Having a music minister for a father and a classical organist for a mother, Shara Worden was essentially a preordained musician.
“For about two seconds I thought of being an artist or painter,” she says during a recent phone interview following her latest European tour. “But I don’t have any other aspirations [besides music].”
By age 5 the Michigan native was performing publicly, and by 8 formally studying the piano. Her decision to study opera at the University of North Texas was the result of Worden’s misappropriation of her own talents.
“My songwriting wasn’t developed enough for me to realize I probably would’ve done well in a songwriting program or arranging/compositional program,” she says. “Those things weren’t developed in me enough for me to even be aware there were schools you could go to for that.”
Worden remedied that by moving to New York after college and immersing herself in its music scene. She attended shows four and five nights a week and performed at open mics.
“I tried to see as much as I could of what was going on, and allow myself to go in different directions because of that,” Worden says.
She considers the resulting influence on her own writing to be massive, particularly in seeing performers like Antony & the Johnsons and Rebecca Moore deftly incorporate classical elements into their music.
“They were the first people I saw using strings with alternative instrumentation in a club,” Worden says. “I saw this was something available to me too.”
Through her project My Brightest Diamond, Worden is now at the forefront of baroque indie rock. This year’s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth weaves orchestral density into a genteel atmosphere, while Worden’s ethereal voice completes its beauty. What started as a string quartet record soon ventured into pop territory with the inclusion of guitar and ambient-manipulated sounds.
“We wanted to create a sense of lightness and space, even though there’s a whole lot more going on, probably too much,” she says with a laugh.
It’s the kind of progression that’s made Worden the fringe character she’s long admired. The evolved sound of A Thousand Shark’s Teeth proves to her that rock and roll and its many offshoots are far from creatively dead.
“Rock is about an attitude of independence,” Worden says. “I don’t think that’ll ever leave humanity. If you want to say rock is three chords and a Marshall amp, well, OK, that’s already been done. But if you look at it from a more philosophical place, it’s about this visceral energy and being independent.
“Music is going to keep changing and growing and developing. We have to be willing to allow it to do that.”