Late last week, we had a chance to speak with Marilyn via e-mail. After her band Mudville took home an Independent Music Award for the song Wicked, Marilyn Carino released a solo album by the name of Little Genius, part of which was recorded right here in Bensonhurst. She shared her thoughts on going solo, changes in Bensonhurst, the CIA, the IRA and Buddhism – among other topics.
You’ve done quite a bit of traveling. What was it like to come back to Bensonhurst with all the changes that have taken place, both demographically and socioeconomically, in the last five to 10 years? Do like it better now or when you were growing up?
I actually like it much better now. After traveling around the world I have a huge appreciation for diversity. I love dim sum and Vietnamese food, there’s a great Russian market on 18th Avenue that has the best fruits and veggies, organic treats and chocolate. The Chinese market has great fish. I still love the perfect cannolis and pizza, like nowhere outside of Italy. Food is important!
Do you still have many childhood friends living in the neighborhood?
Nope, all gone.
Was your cousin really in the CIA?
The family would whisper that he worked for “the agency.” We weren’t supposed to talk about it, and in true Italian style we’d get yelled at if we did!
Did your grandmother jet-set with the Queen of Spain?
Oh yes, she was very worldly. She wore beautiful clothes and loved to laugh. She’s 101 years old now and still feisty.
Was your ex-boyfriend in the IRA?
I didn’t know about that when we started dating. It became apparent when we got arrested seemingly for no reason. He had done something really bad and I was just kinda there with him.
We’ve read that you’re active in the movement to unite Northern Ireland and Ireland. As a person not of Irish descent, who or what first introduced you to Irish politics and motivated you to act on your beliefs?
It was the aforementioned Irish boyfriend. I was very young and I learned so much that incensed me about how those people in the Six Counties were treated. I didn’t actually do that much, but I did demonstrate in London and read a lot of political writers, Danny Morrison, Patrick Pearse, Bobby Sands. For some reason I really connected to and sympathized with their culture and situation.
Any thoughts on Buddhism and how it relates to your music?
Buddhism is at the forefront of everything I do. I practice it to develop the courage and wisdom I need to persevere in this devilish realm called the music business! Buddhism is about being fully your best self, with no fear. Very important for an artist.
What was the deciding factor in deciding to leave Mudville and go solo?
Mostly just the feeling that it had reached the end of what I wanted to do within that structure, I just started to think differently, want to do things musically that weren’t “Mudvillian.” I had to prove to myself that I could do it alone.
Do you feel like your coming into your own style on your most recent stuff? What was the inspiration for your new album Little Genius?
In the liner notes I relate a story about how I did something for my dad
that no one thought I could do. Everyone doubted me, but I went ahead and showed them. Then all of a sudden everyone was calling me a genius. That was my purpose for the album, to create something that pleased myself first, that lived up to my highest standards no matter what anyone else thought.
Do you ever get compared to Lady Gaga or Amy Winehouse?
Funnily enough, yes. I was wearing my hair like Winehouse before she came on the scene. I think I get Gaga because I have a fondness for giant scary false eyelashes.
What was it like working with Mike Mills from R.E.M.?
Fun. Silly. He’s a great person and a great, loose, serious musician.
Who is your favorite celebrity musician or producer to work with?
MC: Besides my friend Mikey Mills? Id say Billy Talbot, bassist of Crazy Horse. He is a true character, a real music business survivor, deep and strange.
Did you used to go to L’amour’s?
I wasn’t into that scene, but a lot of people I knew were.
Any words of advice for the aspiring musicians and singers of Bensonhurst?
Work hard, harder, harder. Don’t be superficial or lie to yourself, always keep trying to improve before you try to “get over.” Truth wins out, always.