Ord was born and grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, the eighth of ten children. She grew up in a musical family; her father was a professor of music, her mother taught voice and piano, and the family toured and performed as the Ord Family Singers. Maren sang, learned piano from her mother, and taught herself guitar at age 14.
At a 1998 audition for Lilith Fair, Ord met Canadian music impresario Terry McBride of the Vancouver-based record label and management company Nettwerk. She would be showcased at the music festival, and eventually take McBride as her manager.
In 1999, after her sister told her about a talent contest from Edmonton contemporary hit radio radio station Power 92, Maren entered four songs she had written that night, and two of them—”Eternity” and “Falling Slowly”—were recorded on the station’s compilation CD, Power Picks Volume II.