Striking a chord: Young singer uses talent to raise money for breast cancer research

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Songstress Marley Aliah has recorded a song to raise funds for the Pink Ribbon Project. Photos by Courtney Aliah.
Songstress Marley Aliah has recorded a song to raise funds for the Pink Ribbon Project. Photos by Courtney Aliah.

Marley Aliah is not one to shy away from a microphone.

An old soul with a voice to match, the 11-year-old takes the spotlight wherever she finds it, whether it’s an open mic night, an impromptu gathering or at her father’s side as he strums the guitar.

But now, she is using her talent to shine some public attention on a worthy cause.

Collaborating with musician, mentor and family friend George Hartner, Marley has released a song, “I Wanna Be Free,” in awareness of, and to raise money for, breast cancer research.

“I thought it was a very powerful song and George did a good job writing it,” Marley said. “And I hope it would help people to donate money to breast cancer – or any kind of cancer – research, and to help people feel better about breast cancer, or any kind of cancer.”

Hartner penned the tune after a zap of inspiration–and a meditative afternoon of surfing–in order to have a song to sync with a light display his company, Outdoor Illumination, was installing in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the Audi Cape Fear car dealership Marley’s father, AJ, owns.

Marley, he said, was the singer he had in mind from the moment the chorus–“I wanna grow free of disease/I wanna live to be 93/I want it for mom, grandma and me/I wanna be free”–first popped into his head.

“She is a great singer…When I first heard her sing, it was like love at first sight to my ears,” Hartner said.

Writing from the perspective of a young person, like Marley, looking ahead and thinking about a long healthy life, Hartner knocked out the lyrics in less than a day.

George Hartner, right, wrote the lyrics to the song, which was set to music by Madison Bunting, left, and recorded in his Madman Studios.
George Hartner, right, wrote the lyrics to the song, which was then set to music by Madison Bunting, left, and recorded in his Madman Studios.

He sent them over to Madison Bunting at Madman Studios, who set those lyrics to music. Hartner sang a rough take with the music and sent that to Marley.

“And then she Marley-ized it,” her mother, Courtney said.

Learning the track with her dad’s help on the guitar, Marley put her soulful, timeless spin on the song. It didn’t hurt that the tune struck a personal chord: Marley’s grandmother, AJ’s mother, is a breast cancer survivor.

Just a week after Hartner wrote the song, he and Marley were in the studio cutting the track.

“Her first line just floored everyone,” Hartner recalled.

She even had a little help from her mom, who sang backup.

Modest and mellow, Marley takes her vocal prowess in stride. She thinks she might want to be a singer…or maybe an actress. She is currently considering starting a band with one of her friends.

For now, the preteen is just hoping her song will make a difference. CDs of “I Wanna Be Free” are currently available for purchase at a variety of locations, including Audi Cape Fear and within Lumina Station.

All money raised will benefit New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation’s Pink Ribbon Project. Click here for a list of merchants carrying the CD or email song@audicapefear.com.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.