Marielle Kraft left her secure career as a middle school English teacher to pursue her passion for music. When you hear her vocals, it’s not hard to see why. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter and University of Delaware grad (’17) just released her newest single Test Drive (on Spotify) and will perform for the first time with a full band this weekend in venues in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. She returns to Delaware on August 31, where she will perform at Sante Fe Mexican Grill in Newark.
Self-taught, Kraft began playing guitar at 16 and soon began writing songs that take shape as honest stories through comfortable arrangements, following the likes of artists like Shawn Mendes, Chelsea Cutler, and Taylor Swift. And she already has a few EPs under her belt, including Today Tomorrow Someday and The Gibraltar Sessions.
Test Drive is yet another song which taps into the romantic angst and euphoria of young millennials. “Test Drive is more than just a fierce breakup song – it’s a statement that is meant to find empowerment through abandonment,” she says.
Wilmington’s Out & About Magazine featured Kraft in May after she was crowned Grand Champion at the Musikarmegeddon Solo Songwriting Competition in April. Competition founder Joe Trainor told the magazine: “Marielle showed a clever intensity in her material that, when coupled with her wonderful voice, pulled the listener into her story.”
Kraft has earned accolades for her nimble songwriting and energetic live shows up and down the East Coast this summer. But the Trolley Square resident credits Delaware for igniting her passion and fueling her desire to make an early career change that she hopes leads to bigger and better things in the music industry.
We sat down with this bright young performer to learn more about her musical journey.
Town Square Delaware: Tell us about your musical influences at the University of Delaware. And is it true that your club lacrosse teammates played a role in your pursuit of music?
Marielle Kraft: University of Delaware is the first place that saw me, molded me, and believed in me as an artist. When I entered college at UD in 2013, my music was a bedroom hobby and nothing more. Slowly but surely, campus coffee house after coffee house, my passion for music and performing on stage took shape.
My freshman floor mates were the first people I’d ever met who asked me to play my original songs and cared enough about them to learn the lyrics. Five years later, these floor mates turned best friends are the first to buy tickets to shows and spread excitement about my new music. Other important peers around campus fueled this passion as well, as friends in organizations like SCPAB and SAA invited me to perform at major events, and my club lacrosse teammates would come in droves to attend shows of mine after our practices at night.
All of these friends turned Blue Hen family saw in me what I didn’t quite see in myself yet – a voice and a story worth sharing.
TSD: So were you on the Division 1 National Champion Club Women’s Lacrosse team at UD?
Kraft: Yes I was on that team! That was our senior year season (2017) and it was the most incredible experience. We are the first self-coached and send-funded Division 1 club lacrosse team to win the national title, and it was more rewarding than I can find words to express.
TSD: Okay, back to music. What sorts of opportunities are available to artists hoping to make a name for themselves in Newark?
Kraft: UD is unique in the plethora of opportunities it gives student performers around campus. From fundraisers on the Green to the UDance Marathon on the Big Bob stage, I grew tremendously in my confidence and ability to captivate an audience with my music. If I weren’t granted so many various opportunities to perform around campus, I wouldn’t be able to travel all around the East Coast now performing at house shows and on large stages – graduated versions of the ones that helped shape me at UD.
TSD: How about the academic instruction and the professors who influenced your work?
Kraft: It wasn’t just friends who helped develop me as an artist, but it was UD staff too. Professors would allow me to express myself through music in class when I couldn’t find the right words in essay form. They’d ask me to interpret texts through comparison to music and pushed me to dive deeper into who I was as a songwriter and an artist.
Professor Ray Peters, who was my first year Honors English professor in a course titled: “Writing about Music,” was especially proactive in keeping up with my musical development throughout my four years. One of the most rewarding experiences was when he invited me to speak about my songwriting process to his same “Writing about Music” class four years later, during my senior year for the 2017 freshmen. Moments like that validated my in my passion and helped me to believe I truly had something to offer in the music industry.
TSD: You grew up in East Greenwich, RI. But do you have family or other personal connections to Delaware?
Kraft: Aside from attending undergrad at UD, my family has deep roots in Delaware that I’ve felt connected to since I was born. My parents Jeff and Kelly Kraft, who are Double Dels, both grew up in Newark and still have many friendly and familial ties in the surrounding Delaware area. With relatives in Middletown, Hockessin, Wilmington, and Smyrna, I am surrounded by support from my extended family. It has given me the foundation to launch my career here, and a safety net whenever I feel like I’ll fall.
TSD: Tell us about your brief stint using your Education degree from UD.
Kraft: Yes, last year I graduated (May 2017) and moved to Southern Maryland to accept a middle school English teaching position in Charles County outside of Washington D.C. After one rewarding school year, I’ve already made my way back to where I now call home: Delaware. The momentum was shifting with my music and opportunities arose that I felt I couldn’t turn down, and when asked where I’d move to as I made the leap into full-time music, the decision for me was simple.
Now in a new home in Trolley Square, Wilmington, I’m back with the support system, resources, and opportunities of those who raised me up to be the artist I am today and will continue to do so throughout this journey.
It’s safe to say I’d still be singing songs to myself in my bedroom if it hadn’t been for Delaware.