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Meet Mari Dennis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mari Dennis.

Mari, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m a songwriter. I began pursuing my dreams at the age of 26. Beyond my discovered love for songwriting, it dawned on me one random afternoon, at a Thai street market, that I had yet to uncover and fulfill my dream and deep desire to live an intentional, abundant life. I was working as an ESL teacher at the time in a small town in southern Thailand, approaching my 8th month of living abroad.

It could have been the countless adventures with my friends, the beautiful sunsets and islands, joyous bike rides, the many songs I got inspired to write, or even the exhausting yet rewarding weeks with my students that brought about the inspired, excited, dreamy child within me. Whatever it was, I felt like I was truly living.

I had a very cliche but important (recurring) epiphany that my life is so damn short and I no longer want to spend it caressing my scars, my fears and taming my anxieties to cover them up. My entire life up until my 9th month away from home finally led to my biggest life decision yet to live a new and courageous life.

So I finally went home, found a place, got day jobs and pursued songwriting. Life turned out really amazing and tumultuous at the same time, as is the usual oxymoron life gives any human being. Some struggles remained the same, but the important part was that I was now different. I still had anxieties, I still cursed my demons, I still had a shit ton of shit to sift through, but for the first time ever, I was brave.

So what does all of this have to do with being an artist and a songwriter? Well, all of it. I knew that the creative life was the most exciting, fulfilling, rewarding, breathtaking, amazing life I could ever live. (that last sentence was stolen from Elizabeth Gibert’s “Big Magic” hehe).

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Absolutely not. Insecurities, deep unfulfilled longings, trauma and other personal struggles have hit hard and were a bit detrimental to my mental health. I’ve battled with finding validation for my life decision to live a non-conventional life (at least against the norm of having a “real job”). Then some heartbreaks and other confusing things life usually throws at you if you’re a human being.

It just became really apparent, as it does at some point in your early adulthood or even earlier than that, that life is just really hard. haha. The one guarantee is you’ll never run out of struggles, but you always have a choice.

So I chose to keep moving forward, but sometimes I do dwell in the past. I reminisce, I imagine, I hurt myself even more. But it’s a learning process. And in that process, I’ve picked up songwriting. And it seems that I’ll be songwriting forever. I’m grateful to have found a love for it. I feel less alone.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I’m a songwriter, an indie artist and just recently, a producer. I specialize in writing emotionally, sappy, personal songs. haha. I love creating and even appreciate the sometimes frustrating but magical process of writing a fully finished song. I love melodies and trusting my subconscious to bring out feelings and buried emotions. I love when I feel like I’m out of things to say or write but really there are treasures within me waiting to be discovered. There are treasures within all of us. Yes, I totally got that, again, from Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” one of my favorites books ever.

I’m really proud that what I do comes from an authentic and genuine place. Since songwriting is therapy world for me and the most brutally honest best friend ever, there is no place for empty validation and putting out art for nice compliments to boost my ego. I mean, I’d be lying if I said the nice compliments didn’t make me feel good, but the main goal is to be human and embrace vulnerability, not count numbers or nice adjectives. Of course, I’d love for people to love my work and heck I look forward to the day that it’s somewhat lucrative, but the heart and soul of my songwriting is authentic expression in a safe space. Once that’s gone, I’m gone, the songwriting is gone and everything else won’t really matter.

What sets me apart is that I stick to my values.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
My sister gave me this really sweet card after I released my first ever EP, “Hold Me Again.” The front of the card said,

“Success is not about the car you drive- it’s about the place you’re going. It’s not about how you look -it’s about how you see yourself. It’s not about who you know – it’s about who you are…”

Then I flipped it open and it read, “And you are, by every definition of the word, a success.”

I almost cried after reading that. My sister is a huge inspiration to me and one of the most talented songwriters I really admire. She knew what mattered and I knew what mattered. She pours so much love on me and all my songs before I even released them.

I had an EP release celebration at home in my living room, with a really small group of people I absolutely loved. I initially planned to have a bigger party but resorted to an intimate celebration due to the pandemic. We dressed up, I decorated with some Christmas lights and put up the disco ball. We danced, we laughed and had performances.

I knew my friends were proud of me and I was proud that I called them my friends. It dawned on me, for the millionth time that I had a really great group of people around me and it was incredible how they’ve kept me so, so grounded. I felt like a really successful person that night.

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Image Credit:

Jessica Wong, Ramon Barros, and yours truly

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