touring with her band (including her boyfriend, guitarist Jasper McMahon), she’ll be less nervous on stage than if she were solo. She says this candidly, describing herself as shy and introverted. (Considering she already admitted she’s “a recovering codependent person,” Allen is incredibly self-aware.) 

Allen is no stranger to New York. She lived here in 2011, when she temporarily quit college in Vermont. She got a job working for singer-songwriter Terre Roche — a member of the sister trio the Roches, who went on to a long career after being discovered by Paul Simon in the early Seventies — mostly helping Roche rip her CDs onto iTunes. “She took me under her wing and taught me some guitar, and I would go to shows with her,” Allen says. “She was the first person that I met who A, was a woman who didn’t have any kids and B, was also an artist.” 

Allen returned to college and graduated in 2016, then moved to Los Angeles a year later. She released her debut, Candlepower, in 2021, following it up with 2022’s Centrifics. “I think with my other two albums, I was trying to be the songwriter that I thought I wanted to be, rather than actually am,” she says. “With every record, I get closer to the source of it, and with this record, I feel more myself. It’s all about self acceptance.” 

Self-acceptance is a major theme on Eight Pointed Star, named after the quilting pattern and the idea of the North Star. Throughout the songs, Allen navigates the baggage of her past as she decides to integrate it with her present, unifying the two to create a new future. “It’s embracing my own failures and weird parts, and allowing yourself to sow the seeds even though there’s shit there,” she says. 

It’s here that she touches on her family history. Allen was born in New Jersey and began singing in churches as soon as she could talk, then moved to the Bay Area at 10 years old. But she deeply connects with her mother’s side of the family in Nebraska. She’d grow up hearing stories of her grandmother living there before the region was fully industrialized, among the hard-working farmers, wild horses, and prairies. “A lot of weird-ass stories about addiction and sorrow come from that region,” she says. 

Many of these stories are more myth than truth, Allen notes. “You base your whole identity off of this one thing that you got wrong,” she says. “I was really tripped up about that, because when you think about your relationships with your family and your ancestry in that way, so much of it is inaccurate to a certain extent, or mythologized. And I think that’s what folk music is: Storytelling and cherry-picking, exaggerating some parts and leaving some parts out, based on whoever’s telling it.”

She fantasizes about the town of Red Cloud, Nebraska, in the song of the same name — a conjuring of what she imagines life was once like there. “I make a stew with rain water and frozen meat, thick with pine needles, warm beer and baby teeth,” she sings. “I suck it down in spoonfuls, I go to sleep dumb and halved/Vibrating in circles, in circuits I wake up dizzy/In Red Cloud.”


“That is not a real thing,” she says of the meal. “The stew was this magical elixir. I love Joanna Newsom, and I challenged myself to make a Joanna Newsom song, so this was me trying my very best. She’s a master at that kind of rambling, but you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time.”

Allen accomplished what she set out to do without simply mimicking the famed songwriter. Rather than sound like another Newsom, her voice is original and pure — like those vast prairies. “Music is definitely a burden as well as a calling,” she says. “And I sometimes wish that I was just a normie who worked at Google, but I’ve just never been like that and had to come to terms with that. Music was always there as a path. I just had to really accept it, ultimately, which meant accepting myself.”

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