Straight shooting star
Twoyears after stepping offthe conveyorbelt, Marina Diamandis tells Tony Clayton-Lea, she is back to shatter some popper ceptions
Now and again you have to ask no one in particular – where on Earth did that pop star go to? From supernova to superannuated within the space of three years is often the career trajectory of too many people to list but in the case of Welsh-Greek singer Marina Diamandis it’s slightly more complex.
Following the surprise success in America of her 2012 second album Electra Heart, Diamandis decided she didn’t want her life to be further complicated and promptly walked off into the sunset.
The way she tells it now – sitting in a swish suite at a five-star Dublin city centre hotel, dressed to the nines as she looks ahead to a full day of interviews in the lead-up to the release of her third album Froot – is considered and reflected. Read between the lines (Diamandis doesn’t have a great poker face, either) and you gather the fame lark for her wasn’t all it was made out to be.
“Up to mid-2013, I toured extensively in America where the album really took off and then I just . . . ” There’s a pause of least 10 seconds. Words are being mulled over. “It was simply that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the music industry for about a year and I wanted to live a normal life. I’d never had any level of stability since I was 18 and I was 27 when Electra Heart hit big, so almost 10 years was a long time. Leaving things behind was what I needed to do and it was a decision that was made very quietly. So that’s what I was doing after the album’s life finished – just living a regular life.”
Which is all well and good but how does a successful and very visually astute female pop star do that? Where does one retreat to in order to live a quiet life? There are two ways to achieve such low-key status, apparently.
“As an artist, or anyone that is recognised in public, it’s really you that dictates if you want to be recognised or not – the places you hang out, how you look. You can be off the grid so easily, if you want. The other thing is that I look so different from the Elec
tra Heart era compared to how I naturally look, anyway, that people didn’t really look twice. Plus, I’m not really attracted to flashy places or people. And, you know, if you do get recognised, you just say hello.”
One of the main reasons why Diamandis walked was due to a certain lack of control over her creative decisions. Most of Elec
tra Heart was co-written and
while the album concept fused falling-out-of-love narratives with identity issues, there was nonetheless the odd pairing (according to Diamandis) of certain music styles, some of which were not to her liking.
“I saw that album more as a musical,” she explains, “a sort of flamboyant, tongue-in-cheek, dark pop record, a pop opera, and humour was a very big component of it. Some people might listen to it and investigate the lyrics and see it as something very different to the people that don’t. Either is fair enough.”
This brings us to the oddly spelled third album, Froot, which is far more is centric than either of her previous two records (her debut,
Family Jewels, was released in 2010). It is thematically sparser than
Electra Heart and musically far less layered. The album is more about keeping the focus on songwriting – Diamandis emphasises the want as well as the need to write the songs on her own but she also wanted to make a point.
“I find it weirdly terrifying that I’m pretty much the only artist, male or female, on a major label who has actually single-handedly written their own album. You know, like, really on their own.
“Did I want to be taken more seriously? Of course I would want that. How society works is that – particularly if you’re a woman – if you look a certain way then you are expected to make a certain type of music. I think that’s really odd, so I suppose I’m trying to address if not challenge that perception.
“The idea that women can’t write songs on their own; that’s hilarious. And tragic. Personally, I want to see a culture shift in that perception.”
Diamandis raises her eyebrows towards the ceiling. She isn’t against co-writing, she explains, but more writing-by-committee, which more often than not adheres to the low-risk/ quick-results strategies of most major record labels. This is how, she exhales sharply – clearly keeping the lid on a bubbling pot of annoyance – pop producers, pop songwriters and pop songwriting camps work.
“It’s fine to a degree but it stifles creativity. If you listen to pop radio, no one is talking about things that are important and that’s where the word generic enters into the conversation. So much of pop music is about people saying the same thing, the end result of which means nothing, or very, very little. People need to be stimulated and that level of stimulation needs to be present in pop culture, simple as that.”
So the woman who stepped off the conveyor belt over two years is now finding her way back again. What’s different now?
“I was once ambitious to be liked and I’m not any more. I’m finally accepting that as an artist I’m a bit of an anomaly and that’s okay – I now know that I don’t really have to fit in anywhere. I just want to do what I want to do, regardless of consequences. To me, that’s what symbolises a strong artist, because ultimately if you’re not expressing exactly what you want then what are doing it for?”
Froot is out now through Warner Music and is reviewed on page 12
I find it weirdly terrifying that I’m pretty much the only artist, male or female, on a major label who has actually single-handedly written their own album
‘The idea that women can’t write songs on their own; that’s hilarious. And
tragic’ - Marina Diamandis