As we sat on hard, wooden chairs in Scudder Hall’s main lounge in the fall of 2015, I asked Marissa Carroll, “Do you perform around here?”
Her answer was no—she had yet to strike up the nerve to play Cafeteria’s weekly open mic.
We were both second-year students at SUNY New Paltz then. Right upstairs, Carroll would write “Supernova” in the second-floor Scudder lounge, a song that has transformed right along with the bubbly, ambitious singer/songwriter.
A solo endeavor those two odd years ago, Carroll’s project Tiny Blue Ghost is now a four-piece band that plays shows from New Paltz up to Oneonta. On Oct. 8, the band released its first full-length album, Growing Pains.
“‘Supernova’ was the catalyst that sparked this style that I found,” Carroll said. “It was the first time I said, ‘Oh this is the sound I’m looking for,’ and then the rest followed throughout the last couple years. It’s really weird to think it’s already been that long.”
About half of the tracks on Growing Pains are from the band’s previous EP, The Road, or past demos—but this time, louder and fully produced. “Supernova,” for example, amps up the track that Carroll previously recorded with a hushed vocal in her on-campus dorm.
Carroll explains finding her belting voice while performing at a house in Oneonta where people just wouldn’t shut up. Since then, the band has grown more than she expected.
“I was so used to singing in my head voice, but when you’re singing in your head voice, you’re more likely to falter and mess up,” she explained. “We played a show up in Oneonta, and it was one of my very first shows. Joey [Wright] played makeshift drums in the corner and it was just me on acoustic guitar in a crowded house basement and people were just talking while I was playing, so at certain points, I started singing louder.
“I just switched into that belting thing and was like ‘Oh I can actually do this now,’ and it grew from there. Since I realized that I could belt my songs, everything else just amped up.”
Marissa Carroll sat down for an exclusive acoustic performance of “Supernova” at The Oracle office’s copy couch.
The band recorded the new album over two years in dorm rooms, bedrooms and apartments of the four musicians: Carroll, drummer Joey Wright, guitarist Dylan Fader and bassist Otto Kratky. Drums for the tracks were recorded at the band’s good friend Dante DeFelice’s living room, who also mixed and mastered the entire album.
“There’s so many layers to it with a fuller sound,” Carroll said. “There’s actual drums on this as opposed to me playing keyboard on GarageBand. It brings a sense of room and space since it was recorded in a room.”
Growing Pains follows themes of nostalgia and entering adulthood, and the album cover says it all.
Last summer, Carroll was looking through old photographs and found a photo of herself taken on Oct. 8, 2000—exact 17 years before Growing Pains’ release. The tiny 4-year-old Carroll is cheesing in her puffy blue coat at Barton Orchards.
Right after finding the photo and deeming it perfect for the album cover, she wrote “Autumn Leaves.” The song deals with moving away from her childhood home and making the most of every moment—because they rush by pretty fast.
The tracks go into all that adulthood entails: love, pain, mental health. Carroll’s most personal song off the album, “Recovery,” addresses sexual assault.
“I wrote [Recovery] as my way of coping, and I want to play it and bring an awareness to [sexual assault],” she said. “Even today these topics are still taboo to talk about, which they shouldn’t be, because they’re happening all the time and it’s awful.
As artists we have platforms to use our voices and speak out about things that are important to us and can also help other people by making it more comfortable to talk about these topics. I want to be able to help in that sense.”
Among all that’s sad and heavy on Growing Pains, solace comes with the simple, yet sincere title track: “Don’t you worry, it’s gonna be all right/It’s just a growing pain I have/We’ll make it out alive.”