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NATIONAL ACT “I don’t play a lot locally,” says Marissa Nadler. “I don’t like playing in front of my friends and my family because I’m so shy. I’d rather play in front of strangers.” 

Marissa Nadler's block is eerily silent. In a quiet suburb of Boston, the neighborhood's big lawns, American flags, and white fences are fitting for the mysterious dream-folk songwriter, whose work often includes warped American Gothic images and spooky folkloric icons. Next to an old converted church, her Victorian house has a big red door with patches of purple pansies in front. "It's very quiet around here," she says. "It's kind of creepy, actually. Nobody is ever around."

In a dining room-turned-workspace, the Boston-area native sits amid thousands of freshly pressed records and three-foot-high stacks of brown cardboard boxes. They've just arrived from a vinyl pressing plant in Indiana and are organized by amounts paid on donation-based micro-fundraising platform Kickstarter. The house is the headquarters of Box of Cedar Records, the label she started several months ago to release her homonymous fifth full-length album. After being dropped by New York-based Kemado Records, which released her dark, reverb-heavy, critically acclaimed Songs III: Bird on the Water (2007) and Little Hells (2009), Nadler's gone independent.

"The square boxes are vinyl," she explains, pointing to one pile in the corner. "It's just all over the house. . . . Those are for the US $35 backers," she adds, pointing in another direction. "About 60 percent of everything is European." In addition to hundreds of packages, the room contains her Etsy workshop as well as guitars, an autoharp, and knick-knacks — like a carnival mask and a framed photo collage of 1930s Siamese-twin circus performers Daisy and Violet Hilton, who she has depicted in her songs.

Later, Nadler is headed to the South Station post office to mail the first batch of records — she wants to get packages out to Kickstarter supporters before the release date of June 14. The new fan-funded label allows Nadler to have more direct contact with her audience — and has freed her from the creative restraints imposed even by small indie labels.

"They had a clause in my last contract," she says. "They basically wanted me to have drums on my songs, and a rhythm section. . . . This is an indie label, not Sony Records." After Kemado dropped her for more profitable endeavors (like Best Coast's Crazy for You on their vinyl-only imprint Mexican Summer, named, ironically, after a Nadler song), she raised enough money for a recording session at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia. The new record is her most radio-friendly yet: six tracks have drums, the vocals — inspired by Gillian Welch and Tammy Wynette — are dry and upfront, and there's less of the signature reverb that usually contributes to her songs' elusive quality. " 'The Sun Always Reminds Me of You' turned into a Fleetwood Mac AM radio kind of song," she says. "Something that has potential to be a hit on country radio."

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