Detroit Musician Via Mardot on Overcoming the Odds

Via Mardot (born Olivia Mainville) is a multi-instrumentalist based out of Detroit. Her unique sound, composed of instruments like the theremin, baritone guitar, and tubular bells, has been crafted by years of challenging herself to overcome the odds. For Mardot, that started when she was just 15 years old facing expulsion from West Ottawa High School.

“I couldn’t move. My eyes were wide open and tears were streaming down my face,” said songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mardot. She’s describing a pivotal moment in her life, when she was caught using drugs as a sophomore in high school. 

“Literally the first month of school – September – I got expelled,” she says. “I had a ‘friend’ who told me to bring drugs to school. I was, you know, dumb and I would do anything my friends told me to do,” Mardot confesses. 

The drug in question was Ambien, a prescription drug for sleep, which can have serious side effects for people that try to stay awake while on it.

“I was having a real party at school,” she says sarcastically. “I was in English class and the teacher asked me to come up and take my paper,” she said. “But I couldn’t move my body. Everybody got up and now started swarming around me.”

“I got expelled because they wanted to make an example of me,” Mardot said. “I tried to go to other schools, but they [other administrators] wouldn’t let me in.” 

It was the only mistake that Mardot had made in her academic career, but the school districts in Holland, naturally had a zero tolerance policy for bringing drugs to school. Understandably so, Mardot’s parents were furious. 

“I wasn’t allowed to see my friends or anybody afterwards,” Mardot said. Her only alternative was homeschool. With her parents both working full time jobs, she was forced to do it all on her own. 

“At that moment, I was like ‘I’m not gonna be able to do this. These people are so boring,'” she said. 

So Mardot was faced with a tall order: convince her parents that even though she had just been expelled from school for using prescription drugs, she should quit online school altogether and focus on writing and performing music. “It’s the only thing I’m good at,” she said. 

Surprisingly, it didn’t take much convincing. “Both of my parents have always been very supportive,” she said. “They’ve always done anything they could to keep me inspired. (With pursuing music,) they thought that if I wasn’t going to be in school, then I needed to do something with my life. Something to make it all worth it. So every single day after I got expelled from school I would just be practicing, learning and writing my own music.” 

Her first few gigs were at open mics at the Park Theater in Holland and Seven Steps Up in Grand Haven. Via was not about to let the opportunity that her parents gave her – quitting school to pursue music – be one that she squandered. At 15 years old, she played these open mic nights once a week and challenged herself to write new material each week. 

“I would always try to write something new and not keep it the same old boring songs that people would hear the week before. It was a challenge. It was kind of what I do now,” she said.”

What Mardot does now is write and record her own music in her home studio. And, when she’s not busy with that, she’ll record on albums for Roger Waters of Pink Floyd or tour with Glen Hansard in Europe. 

“One of Roger Waters’ band members actually found me on Instagram. He sent me an email that was just one sentence, and I usually don’t answer those sorts of emails, but I was intrigued by the lack of context,” she laughs. 

The email came in the fall of 2022, from Roger Waters’ bass player, Gus Seyffert. He told Via that Roger was busy re-recording a version of the Pink Floyd classic “Dark Side of the Moon” for the album’s 50th anniversary. Gus wanted to know if Via would be willing to record theremin for some of the songs on the album and possibly fly out to London to play some shows with Waters for the release of the album. Of course, Mardot said yes, and in October 2023, she was flown out for two shows at the London Palladium. 

“Those shows were probably one of the best times of my life. Getting to play those shows and hanging out with the people in the band and everything. Everybody in that band is all so funny and great,” Mardot said. 

Mardot is currently working on a follow up to her 2023 debut LP, “Fragments,” which is available for pre-order on limited edition vinyl on her Bandcamp. Make sure to follow her on Instagram as well for updates on shows and new music. 

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