Ozark Mountain Daredevil: Q&A with Marideth Sisco (Winter’s Bone)

Sometimes life just throws you for a loop. You know, one minute you’re walking down the street playing your banjo and the next you have 10,000 eyes on you.  Case in point the critically acclaimed independant film Winter’s Bone (aka “the little film that could”) and it’s soundtrack curator and star, Marideth Sisco. Nominated for four Oscars and seven Independant Spirit Awards and with a budget that pails in comparison to even the least expensive Hollywood film, Winter’s Bone is the story of a young (and brave) Ozark Mountain girl trying to navigate the complex social terrain of her world.

The perfect companion to the film is Marideth Sisco’s performances in collaboration with some damn talented friends (Blackberry Winter, Billy Ward, White River Music Company, to name a few) on the soundtrack (out now on cinewax). Marideth took time from her busy schedule to tell us about her background and her work on the film

Tell us about yourself. From reading your website, you have quite an interesting background.

You say interesting, I say busy, others say disorganized and apt to wander off at any moment. I started out wanting to play music and sing. Halfway through college I was told that was silly. Being a woman (and too fat for stardom, although they didn’t say that) the best I could do was be a music teacher. So I quit school, went to California and played music, although I kept a variety of day jobs to do it.

Progressive nerve damage from an auto accident in my teens finally put an end to my ability to accompany myself, and not being pretty enough to be out front of a band and having too much ego to be in the back, I had to find something else to do. Came home to Missouri, went back to school and found journalism, and made a career of it for 20 years. The movie stuff has all come up in retirement, and has taken me places I thought I’d lost the desire for. Not so, apparently. I’ve been having a great time representing the film at festivals and openings.

Can you share with us the story of how you came to be involved in the soundtrack? You wear two hats, that of featured singer and music consultant.

Winter’s Bone (the book) author, Daniel Woodrell and his wife, Katie, brought the film crew to where a group of us were playing music at one musician’s house. They came in and listened, asked questions and videotaped a bit of the practice, to get a feel for Ozarks music. Two years later I got a phone call asking me to appear in a scene in the movie. After that, they would call when they wanted a particular song or type of song, and I’d send them something and sometimes they’d use it.

In our interview with Dickon Hinchliffe (composer of the score for Winter’s Bone) last November, he said: “Yes, [Marideth's songs] had a big influence [on the score]. I knew straight away that the score should sit alongside them and the two work together – not by being overtly similar, but by being complimentary.” What are your thoughts on how the score and the soundtrack sit together?

I think the combination is absolutely delicious, especially on the outré, where the song “Farther Along” ends and is followed seamlessly by his “Hardscrabble Elegy”. He’s a brilliant composer.

How did your personal background in the Ozarks inform your work on the film?

In every way. I’m a product of my culture, and it was easy to get on board with the theme of the film. The actors could have been my neighbors. They made such an effort to make the film absolutely authentic, both to Woodrell’s story and to the culture it came from. I think they did an extraordinary job, and I am proud and grateful to have been a part of creating that.

What projects are you working on now?

Well, besides my regular job teaching English and assorted variations, I’m doing research for the film company on another project or two, and preparing song arrangements for a second album. These days, in my spare time, I feed the woodstove.


Winter’s Bone: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available now on cinewax. Order it HERE!