"I love writing about personal stuff. The hard part is to talk about it in interviews" We chat with Marina Kaye
At just 22 Marina Kaye has been around for longer than you'd imagine possible. The French singer-songwriter released her third album, Twisted, recently, and laced with personal lyrics and a menagerie of musical genres, it's one of pop's finest of 2020. We had the chance to catch up with Marina, find out about life in general, and talk lots about the album.
Hey Marina, how’s your day going?
Very good, how’s yours?
Not bad, thanks for asking. Where are you right now? And what were you up to before you sat down to answer these questions?
At home. I was feeding my dog before I sat down to answer your questions. She’s a tiny, cute, white Pomeranian - the best company I could have asked for during the lockdown here. Just before that, I was out on a few radio interviews and I have to say it’s so nice to be able to get out and do some promo work after most of that has been shut down this year. Fortunately, over here we benefit from some exceptions during the lockdown where you’re allowed out for work if it's either deemed important or in the cultural space. I guess for me it’s both [laughs]
Tell me the one thing people don’t know about you.
I’m obsessed with Geishas and the Japanese culture in general. To me the Japanese culture has survived in a strong way through so many years and I really both respect and enjoy that. Cultural heritage is what binds a society and keeps people focused on the importance of our history, traditions and respect. The word Geisha comes from the words “Gei” which means “performing arts” and “Sha” which is a person. So, even if it has evolved to be entertainment, conversation and singing for men, the historical meaning is for “people”.
Obviously it’s not your first language, so how easy is it to sing in English?
I guess the first thing is how your ear is trained from a very young age and in my case, my mother was always listening to English language songs. So I grew up listening to English music and somehow these things stay in your brain and create a fertile ground to build on. Then I went to London when I was 14 and started spending time in studios with my team and writing songs there, so I had to learn the language very quickly. Also, as a musician and singer, I believe I have a talented ear so it’s easy for me to hear a word and it’s proper pronunciation and then repeat and remember it. I’m also in love with the English language and a strong motivation to learn, which helps a lot.
What’s your favourite English word?
Twisted came out recently, what can you tell me about the album?
Every song on Twisted is about something I’ve been through and the way I see things. It’s a very personal album. What I always like to say is that if you listen carefully to my lyrics and if you know how to read between the lines, then you will learn a lot about me. Writing personal songs isn’t enough for me, however. I like my lyrics to be written in a way where anyone else can feel they somehow concern them as well. They need to be able to recognise their own life stories in my lyrics and to be able to connect with my music and not just feel they’re hearing about someone else’s life. I remember in 2013 when I did my first showcase in London - at the Half Moon in Putney - there was a gentleman sitting there and who talked to me afterwards. He was from New York and he’d been very ill. During his illness in hospital, he listened to some of the teasers of my first songs that I had put up on my socials (Facebook at the time) and he’d felt this connection to my lyrics which he said helped him through his difficult time. As soon as he was better, he flew to London to come listen to me live. Ever since, he’s regularly come to my concerts in Europe. Over the years, I have many fans who have contacted me to say my music has helped them. This sort of feedback makes me very happy.
You co-wrote on all of the songs, which song surprised you the most in how it turned out?
'Blind Heart'. I never thought I would write a country-oriented song in my life. But I did! I love to experiment with different genres and have that genres influence my usual pop sounds in order to create something more unique and a little different. I think 'Blind Heart' is the best example of that.
That's one of my favourite songs. Can you tell me more about it?
I wrote this one in London with David Stewart, Jessica Agombar and Arrow Benjamin. I couldn’t stop listening to The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran’s song 'Dark Times' and I wanted a song that sounded like theirs. It was my first reference. But then it turned out to be more country than that. Also, the studio we worked in was really cool and inspiring. It’s a boat that’s moored in the docklands in East London. How cool is that right?
One of my favourite songs is the title track (Twisted) , what’s the story of that song?
I wrote 'Twisted' in January 2018 in LA with Afsheen and Josh Cumbee. We were in the studio talking about how different we feel, how hard it is for us to fit in this society and the word twisted came to my mind. When we finished the song I knew 'Twisted' would be the song that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Also, if you listen to the other songs on the album, the word twisted comes up in several other songs.
Your press release says the album is very much like a diary, how much of a challenge is it to write and then sing such personal songs?
It is not a challenge for me. I love writing about personal stuff. The hard part is to talk about it in interviews. I’m constantly writing my thoughts and emotions down in a diary - well, I use my smartphone as a diary. Sometimes, I will just write full sentences about something that happened or about something that I’m feeling and that more often than not bothers me and I need to get it out. Also, observing people can inspire me to write. Other times, I feel how what I want to write could look like in lyrical form and I will directly write down those thoughts as lyrics for a song. So, the fact that the album is much like a diary is actually a good reflection of how it was created.
And what’s the one song on the album that you haven’t been asked about much?
Mmh... 'Bad Intentions'. Not sure why I haven’t been asked about it, but I really like how my vocals sound on that song and it has a really cool vibe to it. So, we will let it live with the public a bit and I’m sure I will hear from that one too.
You did a fancy live stream for its release, how was that experience?
Awesome! It felt like a real concert, except there was no applause and no interaction with the public. This took me some getting used but I loved doing it and I’m very proud I’m the first artist Dazzle did it with. There’s a lot of creativity that was initiated during the lockdowns in order to find new ways for artists to reach out to their fans when literally there’s nothing available live. The amount of thought, work and creativity that was put into this live stream was just amazing and I really hope people enjoyed it.
You recorded in LA and London, which was your favourite city? And how do they compare?
I love them both for different reasons. But the album was mostly written in London and I have amazing memories of it. Of course in LA you get the benefit of their lovely climate and with the time difference, once you go into the studio there’s really nobody calling or texting you, which means you’re fully immersed in the creative process with no interruption. In London, it was a different vibe with Jessica and David it simply has been the most amazing songwriting sessions ever. We understand each other and complete each other which made it all very seamless and lots of fun. I love London and have been very fortunate to work these so much over the years and discover so many great places and studios.
I usually ask, what have you got planned for 2021, assuming things become slightly more normal!
Well, I guess the assumption is a big one to make and I’m not sure I’ve made it yet in my mind. The first bit is that Twisted will be released in vinyl format in January, so that’s a first exciting bit. With the situation in 2020 the production of the vinyl has been delayed but at least it’s something to look forward to. Then, of course, I hope I can tour my album and release more singles! As an artist, I really need the connection with the public when on tour and it’s something I really miss. We’re looking to start booking venues for 2021, but it’s hard to get too excited about it when we really have no information of what the first half of the year will look like.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?
Halsey, she’s amazing!
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
How are you feeling?
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
I don’t like coffee! So, I have tea and when on tour it’s green tea with honey, lemon and ginger.