Kesang Marstrand in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. More photos below.
Kesang Marstrand didn’t even know she had entered American Songwriter and Avid’s video contest last September. Her husband had secretly entered her song “Bodega Rose.” Marstrand’s ode to a New York bodega resonated with the judges, including Nashville film direction Jeff Wyatt Wilson. “When I first heard Kesang’s ‘Bodega Rose’ I simply fell in love with her lyrics as well as her voice. I immediately played the song over and over again and was so excited that this was the artist and song we were going to shoot.”
So, not long after Wilson discovered “Bodega Rose,” Marstrand received an e-mail announcing that she’d been selected. Her husband, peering over her shoulder as she checked her email, let on that he’d entered her in the contest. Marstrand tells the story over drinks one afternoon in Nashville, and laughs with astonishment at how she won. The prize, which included an armful of studio gear from Avid and Digidesign, also included a trip to Nashville. The only problem was Marstrand was in Tunisia for the next few months.
We finally worked out the details, and Marstrand and her sister arrived in Nashville in August to shoot the video for “Bodega Rose.” Here’s what director Jeff Wyatt Wilson had to say about working with Marstrand:
Kesang and I worked wonderfully together. She has a beautiful soul and is one of the most kind and talented musicians I’ve ever worked with. Projects like this are humbling and remind me of just how fortunate I am to get the pleasure to have these brief intimate creative moments where friendships are born that you know will last forever. I would like to thank Jeff Garner of Prophetik Clothing for the use of the farm, the beautiful horses, some last minute wardrobe assistance as well as the town of Leiper’s Fork.
Watch the video below, read an interview with Kesang Marstrand, and see more photos from the shoot.
When did you first start writing songs?
I was around 18 years old. I had been playing the guitar for a year or so and I remember writing a really simple, three-chord song using a poem I’d written as the lyric.
Tell us the story about being held up by David Bowie at a concert when you were a child.
Basically my mother and I were told that he was going to bring me up on stage. I think there were some security guards who helped me up, and then Bowie sat me on his knee and sang “Stay.” I remember seeing us on the big screen and just being in a kind of calm shock. It was surreal to say the least.
What are some of your musical influences?
I watched a lot of musicals as a child, and to this day I find that I have such an affinity for show tunes… not the bright, jazzy, ones, but more like “Who Will Buy” from “Oliver” or “Sunrise Sunset” and “Far from the Home I Love” from “Fiddler on the Roof”. As far as singer-songwriters I would count Elliott Smith, Ani DiFranco, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell among the artists whom I’ve listened to a good deal and from whom I’ve hopefully learned something. Of course there are many more, but those are the main ones that come to mind right now.
Tell us about writing “Bodega Rose.”
It started with the image of this bodega on a street corner near where I was living in New York. They have flowers outside, like a lot of bodegas do, and I remember having this image in my mind of the roses on a rainy evening. Then the idea of wilderness came up, the idea of wildflowers, and I found myself thinking about how many people in the city, including myself, often feel this intense longing for nature. The song came from that place, and writing it came very naturally… it just kind of came to me, which doesn’t happen that often.
Did you have a vision for the “Bodega Rose” video before you came to Nashville?
Only a very abstract one, mostly having to do with the mood, textures, light, etc. For I while I had been imagining the video in black and white, but it ended up being such a colorful video and I think it’s much better for it.
What did you think about working in Nashville for a few days? Did you have any preconceptions about what music was like in Nashville? Would you come back to work on music in Nashville?
I had an amazing time in Nashville. Creatively I was very inspired throughout my stay and I attribute that to Jeff Wilson who is obviously an immensely skilled and creative person. As far as preconceptions I had about the music in Nashville, I naturally associate the city with Country music, but knew that there was a lot more going on than just that. I’ve heard so many radio interviews with songwriters that can’t really be placed in any one genre, who live or have lived in Nashville, so I also think about it as a kind of Mecca for songwriters. I definitely want to come back to Nashville and hope to make that happen in the not so far future.
How did you and producer Jeff Wilson approach making the music video?
First we made sure we were on the same page as far as the feeling of the video, and then started exchanging ideas about some kind of scenario. In the end, as far as a story line, neither of us felt a strong need to have something clear-cut or literal, and in fact I wanted to stay away from that. We decided it was best to find some picturesque settings and just shoot the video. Jeff had some great ideas for the locations. We shot in an old church downtown, and also at Bowie Park Stables in Fairview. I could easily see Jeff and I working on something more structured and planned out, but for this particular video there was an air of spontaneity and we went with it.
Do you have plans to work with Jeff Wilson again?
Yes, yes, yes. I can’t say enough good things about Jeff and I very much look forward to working with him again.
Any other thoughts about “Bodega Rose,” making a video, etc.?
I just want to say a big thank you to Jeff Wyatt Wilson, and to you all at American Songwriter for making this happen!