Lithuanian Lyrics & American Melodies: Marija Droze

“I am a little bit nervous because I don’t do that much,” Marija Droze admitted as we started our conversation. Marija (pronounced MA-REE-A) has spent the majority of her married life being a supportive wife and mother while her husband Billy Droze has pursued his musical career. “My husband was like just go outside and talk while I watch the kids.” Marija shared that it was her husband who encouraged her to sing and record more as an artist. The couple first met at a festival in Marija’s Eastern European home country of Lithuania. From moving to America to releasing her new Bluegrass single, Marija’s tale seems to be quite the adventure.

 “When I discovered the music itself, we didn’t call it Bluegrass or Country. At first, it was like ‘American music’. We were going more towards Bluegrass than we were to Country. I guess because nowadays Country music is not what it used to be. We were all about the old music, so it led more to Bluegrass than it did to Country knowing that it’s the genre that you can never hear in Lithuania or Europe in general. They’re not familiar with it.”

However, one of Marija’s music school teachers was one of the few Lithuanian’s that was familiar with American music. “He was a violin player. He introduced me. He showed me the first few songs and then I just got into that, and I started loving it. It just seemed like true music. I didn’t understand a lot of the words back then or English, but the music itself, a lot of the melodies was what got me. That’s how I started.” Ironically, the first American song that Marija said she was introduced to was ‘Release Me’ recorded by Dolly Parton, an old sad country song driven by steel guitar.

Then she followed that title by mentioning a lot of Bill Monroe and instrumental tunes. “I can’t remember the names of all of them. It’s been something like 15 years ago. Back then there was no Internet to Google and find something, so I asked him (her teacher). So, he would give me CDs that he liked, and I had an old CD player in my room that I would go back from school and listen to over and over again. I would actually make up words because some of them I didn’t even know. English is different there than it is in America. To this day I still make up some words to those old songs and I hear them, and I think ‘oh, that’s what that was.’”

Marija only remembers seeing two banjo players growing up in Lithuania, so she decided to start playing the banjo herself. After moving to America, however, she decided to stick more with the piano. “I came to America and saw all the people here who are just incredible with these instruments and I was like, ‘Nah, I’ll stick with my piano playing.’ I play a little; I keep picking it up. I play guitar, and I was self-taught.” Her husband Billy Droze has continued to encourage Marija to show off her vocal talents both in their mutual and separate performances.

The couple met at a music festival in  Lithuania. “Lithuania is a really small country,

so it’s got this really big music festival that surrounding countries come and listen too. So, the only band in Lithuania played that festival, and I was in it. I guess we shared the stage. I played and then he played, and there was a jam afterward in the hotel restaurant. I heard him play, and he heard me play. We were in and out, going inside and going outside talking to people. I was going down the steps and he was going up and he said ‘you sound like an angel. Will you marry me?’ 

And I didn’t even speak that much English then, and I was like, ‘yeah let’s go out first and just talk,’” Marija laughed. “10 years, almost 11 years later there we are!”It also took a little while to get Marija’s musical career going. It all began after Marija sang on her husband’s album To Whom It May Concern. “People started calling him and asking, ‘where can we find her music?’ He was like ‘well she doesn’t have anything out.’ So, he told me I should do this. I guess that’s what really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I keep telling him that I’m still Lithuanian and it’s hard for me to say the words fast, and he’s like ‘oh get over it,’” Marija laughed. “Whether this thing is good or bad, it’s his fault.”

Ghost of Your Memory is Marija Droze’s newest single. It was written by her husband Billy Droze and Chris Myers and released on her husband’s RBR Entertainment label. Throughout our conversation, Marija often used the word melodies, and she told of how good melodies have always been what drew her to American music. The haunting yet fast tempo melody of her newest single is no different.