An interview with Marla
With tracks from her upcoming album already being featured in the playlist of Hollywood movies, Marla takes the time to talk to Jade Tullett about her transatlantic and musical moves.
Moving from the UK to the USA at the age of 18 is a pretty daunting prospect for anyone that young. What made you buy that fateful plane ticket?
I think I must have had a lot more balls then than I do now! I needed to go and find out what I was looking for. I wasn’t ready for uni and wanted to get working. I was offered the opportunity of an internship at a great casting company in LA and took the next flight out. I didn’t think about what would happen past those first few months. I was very lucky that my boss took me under her wing, let me stay with her and showed me around. She is still one of my closest friends and I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t been so amazing. LA can be a big and empty place but I met some great people and found my way.
After you attended LA film school and became the youngest member of the Art Directors Guild, did you ever worry about your musical ambitions taking a backseat to a career in film?
100% it took a back seat. Past writing songs in my bedroom, some singing lessons when I was 14 and a couple of school performances (highlight being me err ... rapping the 'Shoop' Salt N Pepa song with my mates), I never had the courage to truly pursue my music enough to be able to pass up the opportunities that were on the table in front of me when I left film school. Look, if I knew then what I do now about my music I know would have taken a very different path, but I went on a journey, met some amazing people, experienced a different part of the industry and came out the other side knowing what truly made my heart kick.
What was the driving force behind your decision to move from film to music?
I was working on a really tough movie- 7 day weeks / 5am call times and was starting to question as to what the hell I was doing with my life. I was putting hours and hours into something that just wasn’t me. Its a long story but while I was on this job I was introduced to producer Tone - we wrote and recorded three tracks together and somehow while on the film managed to crank out some pretty wicked tunes. I had written songs before but only learnt how to tie everything together when I was in the studio with Tone. I realized that there was an open window for me to jump through and took the chance. A lot has come of those three songs that we first wrote together. '40 Winks' was featured in Labor Pains, a Lindsay Lohan film, 'Home' was featured in feature film Cafe and BBC3 show Off the Hook. Much like buying that 1st plane ticket, I didn’t think what was happening until after I took the leap.
What made you decide to come back to London after achieving so much in LA?
This part was very unintentional. If you told me two years ago that I would move back to London and start a music career I would have laughed and said shut your mouth and don’t talk crazy! I mean I had a life, a relationship, great friends… Right after I finished up those songs with Tone I came back to London for my cousin's wedding. I played the tracks to some people and they caught attention. I knew if I was going on this path I needed to go with it, and the “it” was in London. I wasn’t an easy decision to make at all but I knew in my gut that I needed to make the move.
As an artist who has experience on both sides of the Atlantic, did you have to make a conscious decision to either sing with an English accent or an American twang?
Ha! That’s a good question. The songs I recorded when I was still living in the States do have a bit more of an American something to them. I wouldn’t say twang! But I don’t think I have a strong English accent. My parents are from South Africa and me spending so much time in the States probably means I have a bit of a weird accent to begin with. I’m not sure, I think I’ve gone more British since I’ve been back and maybe that’s coming out in my songs.
Would you recommend other young artists-in-the-making to order a one-way ticket to the USA?
Its hard to start from scratch without knowing anyone. Going to film school helped a lot as I met a bunch of friends who had also just moved. As much slack as everyone gives LA, it’s actually full of really motivated people, most who came from somewhere else to LA, to make a future for themselves (which I guess can be good and bad thing). I would recommend it if you think you have a different vibe to what's going on in the UK market, if you have contacts and a base to get your going out there. It wasn’t easy or straightforward by any means but I got a lot out of it.
After returning to London, how did it feel landing a place in the final of Hollyoaks' Music Show - Unsigned Act?
It was brilliant. It gave me confirmation that this could all really happen. My friend sent in a rough demo of my track 'Lipstick for the Vampires' to the show but she only told me after that she sent it in. I was like… what?! A few weeks later I got an email saying that I made the cut and I was totally blown away. I had never done anything like interviews or singing live on TV and coming from the other side of the camera it took a bit of getting used to. Getting into the finals launched me into releasing 'Lipstick'. It got on the front page of iTunes pop and things went on from there…
And finally, what would you like to achieve in 2011?
World domination (and a record deal) ;)