Maybe you have never heard of Iesha Marie, and she is comfortable with that, favoring performances where she blends into the atmosphere and sets the mood as people enjoy the bar. Her location in Sanford, Florida is a regular stop for tourists on their way to Orlando or Daytona Beach. The local businesses rely on live entertainment to keep people at their spots. She is also close enough to travel to Orlando on nights Sanford isn’t as busy to earn a viable income doing what she loves most: playing music.
From the fears around the coronavirus to the major revelations about her identity in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Iesha shares how she’s cultivated a life doing what she loves, surrounded by music.
E: What made you decide like, “alright, I just want to do music.”
I: Once I was going from just playing open mics more often, I started meeting musicians who were doing it full time. I went from doing an open mic at a bar and then the bar being like, “hey you want to play here for 2-3 hours?” It started there and then I added more music to my repertoire. So, then my boyfriend and I sat down and made a five-year plan. And this was supposed to start April 2020.
E: Oh shit…
I: (laughs) yeah. So, that kind of took the back seat. Then as things started opening back up, which in Florida was earlier than most, I turned in my two weeks.
E: Do you think your location has an advantage to be able to play music full-time?
I: Yes! There are a lot of tourists that breeze by and breeze through. Between that and the area being very food oriented and community oriented, people are constantly looking for entertainment. In Sanford I’m so shocked that business owners have had me play here and none of them get sick of me.
With Orlando being right there, that’s the next move for me. I’m finding the bars in Orlando and with the tourists coming through Orlando, that’s whole other level of tourists.
E: And is this something you’re going to be doing with American Party Machine too?
I: Sort of. We’re all-original music and APM has been a band for about 10 or 11 years. I first saw them in 2014 and fell in love with the whole wrestling, “I love America” thing. If there is a big event around Orlando, they’ve played it at least once. Everybody knows them for the big spectacle.
Before I joined, they had not done anything in a couple years. They hit me up after my last band, Intergalactic Space Pussy broke up. After writing for a year, we were going to play a house party and then the pandemic happened.
E: Did the pandemic intimidate you or did it solidify your decision to do music full time?
I: That’s a good question. I was getting ready to quit my job and Shawn and I were going to get a new place. We pressed pause. I was laid off at first which was supposed to be three weeks, but turned into three months. But once I was brought back on, it was a blessing, and it gave me something to do while I couldn’t gig.
But then once things picked up, I was working Monday through Friday and then gigging Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
So, while it was intimidating at first, it ended up being a benefit. It gave us time to write and there’s just a lot of great music coming out across the board.
E: When you hear new music, do you ever feel competitive toward it?
I: I would say that I’ve been trying really hard to not be. I’m known for being a pretty judgmental person, the Scorpio in me (laughs), I’m really trying not to compare. I would say that I’ve been more excited to see the new music. I’ve been seeing this like a covid cocoon. A lot of the stuff I’ve heard is a level up which has been more encouraging than intimidating. It kind of feels rewarding in itself.
E: I remember you recording some things, is anything happening with that?
I: So, my cousin works at F.I.R.S.T. Institute and was looking for some musicians to come in so his students could record. That turned into, this recording is pretty decent and so was this one. On his own time he was mixing and mastering it.
The acoustic recording was something I was working with him. I’m actually going there tomorrow and it’s the first time I’ve done it since December.
E: That’s really cool. I didn’t know if you were going to release those ever or what.
I: I did have a huge gap in acoustic stuff because I was writing for Intergalactic Space Pvssy. And when I was writing my acoustic stuff, girl, when I was writing before it was hot mess express, going through the motions of falling for the wrong people. All those songs are all about that. I got to a point where I didn’t want to revisit that stuff and it just felt stale to me.
I got into writing this punk stuff where we're an empowered, all female alien space band.
Then going through this pandemic I wrote a couple new songs, “Isolation Blues” and “No Justice No Peace.” I’m looking forward to getting in the studio to record those in the future. Hopefully I can get back there once I get the songs with American Party Machine finished up.
E: How do you schedule the time to play gigs? Do you book far in advance?
I: In June I started booking gigs into August. Outside my weekly gigs, I play weddings and have other people that reach out to me to play. I’m doing that more before I start reaching out to other bars. As it stands I know about 700 songs on acoustic with the Ultimate Guitar Tab app on my tablet. I can save a bunch of songs and have the lyrics and where the chord is placed so I can keep going for a long time. But I want to know what kind of music to people vibe with so I can cater the list accordingly.
E: That’s so smart. Do you practice before and run through the sets?
I: I use the word practice loosely because I love it. Everyone knows me for playing and playing. I maybe take a couple ten to fifteen minutes breaks to grab a drink and go to the bathroom. I just love to keep playing and playing and playing.
I feed off the crowd too. There’s times that I don’t have a tip in the bucket but people are having fun, tapping their feet or dancing. I’m still energized by it even though it’s sad I’m not getting tips (laughs). I don’t want to interrupt the fun. It changes the vibe when the music stops. You will see people finish their drinks and leave. So it’s also important to keep the vibe going.
E: That sucks the absence of tips, they’re so important!
I: Yes. Every tip I get goes towards my house fund. Shawn and I are saving for a house and it’s like every time you tip me, it’s going toward my home.
E: There is a lot of coordinating to playing these gigs too. Different venues have different equipment available. How do you navigate that?
I: That has been a huge learning curve. Over the years I’ve acquired a lot of hand-me-down equipment so I can bring everything if needed. But I’ve learned to charge more for bringing more of the equipment.
E: Do you have any albums out now that people can check out?
I: American Party Machine just released our latest single on 4/20, “One More”. We’re hoping to have some more stuff trickle out here soon. For me, just Iesha Marie, I was just recently contacted by someone who heard the recorded tracks from F.I.R.S.T., and wanted to use some of these recordings for his project.
It’s a dub-step electronic song and they used my acoustic song, “Screws”. It’s about screwing a lot of people and how I better tighten that shit up.
E: And you said earlier, hopefully recording the new ones influenced by the pandemic and protests. During the George Floyd Protests you started to talk more about your ethnicity and your family history on Instagram. It sounds like you were digesting a lot.
I: I come from a multi-racial family. My father’s side is Honduran. Afro-Honduran but I wasn’t taught to acknowledge the afro part. Anyone in my family that is white passing wouldn’t acknowledge the Afro part. I didn’t realize all the colorization aspects until this past summer. I’m from Sanford which is most known for the Trayvon Martin shooting. That changed some discussions, but not like Summer 2020.
E: Were in high school for Trayvon Martin shooting?
I: Yeah, and I was dating a white guy whose family was racist. As a kid I always marked Hispanic on my stuff instead of multi-racial. So, dating this white guy with a racist family it was like, you’re one of the good ones. At the time, I didn’t understand things like I do now.
Iesha and I talked about her family and how language has been lost within it and parts of culture in order to assimilate. It underscores the importance of social movements. Personal stories like this illustrate just how profoundly important they are.
As we continued to talk about her experiences with microaggressions especially when playing in an all-girl band, Intergalactic Space Pvssy. One her biggest dreams as a kid was being an all-female band and ISP was an amazing experience for her even if it didn't last. Go after what you want, at the very least it as a chance to grow.
Turning 30 this year, Iesha is embracing a life full of music and if you’re sitting at home wishing you could incorporate more music in your life, get creative like her. We look forward to hearing her new music (check out links below) and watching her pursue her dreams. It’s a positive reminder that “making it” isn’t the only the way to enjoy a musical life!
Connect with Iesha Marie!
Follow: @IeshaMarieMusic on Instagram
Check out the new APM, "One More Time" single on any streaming platform!