Troubled times 

Maren Christensen's tunes trump tragedy

Local singer/songwriter Maren Christensen wrote her first song as a teenager, less than a year after getting her first guitar. Now, she has just finished recording a collection of songs that tell of her life and its many twists and turns since then. For instance: Four months after graduating from the Evergreen State College, Christensen developed glaucoma. She underwent five eye surgeries in the subsequent 10 months.

The surgeries left her legally blind, and the uncertainty of her future left her with little desire to write songs. She decided to study law, moved to Missoula and applied at UM. Using assistive technologies to help her study and write papers, she graduated second in her class and continued her studies at Harvard Law School, where she earned her master’s degree in law. Eventually, however, she tired of practicing law and picked up her guitar again.

The money (about $5,000) for her first recording project was raised and donated by friends and community members who insisted that she record her music. Nathan Zavalney, percussionist and guitarist of Drum Brothers renown, had recently opened a recording studio in Missoula; he and Christensen decided to embark on their first recording efforts together. Zavalney recorded the various tracks for each song separately, playing a host of instruments himself to fill out the arrangements. Beth Youngblood, who plays violin with local group Mandir, among others, also appears on the album. The violin is a common thread throughout the album and becomes an indispensable part of it.

Titled Resilient Child, Christensen’s album is a confessional of sorts, a “documentary of her trip through the world.” Her music is very personal, and she has a shy humility about it. Her music, she says, has always been more about personal expression than performance, and it seems as though she might have some doubts about sharing it with the world.

Those who have already heard her songs, though, have spread the word, and now it seems the world wants to hear. After a total of 24 surgeries, Maren recently had her right eye removed. Her prosthetic eye will not be ready in time for the CD release concert, she says, so a patch will have to do.

Nathan Zavalney and Beth Youngblood will accompany Maren Christensen in her Dec. 9 concert at the Crystal Theatre.

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