Anya Marina comes from a musical family. Her grandmother was a jazz pianist, her grandfather a sax player, and her dad filled their house with the sound of his trumpet and piano playing. However, Marina says music wasn't her first choice of creative endeavors; instead, she went to Hollywood, to try her hand at acting (100 Girls, etc.).
"Richard Dreyfuss once told my acting class, 'You're never as bad as you thought you were, and you're never as good as you thought you were,'" Anya muses, "which has served useful to me after many a show. If you're a musician who is constantly thinking you just changed the world with your set, it keeps your ego in check; if you err more on the pessimistic side of things, then it also keeps you from going too far into the bad place."
Marina later found herself in San Diego, playing radio DJ. In her spare time, she composed the songs that would make up her 2005 debut CD, Miss Halfway, the title track of which has been featured on the TV show Grey's Anatomy.
As a musician, she says there's one big challenge with live performances. "Figuring out how to achieve that magical moment where everything clicks and something extraordinary happens...when all the songs are sounding good, and I am able to ride that strange wave of chaos, and it's somewhat effortless. You have to harness the energy of the audience and use it to charge your set and maybe even your demeanor. There are so many factors at work during a show -- audience, you, your confidence level, your preparedness, the actual music, the inter-song banter, the band, the monitors, the mix. Sometimes everything technical can be fine, but one thing can topple the whole house of cards. Sometimes you are so prepared and ready and the audience will just be dead or tired or too chatty or timid. Sometimes you don't prepare at all, and it's the best show you've ever had. I still don't entirely understand it -- there is no equation to guarantee a great show."
Her favorite guitars are made by local manufacturer Taylor guitars. "Sadie was my first Taylor -- 312 CE -- named after the Beatles' 'Sexy Sadie,' of course. Then I have a baby Taylor that has been held hostage in Greg Laswell's living room. His name is Lil Bow Wow because he is small and brown and produces a nice, warm sound. Then there is the guitar I play most often, which is a koa Taylor guitar. I don't know the exact model, K-12 or something, but it just has the best tone and action and everything. I can't figure out if the guitar seems more male or female, so I gave it an androgynous name, Parker -- after Parker Posey. All my Taylors were gifts from an ex-boyfriend so they sort of have memories in them of that whole time.
"Right now, though, I am crushing hard on my latest purchase. It's a 1968 Gibson hollowbody, and it sounds amazing. It needed a bunch of work, though, to be playable on a regular basis, and I have to thank Bill at Buffalo Brothers, and especially Fred at the Repair Zone, who has spent almost as much time with her as I have. She is Zooey, after the Salinger story and Zooey Deschanel."
Marina's first release, Exercises in Racketeering (RedRoom Recordings), a five-song EP, showcases tracks off her debut full-length Miss Halfway (released in early 2005 and voted Best Local Recording at that year's San Diego Music Awards). Marina also rocked the mike, DJing middays on FM 94/9 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
In summer 2007, Marina was holed up with Brian Karscig (Louis XIV) in a studio working on her sophomore album. The album includes guest appearances by Mark Maigaard and Ray Suen of Louis XIV, as well as Britt Daniel (Spoon), Shaun Cornell (Dirty Sweet), Scott Russo (Unwritten Law), Gilbert Castellanos, Daniel Crawford, and Matt Gorney.
She was nominated for her fifth consecutive San Diego Music Award in fall 2007. Her song "You Remind Me,” cowritten Steve Poltz, was featured in a series of "Sandbox" ads for Jeep vehicles.
In Autumn 2008, Marina filmed a video for her song "Move You." She describes it as "a sort of homage to a Roman Polanski film called Repulsion, and is therefore beautifully lit and mysterious looking and creepy." Over the previous few years, Marina also worked as a radio DJ at 94.9, 92.1, and 92.5.
Around this time, she relocated to L.A. “Someone told me once recently they think of San Diego as this gorgeous, career cul-de-sac,” she told sdnn.com.
Marina's 2009 album Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II, on Chop Shop Records, was produced by Britt Daniel (Spoon) and Brian Karscig (Louis XIV). The first single "Move You (SSSPII)" debuted via iTunes in late December 2008, with a video that premiered on AOL December 23.
Also in early 2009, Marina’s song "Move You" was featured in the "Ghosts" episode of ABC’s Castle, as well as winning Song of the Year at the 2009 San Diego Music Awards. She landed another song on the show Gossip Girl.
Later in 2009, Marina recorded a version of T.I.’s "Whatever You Like," with Scott Russo (Unwritten Law) and producer/engineer Will Golden. The project also includes Matt Gorney (Bad Credit) on bass, Mark Maigaard (LouisXIV) on drums, and Alain Whyte on electric guitar.
By the end of the year, Marina's music was heard in the soundtrack to the motion picture Twilight: New Moon, with scenes from the film being used for one of her music videos.
In 2010, she released the Spirit School EP, with five songs on the Chop Shop/Atlantic label. Shortly before Christmas 2011, her holiday single “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” originally recorded in 1953 by child star Gayla Peevey in 1953, began streaming online.
February 2012 saw the release of her third full-length Felony Flats, a self-produced effort with guest players like guitarist Cody Votolato (Blood Brothers, Telekinesis), bassist Jeff Bond, drummer Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), and Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Earley, who contributes additional piano and guitars.
After moving to Portland, Oregon and then New York City, her Paper Plane album was released in January 2016 via Good Rope Records, produced with input from Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie), Eric Hutchinson, Leo Sidran, and Gary Philips.
February 2021 saw the release of the former San Diegan's album Live and Alone in New York, produced by Eric Hutchinson, who plotted the production with her during the duo's short tour of west coast wineries in the summer of 2019. Recorded solo, live and uninterrupted in December 2019 over two nights at Rockwood Music Hall on the lower east side in New York City, the 17-track collection of songs (and accompanying backstories) span Marina’s entire catalog.
Tracks include "Clean & Sober," "Move You," "Notice Me," "Go To Bed and Shut Up," and tunes from her latest LP Queen of the Night. The performance would be Marina’s last in the city she had called home for eight years, as the pandemic resulted in her relocating two hours north of her New York City apartment, settling in the mid-Hudson Valley with singer/songwriter Matt Pond (of Matt Pond PA) and their dog.
Coinciding with the first single (“Notice Me”) was the release of a video for “Pretty Vacant,” the sixth single from Queen of the Night, directed by Ryan Harrington and shot during Marina’s last days in Chelsea NYC. Marina is seen onscreen reminiscing about her years in the city, flashing Polaroids of friends while packing up boxes and taking in the last views outside her kitchen window of the famous mural of Warhol, Kahlo, Haring, and Basquiat painted as if adorning Mount Rushmore.