slice of life

Marissa Mulder is coming back to Syracuse with a younger style of cabaret

Courtesy of Marissa Mulder

Marissa Mulder grew up in Syracuse and now lives in Brooklyn, but she's excited to be home for the weekend.

UPDATED: Feb. 8, 2017 at 11:35 a.m.

At just 4 years old, Marissa Mulder was inspired by Judy Garland’s singing in “The Wizard of Oz.” Since that moment, she has never looked back. Singing is her passion.

This week Mulder comes back to Syracuse to perform her cabaret show “Be Here Now: The Songs of Ray LaMontagne” at the Redhouse Arts Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“I love the Redhouse so much. This will be my third time back there. It’s just a gorgeous venue,” Mulder said. “It’s special for me to come back home and do what I love because that’s where it all started.”

As a child and teenager, Mulder starred in many plays and musicals at Saint Ann’s Church and at Christian Brothers Academy. After graduating from State University of New York at Geneseo in 2007, she moved to New York City without hesitation.

Despite being overwhelmed by the city’s fast pace when she first moved into her Brooklyn apartment, she quickly established herself as a singer. She met another Syracuse native, Karen Oberlin, who introduced her to the world of cabaret.

“I didn’t even know what it was really until I met her,” she said. “I loved the feel of it and the style.”

Her grandparents both influenced her music career. Mulder recalls listening to Frank Sinatra and many jazz artists with her grandfather when she was young, and her grandmother directed many shows at her elementary school. She remarked how similar cabaret was to her grandparents’ music taste.

Mulder started singing cabaret with classic styles similar to the first shows she saw and eventually established herself in the cabaret scene after winning in 2011, The Metropolitan Room’s “Metrostar Challenge,” a cabaret singing competition in New York. She then began to experiment with her personal style based on singer-songwriters like Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and some younger artists like Amy Winehouse and Sia.

“I love singing in this style because it’s so intimate, and I feel like I really connect with people and they connect with me. That’s my favorite part,” Mulder said.

James Mulder, her father and an adjunct professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, believes she really came into her own when she sang her “Tom Waits… In His Words” show, because she not only sings Waits’ songs, but also speaks between songs using his quotes to tell his story from start to finish. Her research and production makes the show stand out.

“Tom Waits is a great songwriter. He’s a real eccentric sort of guy,” James Mulder said. “A lot of people, when they heard she was going to be singing Tom Waits, they think of this rumpled guy who’s got this gravelly voice, and Marissa’s got a very nice voice. It seemed like there was this disconnect there, but really it worked out great.”

“She’s real and genuine. That is probably what I am most proud of,” her father added. “That really comes through when she performs.”

Other than Waits, Mulder has performed shows based on Marilyn Monroe and Jimmy Van Heusen, a songwriter from Syracuse who wrote for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and many others.

Her upcoming performance is based on Ray LaMontagne, a much younger singer-songwriter. Mulder has performed this show in New York City and has noticed a connection with a younger audience.

“I think in order for this art form to survive, we need newer music, and we need younger people to come in and see it,” Mulder said. “That’s why I am really excited to come home.”

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