Maria Armoudian is not your typical singer/songwriter: Part radio host, part environmental commissioner, part scholar-in-training and full-blooded singer/songwriter. Although her music was temporarily side-tracked by her political and environmental commitments, she soon returned to playing again.
"When I first learned what was happening in the world, I felt I had to put all of my efforts into trying to make a difference, so I left music to work in the nonprofit world and then, directly in politics," explained Armoudian. "It was an eye-opening experience for an idealistic artist like myself. Ultimately, this CD is a result of my experiences there ... what I’ve seen, heard, experienced ... and the great sadness I felt from it all. So I guess the irony is that politics sent me back to music -- where I could find respite, refuge."
Maria's Life in the New World is like the antithesis of pop acts like Britney Spears. It is sophisticated, artful, intense, with rich melodies and harmonies and stories that will move you. "Sometimes we need music to say those things that words alone can’t say. Sometimes the conditions of life just make your soul ache. And you turn to your art. That was why I wrote and recorded Life in the New World. Now, I hope I can share them with others and give a little respite to those who have also felt the angst of what is going on in the world today. These songs were unearthed from the depth of my soul."
She’s still involved in trying to impact the world. As a Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Commission, a host and producer for nonprofit KPFK’s “the Insighters,” and now a Ph.D. candidate at USC, she combines thinking with writing, studying, moderating, advocating and music.
As a radio host, she’s interviewed the likes of author Gore Vidal, actor/writer/director Tim Robbins, System of a Down singer Serj Tankian and many other names.
All of this seems a little unlikely. As an Armenian American, born to immigrants who settled in Weatherford, Oklahoma, she originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, while supporting herself through journalism, writing for entertainment trades like Billboard and Daily Variety. But when a conversation with a fellow artist turned to issues of human rights, environmental destruction and animal testing, something shifted in her. “I just couldn’t keep minding my own business while this destruction was occurring,” she said. So she started a small nonprofit newspaper, worked with several nonprofits, and ultimately found herself immersed squarely in politics, working both with third parties and mainstream democrats.
After eight years as senior staff in the California State Legislature, she left it to go back to music and study the political system. “The system is very broken,” she says. “People are not well-represented on any level of government. Important policy questions, if they’re too big, are often shoved aside – unless a big special interest group is pushing them – and the public has ultimately disengaged itself, making the problem worse.”
What she hopes with her music? To reach more people who might otherwise not be reached through politics or her radio show. “Music touches people on a different level, on a visceral level. And if people can realize what we’re doing to each other and the planet on that deep, visceral level, maybe we’ll see a shift – like the shift in me. I was once apolitical too.”
Not anymore. She is now a Ph.D. candidate in political science, and right after she left the California Legislature, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tapped her to join his administration as a Commissioner on the Environmental Affairs Commission. Meanwhile, she donates her time to perform for nonprofit and political organizations and candidate fundraisers and often shares proceeds from CD sales with them. It’s a lot for a starving student/artist. But it’s worth it, she says. “Ultimately, it’s all about community and if you take care of the community, you get taken care of in the process.”