North Carolina-based alternative R&B artist Marley Pitch is a storyteller. Drawing from the realities of the human condition, Pitch creates candid, introspective compositions that allow audiences to bring their full selves to bear within a safe space, where darkness and light are not treated as opposing forces, but rather, a part of the continuum of the journey of life.
Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross, as she connects with Marley Pitch to discuss the most important takeaway from his latest album, Nocturne, which released on Dec. 9; why honesty and transparency are vital to the healing process; and what’s on the horizon for the rising artist in the new year.
Marley Pitch began songwriting at the young age of 11, and his musical starts began even earlier. “I distinctly remember living at my Aunt Amaki’s in Atlanta and waking up in the morning to her Anthony Hamilton and Luther Vandross CDs,” he shared. “My mom and I lived there with her, her sons, my uncle, and great grandma while we were in between homes.”
These 3 years of living in a shared home would inform Pitch’s broad, eclectic musical taste. Prior to relocating to Atlanta with his mom, Pitch spent 7 years living in Zimbabwe as a child, where he discovered the radio and MTV under a different cultural lens.
“I hadn’t gone on my own exploration of music yet,” he said. “Being that far away from it all gave me a perspective on Western culture that allowed me to appreciate and dissect it a bit more than the kids that remained here and took it for granted. I remember being in love with this one Diddy and Faith Evans song, ‘I’ll Be Missing You.’”
Pitch’s biggest influences in terms of his own sound include Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, and Drake, as well as Passion Pit and Radiohead. Take one listen to his latest 11-track album, Nocturne, and you realize that Pitch is an artist who resists labels to a powerful effect. Nocturne straddles the lines of alternative R&B, 90’s hip-hop, reggae, alternative rock, and acid jazz – all without losing its cohesiveness. The album, produced by Justice Der, is decidedly narrative-driven, and Marley Pitch is here to tell the entire story.
For Pitch, Nocturne was “an exercise of introspection,” that “became the safe space for [his] shadow work.” “I wanted to show my dark side that it had the right to exist just as my divine,” he said. “I held nothing back, and that will be very apparent to listeners.”
The opening track, “Pixelated,” explores themes of belonging, or the lack thereof, and positions itself as a follow-up to Pitch’s past album, Singularity. “On the last one kept it real / This album, I’m just really tryna show you how it feel,” Pitch sings.
Against the backdrop of ambient synthesizers, atmospheric pads, and an electronic drum loop, Pitch recounts the extent to which he has been misunderstood and ousted by his family over the years, unearthing tensions that run deep. Namely, Pitch, who grew up with an absent father, has been labeled a “deadbeat brother” and “trouble child” whose future looks dim and uncertain. “Pixelated” represents the moment when Pitch admits to himself that he is an outsider and begins to retreat into his most harmful thoughts and habits. “Man, this world is not a place for me / I tried to take the high road / But I drink now and I spiral / I accept it with my eyes closed,” he sings.
The following track, “Broken,” ft. Toronto-based artist Maria Aragon, feels like the pages of a journal in which Pitch suspends all pretenses. Pitch describes the song as “the moment I accept the good, bad, and the ugly in myself.” Although mental illness and self-harm are not new topics in his music, Nocturne is the “most transparent” Pitch has allowed himself to be.
When Pitch sings, “I was hurting, yeah, you didn’t know,” and later, “Yeah, felt like dying bet you didn’t know,” the message hits close to home. The manner in which an individual presents on the outside is not necessarily a true indicator of how they are coping on the inside. Tragic news like the recent death of Stephen “tWitch” Boss by suicide serves as a reminder that negative feelings do not discriminate regardless of a person’s status.
In spite of the sobering subject matter of “Broken,” the song does not abandon listeners in their pain. Instead, it invites them to find healing in community based on the realization that the tension between darkness and light is ubiquitous. The act of bringing to light the things that we try to hide allows hope for the future. In Pitch’s words, “there are stars to move towards” even while we are hurting.
Throughout Nocturne, nature symbolizes the seasons of life. For instance, in “A Fall from Grace,” Pitch sings, “Aye, weather man, tell me if it’s sun again / Showers here are overbearing.” In “SOS,” Maria Aragon sings, “But I’m outside, and it’s freezin’ / Maybe we were just a season.”
Pitch shared that the decision to release Nocturne, an album 2 years in the making, during the fall and winter was intentional. “It can be a very contemplative time, and a time I personally struggle with seasonal depression, so I wanted to give others like me something that empathized with them,” he said. “Not to mention the tonality of the album feels quite cold.”
While the lyrical content of the album is, in fact, largely bleak, I would argue that the musical compositions have a warm, tender quality similar to gathering around a fireplace while sheltered from a surrounding snowstorm. The use of dreamy electric guitar, melodic electric piano, and lush layers, especially toward the end of the album, is captivating and quite lovely.
“Dearly Departed,” one of my personal favorites, follows the brazenly indulgent track “Sprites” like the comedown after a high. “When the fun dissipates, and all you’re left with is substances and addiction issues, you begin to really take inventory,” Pitch explained. “This is the moment it’s acknowledged that peace of mind is all I was looking for.”
“Dearly Departed” is melancholy and hauntingly beautiful, confronting individuals with the reality of the harmful effects of destructive patterns. Pitch shares the story of “a girl on heroin” he knew who “found her angel wings” in addition to “kids in high school” “who took they lives and had the right to.”
Moment of silence for the
Moment of silence for the
People that I knew
People that I
Moment of silence for the
Moment of silence for the
Niggas that I knew
Marley Pitch describes the last song on the album, “Rain or Shine” ft. Rachel Bobbitt, “as close to the happy ending an album like this could have.” The track is another personal favorite, and it emerges triumphant like the rainbow after a storm. “No rainy days / God been making my way / God been making my way,” Pitch and Bobbitt sing together.
“I do believe that darkness and light are two sides of the same coin,” said Pitch. “Both are necessary in the universe.” When asked for the most important message that he wants audiences to take away from Nocturne, Pitch replied, “I hope people recognize themselves in it because the moments of self-loathing and hedonism reside in all of us, so we must acknowledge it and work toward balance within ourselves.”
The bridge of “Rain or Shine” offers a timely message of empowerment: life is still worth living despite the “rainy days,” and there is a path forward even when you do not have it all figured out. “I tried to portray reaching a balance with my mental health without claiming anything was ‘solved,’” said Pitch.
“Don’t waste your fire / Don’t waste your fire, love, nah / Don’t waste your fire / Don’t waste your beautiful fire,” Pitch and Bobbitt sing, which stand out as some of the most memorable lines from the entire album.
Be sure to follow Marley Pitch for the latest on his upcoming releases. In 2023, the emerging talent says he is keeping his options open.
“I’m not planning towards it as much as everybody else is,” said Pitch. “Just know, Nocturne doesn’t stop at its album. We have more content and projects we want to release under that brand. Hopefully, some shows will be on the horizon. I’m mainly focused on moving to New York by the spring.”
Maryland-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and more than a decade of experience as a professional ghostwriter, she is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.