Sweet Martha (Kaitlyn Mrasek, Brooklyn Mrasek and Bradley Rader) exist in a long tradition of harmony-rich folk music trios. The simplicity of their songs allows their singing to shine, recalling the classic harmonies of the Beach Boys and the Everly Brothers. These qualities are on full display on their newest single "Woe to Him Who Leaves It." We are happy to share an interview with Kaitlyn Mrasek about their music, inspirations and recording their upcoming album in Johnson County Library's Makerspace, among other things. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourselves and describe your music for new listeners.
Sweet Martha is a folk trio based in Kansas City. Our music is vocally-driven and accompanied by Bradley's acoustic guitar. Occasionally, Kaitlyn gets out a glockenspiel or auto-harp and attempts to add additional elements to a song, though she hasn't been taught (self or otherwise) to play.
Your harmonies sound like you’ve been singing together for decades. Your most recent song “Woe to Him Who Leaves It” is a perfect example of this. Talk about how this song came to be and where it was recorded.
'Woe to Him Who Leaves It' started when Bradley brought what would become the melody and first line of the song to Kaitlyn, and from there, Kaitlyn wrote up the rest of the lyrics while Brad wrote the music to accompany as they went. We were lucky enough to be able to record it in a small outdoor structure at Kaitlyn's then-home in Raytown, MO - the video was shot in the same day with the help and considerable talent of the band's long-time friend, Michael Martin. The song's lyrics drew from previous relationship experiences from Brad and Kaitlyn, and attempts to speak to the 'mixed bag' of moving on from a relationship that isn't working, only to begin experiencing doubt about when you will find someone you won't have to 'move on' from.
How do Sweet Martha songs get their sparks to the gasoline? How often do you rehearse?
Most Sweet Martha songs start with a short melody and 100% collaboration from the start. As Brad is the only one in the group that officially plays an instrument, he generally bears the brunt of writing most of the guitar parts and dynamics, while the trio is tasked with building the structure of the song with lyrics and layering harmonies. Maintaining a cohesive three-part harmony structure is difficult, so we rehearse once a week to really solidify our songs as muscle memory, gig or no gig. Sometimes, we will add additional practices for upcoming shows.
Talk about other artists who most inspire your songwriting.
There are an incredible amount of influences on our songwriting; genre influences that we love and attempt to bring into our music as flavors include soul and R&B artists like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, singer songwriters and pop culture icons like Jenny Lewis, Dolly Parton, Patti Page and the Talking Heads, and our overall sound tends to be influenced by vocally-driven and masterful artists like the Lone Bellow, Alison Krauss, Eisley and of course, countless others.
What inspires you the most about music in Kansas City?
There is a lot to be inspired by as far as music goes in Kansas City. As Kaitlyn and Brooke are not native to the city (Kaitlyn moved to KC in 2012, and Brooke moved in the summer of 2016), it has been quite a refreshing thing to find so many who are so supportive of the music we make. We have been given so many opportunities to play, even from early on - local groups like Afterglow in Pleasant Hill, MO, local coffee shops in Pleasant Hill and Lee's Summit, MO, and local music events like Porchfest KC (two years in a row!). Services like the sound booth at the JoCo Library Makerspace make it really easy for bands to get their music out in front of people. Radio stations like the Bridge and the Buzz showcase local music all the time, and really promote their success with events like Middle of the Map and Folk Alliance International happening every year. There's so much going on here and it all feels collaborative rather than competitive, which is really inspirational.
Sweet Martha's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
A Seat at the Table by Solange
Then the War Came by Shakey Graves
Pet Sounds by Beach Boys
Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis
Fear Fun by Father John Misty
Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
Postal Service EP by Postal Service
For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver