Mixing elements of opera, cabaret, chamber music, and rock, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Shara Nova (previously Shara Worden) called on her classical training for her multi-faceted solo project My Brightest Diamond. Over the course of multiple albums, Nova's songs would shift between moody indie rock, densely arranged chamber pop, and even electro-tinged dance material. The project began when she was living in New York City and collaborating heavily with like-minded genre-bender Sufjan Stevens. Following well-received albums like 2006's Bring Me the Workhorse, Nova returned to her home state of Michigan and drew inspiration from her surroundings in Detroit for new work like 2011's All Things Will Unwind and the more dancefloor geared 2018 album A Million and One.
Nova grew up the daughter of a National Accordion Championship-winning father and a mother who was an organist for their Pentecostal church. Raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan, she spent her youth listening to gospel, jazz, and classical music and performing in the church choir. She studied opera at the University of North Texas' music program, and after graduation, moved to New York City to continue her vocal studies. In N.Y.C., she became as involved in the world of underground rock as she was in the realms of classical music, inspired by the likes of Antony and the Johnsons and Nina Nastasia and their intimate performances at venues such as Tonic, the Living Room, and the Knitting Factory. She began writing her own material, which had one foot in her classical training and the other in the avant rock she was discovering.
She began performing and recording under the name Awry, gathering a supporting group of musicians playing everything from wine glasses to wind chimes, and eventually added a string quartet after studying and collaborating with Australian composer Padma Newsome. She released The Orange Album and Quiet B-Sides in 2001, and a remix album in 2003. After meeting fellow transplanted Michiganian Sufjan Stevens, she became one of his Illinoisemakers and took a hiatus from her own work to perform on his Illinois tour as cheerleading captain. When the tour was over, she renamed her project My Brightest Diamond and set to work on two albums: A Thousand Shark's Teeth, a collection of songs performed with a string quartet, and Bring Me the Workhorse, a more rock-oriented set that was released on Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty in summer 2006. My Brightest Diamond toured with Stevens that fall in support of the album. Early the following year, the remix album Tear It Down, which featured contributions from Lusine and Gold Chains, arrived. My Brightest Diamond's second album, 2008's A Thousand Shark's Teeth, was originally planned as a piece for a string quartet, but eventually included 20 players and drew on influences such as the works of Maurice Ravel and Tom Waits. In 2008 Nova returned to Michigan and put down roots in Detroit, taking inspiration from the Motor City's ups and downs for All Things Will Unwind. The album, released in fall 2011, featured songs composed for the acclaimed yMusic chamber ensemble. She resurfaced in July 2014 with the None More Than You EP, a precursor to that fall's full-length This Is My Hand, which boasted influences ranging from Top 40 pop hits to her experiences appearing in experimental director Matthew Barney's film The River of Fundament. In 2016, she got divorced from the spouse she'd been married to for most of her adult life and legally changed her name from Shara Worden to Shara Nova. This tumultuous and transformative period of her life informed My Brightest Diamond's fifth album A Million and One, a more electronic-leaning approach to songwriting than the project had ever attempted before. ~ Heather Phares