Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds
Welsh popstar Marina Diamandis, better known as Marina and the Diamonds, pens high-energy, Katy Perry-esque pop songs that delve into far deeper issues than the events of last Friday night. We chat with Marina about handling criticism, being a woman in pop music and the reason she decided to start making music.

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When did you start writing songs?

When I was 19.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

Yes! It was called “Plastic Rainbow.”

What’s your songwriting process like?

Whenever I think of lyrics I write them down, whether I’m on a train or plane or walking to the supermarket. It always starts with lyrics first and hardly ever starts with music. I have to be inspired to write about something.

How does the objectification of women in the pop world affect you and your songwriting? 

That’s a hard question. I’m protective of how I am portrayed and how I come off and am viewed image-wise. It’s a tricky thing because obviously, it’s not a bad thing to look sexy, but at the same time you want to be taken seriously, so there’s always kind of a split. A divide between the two. In terms of my writing, I’ve definitely seen that how you look as a female dictactes how people, unfortunately, will think of you initially. I experienced that on my second album, definitely.

You often discuss tough topics that aren’t often touched on in music, like eating disorders. Do think that’s an important thing to talk about today?

Yes. I think it’s very important and it’s always needed, especially in today’s cultural climate. Every song talks about “I love you baby” or “I’m in the club and I’m rich.” Without being too cynical, that’s the kind of musical content that’s on mainstream radio, and I think it’s important to have variety. It’s important to have a song about the club but also have a song about something different, something a little deeper.

Does you position has a role model for young women ever play into your songwriting?

No! I actually don’t think about that at all. I know I have very loyal fans, but I don’t consider myself to be a role model at all.

Which song of yours was the most difficult to write?

“Froot” or “Happy.” “Froot” because it was so long and the structure was so unorthadox. “Happy” because I didn’t really know what to say in the chorus and it took about four months to actually finish it.

Which of your songs mean the most to you personally. 

Probably “Happy.” I just like the sentiment, and it marked a big shift for me.

Is there a song that fans connect to more than others?

There’s one called “Teen Idle” on the last album that’s been a fan favorite.

Are you ever nervous to show new material to people?

No, I find it divine! I think it’s one of the few things that I’ve always had confidence in. I would much rather send someone a song than talk to them about it.

How do you handle criticism? 

I usually feel indignant and angry. I’ll go through a bad day and tell myself, “Well, I don’t care because it’s my art and it’s not yours.”

Who are your favorite songwriters? 

Rick Nowels, who I’ve collaborated with a few times. Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple and Shirley Manson from Garbage.

What do you think is the best song ever written? 

“Moonlight Shadow” by Mike Oldfield. The melody is just insane! You’ve got to listen to it. It’s very, very monochromatic but I love it.

When and why did you decide to make songwriting your path?

When I was 15, but not for any musical reasons. I never sang in public, had never written a song, but for some reason, I deeply and instinctively knew that I could express myself and use music as a vehicle to translate those ideas to a wide audience. So the arts seemed the most attractive to me, where I could make the most impact.

How imporant are the visuals in your album artwork and videos to your vision and message?

Really important. Every artist is different. I love creating a story and an aesthetic. It’s not about fashion or beauty, it’s more about creating a world someone can live in or the record can live in. It’s part of who I am. I like having a 360 involvement in everything I do.

What’s the most imporant lesson you’ve learned since writing songs?

I think it’s been to trust the feeling you have when a song is particularly good, and perhaps the 50-year-old guy who’s managing you who’s putting your record out may not understand that. Artists are only succesful when the message they’re sending out is completely true to who they are because that’s when people connect to you.

Do you ever feel afraid of being too honest?

Definitely. Not so much about myself, but about a relationship. I don’t like the idea of hurting someone. I had a conversation with A&R when my record was coming out and I said, ‘I’ve written this song that I think is really good, but I can’t bear the thought of this person listening to it.” And they said, “Well, if you live like that you’re never gonna write again.” And he taught me not to fancy myself and from then onwards I’m just gonna have to learn to love it and cringe through thos moments.

What advice would you give young women about getting into songwriting or music?

Do it yourself. That’s my message. Do it yourself because you can do it. Doing things yourself and in a DIY way will help you more long term as an artist.

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