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Marie Bellet is a wife and mother of eight who writes and sings songs about motherhood, marriage, and faith.

In 1997 she recorded a collection of what she calls "housewife songs" entitled "What I Wanted to Say." After selling over 10,000 copies, primarily by word of mouth, Marie recorded a second collection of songs about the temptations of modern life entitled "Ordinary Time" in June of 2000. Her third collection, "Lighten Up," was released in June of 2003. It's about forgiveness, joy, and living life in the here-and-now. Through her music Marie hopes to remind listeners of the happiness to be found in fulfilling our commitments and living sacrificial love.

IgnatiusInsight.com recently interviewed Marie and asked her about her passion for music, her life as wife and mother, and the challenges of being a Catholic singer/songwriter in Nashville.


IgnatiusInsight.com: What is your musical background? Have you written and performed from an early age?

Marie Bellet:
I did not begin writing until I was in my early thirties–pregnant with Cecilia, my sixth child and only girl. The writing was a total surprise to me. I had tried it twenty years earlier, but really didn’t have anything to say. Now I can’t stop writing.

Music lessons started when I was about ten. My parents required that all eight of us take piano with a rather eccentric man who insisted on regular and terrifying recitals. I tried briefly to study music in college, but was too baffled and irritated by music theory 101 to pursue that. Instead I studied Economics and Public Policy. I took singing lessons on and off throughout high school and college but was never as serious as the other students–I just thought it was fun.

I performed in choirs, madrigals, talent shows and musicals in high school and college, but really got a taste for connecting with an audience in my first duo act while at Rice University. My guardian angel was certainly on high alert at that time. I was singing country songs to the down and out in Houston, Texas, (no, my parents did not know about this), and was amazed to have such a connection with people so different from me. I saw first hand how a simple song could move people.

Knowing I needed to support myself, I got an MBA from Vanderbilt. I admit I had no interest in what I was studying. I just wanted to be in Nashville to be close to music. I didn’t have the caliber of voice to be a recording artist, but I really wanted to communicate.

After graduation I made a demo of my singing. There was a producer who loved my style of delivery but wanted a more polished voice. I took lessons again. He then told me that the lessons had ruined the sincerity of my delivery because I was too distracted by the mechanics of singing. I haven’t taken a lesson since. This producer had me singing duets with Alan Jackson, who was just starting in Nashville.

My stomach was always in knots around music business people. I remember thinking that I would lose my soul if I stayed with it. I stopped singing, worked MBA jobs, got married, moved overseas, and never expected to do anything with music again. I came back to America with three kids and Alan Jackson was huge. That was okay. I had made my choice.

IgnatiusInsight.com: How did your music career get started? What musical influences helped shape your writing and singing.

Marie:
My career started when I began writing my own "housewife songs" and found a guitar player who could translate my clumsy renditions into real music. I can not emphasize enough how insecure I was about showing my songs to sophisticated songwriters and musicians, who I knew would have no appreciation for songs about everyday family life. Finding my guitar player, John Pell, and then my producer, Larry Rogers, made all the difference. Without their patient, perceptive and supportive work with me, I never would have done any of this.

The singers I most loved growing up were Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Carly Simon. As far as writing influences go, I have always admired Joni Mitchell. I also love the simplicity and elegance of many country writers who can tell a story in very few words. Musically, I love Allison Krauss with all of her harmonies and blue grass instrumentation

When it comes to the content of my songs, I am probably most influenced by the meditations I read in the morning in "Conversation With God", as well as Josemaria Escrivá, Fulton Sheen and Caryll Houselander. Many a song has emerged as I go through my day thinking on those writings.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What are the major themes of your songs? What do you hope your music accomplishes?

Marie:
I want to remind people of things we already knew but have been obscured by the Culture of Death. Mostly, I want to highlight the nobility of ordinary life, sacrificial love and forgiveness. I want to refocus our attention to the importance of our most sacred relationships. The culture of death is all about destroying relationships through materialism, feminism, the victim mentality, busyness, escape and control. I sing about all of those things. I write a lot about the difficulty and transforming nature of marriage- that just because it is hard doesn’t mean it was a mistake. I try to help people see how ridiculous many of life’s skirmishes are in the big picture. I want to give lonely women company, and encourage them to keep on in their most sacred vocation to love. I want to remind people that God loves them and is very involved in their lives, even thought they might be bumbling along oblivious to His love.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you have a favorite song or songs?

Marie:
My favorite songs are the conversion songs; "Will You, Too, Go Away," "Saturday Afternoon," and "As You Wish." I usually don’t sing those in concert because I don’t think they come across in one listening. Stories in which a lukewarm soul is brought back to God through everyday humiliations and need are very moving and real to me. That is the drama of this life. I want people to see this living, breathing interplay in the mundane details of their lives.

IgnatiusInsight.com:
What has been the response of mothers and wives to your music? What about other listeners?

Marie:
The most common response of mothers and wives is "How did you know?" They are surprised that someone else has the same struggles they do. Surprised and relieved! We all think our struggles are so unique and think that we only have them because we are not what we should be–that if I were truly holy, I wouldn’t be having this trouble. But it simply isn’t true. The struggles we have are on the schedule; they are waiting for us and are the means of our sanctification. They are the main event, not that irritating thing we try to put in parenthesis and edit out of the story. They transform us, and that transformation is the story! We get credit for enduring irritating, selfish boring people, for telling our kids to clean up their messes one more time, when it would have been a lot easier to just do it ourselves, to endure the harsh criticism of a spouse, to smile at condescending women who look down on housewives out of pain and ignorance.

When I make my very informal morning offering, I imagine all of those things that will come up in the course of the day. It is actually quite convenient that all of the mortifications we need are lurking just around the corner. It saves time. I know that accepting them in charity will be my biggest challenge. I ask for the grace to be kind, forgiving, and to keep my sense of humor. We should not be surprised when things are hard. We should empathize and encourage one another. Women get so competitive, even about the health of their relationships! I think they are surprised when someone admits to struggles.

The response I get from men is one of gratitude for recognizing the importance of husbands and fathers. But it is also gratitude for explaining to them what their wives might be actually thinking. I think overall, from men and women, they are happy to be told that the sacrifices they are making are noble and strong. The culture is telling them that sacrifice is stupid and weak. I remind them that they are the hero of the story, through all of the small details of loving one another.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What are the pros and cons of living in Nashville?

Marie:
I love living in Nashville because it is a simple, beautiful, slow paced city filled with many of the world’s best musicians. I rarely get to see or talk to those musicians, but I know that they are here. When I record a song for an album, they show up for the session, hear my song demo once or twice, and a half hour later they have recorded the most amazing version of my little housewife song. It absolutely blows me away.

I don’t have anything in common with these guys. Most have eccentric lives with broken homes. I guess it is that suffering artist thing that gives their playing such depth and beauty. I can say to a completely pagan musician "I want this to sound like grace floating down from heaven and entering this girl’s soul" and they say "Okay!" and somehow they pull it off. Of course I say rosaries on the way to and from the studio and am secretly praying to my guardian angel to keep me from panicking the whole time. It is very intimidating to be with these guys and I do it so rarely, I feel completely out of place. But it gets done and it is very exciting. I never know how it will turn out, but somehow it matches what I had in mind. It is my producer, Larry Rogers who manages it. He is not a Catholic either, but he is a brilliant producer. If I weren’t in Nashville, this could never have happened.

Nashville is also filled with the most talented songwriters in the world. Again, I have no contact with them, but occasionally go out to listen to a writers’ night at the world-famous Bluebird Café–maybe once a year, if I’m lucky. Most of those guys co-write, and I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to do that. Plus I would be afraid that if I started to think too much about how to write, my message would lose all sincerity–kind of like what happened when I took those singing lessons. But it is inspiring to hear how well they craft a subtle story. Country songs often have very down to earth and uplifting messages. I am amazed at the counter-cultural messages they manage to get played on the radio.

One drawback to being in Nashville is that it is the buckle of the Bible Belt, and Catholics are definitely excluded from the Christian music scene. I have had marvelous discussions with Protestant companies who love my message and are ready to embrace my music, but inevitably they will ask, "So what church do you attend?" I know that when I say "St. Henry’s" it will be like dropping an anvil on the whole deal. It always is. There is a real fear and suspicion of Catholics. After all, that is the main point of being Protestant–protesting the Catholic Church.

IgnatiusInsight.com: You and your husband, Bill, often give talks and presentations together. Describe your work together and how the two of you complement each other’s abilities and vocations.

Marie:
Well, I suppose Bill deserves equal time, seeing as he is implicated in so many of my songs! Bill is a Catholic psychologist who really gives it to people straight–serve one another, quit complaining, live up to your responsibilities, marriage and family always come first, don’t even think about divorce, turn off the television, cut yourself off from those occasions of sin, and so forth. He is a New Yorker who thrives on confrontation. We are opposites. I am very free form, and he likes to keep his office supplies in order. He is scandalized by my lack of refrigerator management skills. When we give talks together on family life and marriage, people tell us they are amazed to see two people who are so different collaborate. Maybe that gives them hope more than anything we have to say!

Bill offers such a great perspective from his work with marriages and family businesses. When I write a song, I am usually not sure if what I am saying is universal, or just me. So I show it to Bill, who hears the worst of everyone’s lives all day, and he tells me when I have hit on something common. When I do my first rough guitar demo of a song, he will often play it for clients and can give me a first hand read on how people react. I don’t ever play out in town, so I have no other sounding board for the new songs.

Bill uses my songs in therapy fairly frequently. He tells me some of the problems that come in and I give him my read on it. We take a walk together every morning and debrief. I don’t know who he is talking about, but we sort through how people are, what the culture is doing to relationships, the importance of the Faith and just about everything under the sun. We are very fortunate to share our ideals and our faith. But we still drive each other crazy in the mechanics of the day. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that I do everything the right way and he is massively misinformed.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Are you currently working on another CD?

Marie:
I am almost finished writing a fourth CD to be called "Carry On." These songs are about avoiding the temptation to discouragement and self-absorption, and carrying on in the face of contradictions. Believe it or not, a few of the new songs make that sound fun.. I have three percolating at the moment, and when I finish them I will choose from about twenty for the album. There is nothing quite like finishing a song. As long as they keep coming, I am delighted to carry on!


Visit Marie's web site | Read more about Marie and her family



What I Wanted to Say

Format: CD
Your Price: $15.95

This album by Marie Bellet, a stay at home mom of seven children, includes eleven original songs about the challenges of being a faithful and holy modern mother and wife. This talented singer/ songwriter presents outstanding lyrics about marriage and family life sung in a folk style with eloquence and tender emotion.



Ordinary Time


Format: CD
Your Price: $15.95

Following up her popular first album, What I Wanted To Say, Marie Bellet presents these new original songs that tell the stories of ordinary people making their way in our fast-paced world. Twelve thought-provoking songs encourage us to reject the hype to "have it all" and remind us of the everyday drama and nobility of ordinary lives marked by loyalty and love.



Lighten Up


Format: CD
Your Price: $15.95

Are you burned out by the busyness of modern life? Then you need Lighten Up! With a playful hint of bluegrass, these story songs and radically honest reflections by the popular Marie Bellet, a Catholic stay-at-home mom of eight children, urge us to forgive one another and let go of ourselves to see the humor, the beauty and the sacred in those close to us.


   




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