PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing
MAR I AM
FOR a while I have been looking to interview a musician that has a real history…
and sense of originality about them. The interviewees I have covered are wonderful but MAR I AM is something special. The London-based artist combines sweet vocals with soulful allure: Pop and Alternative blends that fill the ears and sit alongside thought-provoking lyrics. A natural storyteller whose Nigerian roots go directly into her music: there are not many out there like her! Growing up to rhythmic drums and a community strong of family values: this upbringing compelled MAR I AM to enter music and share her stories with the public. Heart to Heart is an E.P. that will captivate and capture hearts; highlight a distinct and promising musician and give the music world something rather wonderful. Be There for Me has made its way into the world and being celebrated with glowing reviews and paens of affection. I got the chance to chat with MAR I AM and talk about her Nigerian upbringing; how songs come to her and what we can expect from her E.P.
Hey MAR I AM. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
Hey! It’s been good thank you: very busy with work and preparing for my E.P. launch in just a few weeks. I’m very excited but there is a lot to be done.
For those who are new to your work: can you introduce yourself to us?
Well. I’m a singer-songwriter and self-taught guitarist. I am a south Londoner who loves to tell stories through music.
You are based in London. What is life like there for a musician and how does it inspire you as a writer?
London is great for musicians: there is so much music happening here; there is always a great music night and amazing artists; very easy to get inspired by the different sounds you hear and art being made.
I am also inspired by life and people: so much happens in London that it is nice to sit back and take it all in. A lot of my songs come from just watching life.
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Be There for Me is your debut single. What was the inspiration behind it and are you excited now that it is completed and done?
Very excited! It’s so good to be able to see work finished and be able to share it. It was inspired by difficult friendships and life changes. I wrote it together with the producer I worked with on the E.P. (Feranmi Oguns) and it’s about those hard moments with people when you feel like there is no reciprocity. You feel like you’re giving a lot but not getting anything in return and expressing how you really feel when that happens. You feel hurt, and in your heart, you want that person to know it. Songwriting is a difficult task at times. It’s a skill to be able to divulge the matters of the heart in only three minutes but working with such an amazing team at OL Music (Fez and Rohan) made it easier and fun.
The E.P. Heart to Heart is out on 4th November. What can you tell us about the themes and songs that will be included?
Yes it is and I can’t wait to share it! Again, the title is called Heart to Heart and that is the theme: a conversation of love, growth and those defining moments in life where the emotion is real and there is no hiding. There is a song called Without You which is about feeling the pressure of life and realising you need help. There is a song like Grow where you are feeling on top of the world and ready to grow. The last song, Running, is an unfolding story and ends the E.P. very raw and dramatic but there is something for everyone - they are themes that everyone can relate to so you’re in for a real treat and I hope you enjoy it.
Your lyrics are insightful and you effortlessly blend catchy melodies into your music. Who were the artists and musicians that influenced that?
Ah, well, thank you. There are so many: I just love music. Ones I can think of now are Stevie wonder. He is so amazing to me both his musicianship and writing; his play on words have always inspired me. Lauryn Hill is incredible. Asa, Joni Mitchell; Bill Withers, Gospel music as a whole… the list goes on.
Having Nigerian roots; do you think that is important with regards your unique sound? Do you have many opportunities to visit Nigeria?
Yes, it is definitely important because it is a part of who I am and that is what makes my sound. I love my culture and it is what first introduced me to music - especially live musicianship and the art of storytelling.
I was there just last year enjoying the sun so hopefully, I’ll be back there soon - especially as it’s getting cold here.
Were you into music and poetry at a young age and was there a figure/person that sparked your love of words and music?
Yes, as young as I can remember I started writing poetry and stories (when I was like seven-years-old). I would draw a picture and write a story to it. It’s hard to say one person:
I (just) always loved reading stories in school at story time; seeing live music and dancing away to Michael Jackson. As a young girl, I (just) sat back and took it all in and just continued to write as a way of expressing myself.
It was 2011 you decided to go into music – joining the London Community Gospel Choir. What compelled that decision at the time?
Well, I joined the London Community Gospel Choir last year. In 2011, I was just playing my guitar and a song began to come to me. When I finished, it I just felt like I wanted to share it so I did: I was so nervous but it was something I always wanted to do (but was afraid to do). That year, I felt like life hit a brick wall, but out of that hard time, I began to dream again. I had friends who were singing already and I started supporting them - through backing vocals - and when I felt ready to do it full-time I joined the choir who are amazingly talented and professional.
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It might seem like a cliché question but how do songs come together? Do you need to get into a headspace or set time aside for writing?
It’s always a good question because no-one really knows. It varies. Some days, songs just fall from Heaven; other days you get a lyric stirring or a melody and you got to sit with it and fish it out. There are times when you need to be in a headspace - especially when it takes a while to come together. Other days, you have to just let it go and wait for it to come when it is ready. It is such an interesting process and very exciting when you feel something brewing.
Music is quite a challenging industry and demands hard work and perseverance. Have you had many obstacles to overcome so far and how do you disconnect from music and detach from it?
Loads! Too many to name. I think that the biggest obstacles are from yourself: believing in your craft and songs is the first obstacle. You can’t keep going if you are not content with you because it is hard; you are vulnerable so you have to be ok with the rejections - with people not liking your music or not supporting at times. You have to keep going. I take myself away to just refresh so mini-breaks are good to just process and enjoy life. It helps me to get back to doing what I love: singing and writing. If not, it will always feel like work, and it is a lot of work. You have to persevere but enjoy it too.
You have already – before your debut single came out – achieved and seen a lot. As a young musician; what have been your proudest memories to date?
One of my proudest moments was putting on a music-night for a charity I was working with called United for Change (that was raising money for a school in Nairobi, Kenya).
I was commissioned to write songs for it and perform them with a fellow artist - it was my first time organising an event and it was such a successful night (we raised over £800 for charity work in Kenya). I was happy to make music for such a special cause and get the chance to go to Kenya and see it - a fond memory of mine.
PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing
Being in London, you must play a lot of gigs and see a lot of new talent come through. Any other names we should check out and follow?
Yes, there is so many I know. Some fantastic artists off the top of my head: I would say check out Lánre, Bianca Rose; Kacey Chambers, Abimaro; Santino, Alice Watts; Mike Kayihura and the amazing Samm Henshaw. There are loads more and these artists are awesome.
What are your plans heading into 2017? What do you hope to achieve in the year coming?
Lots of plans.
I’ve already starting planning for after my E.P. launch so keep an eye out for more music.
Of course, live performances (will follow) as it’s been a while and a music video or two. Very excited about the plans I have to share.
For those young bands looking to follow you into music: what advice and tips would you offer them?
Don’t stop. It is all in the process: you learn as you go, and as you go, you grow (that’s a good Tweet!).
Enjoy your journey and know that you have what it takes and you have a story to be told.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than your own as I’ll include one) and I’ll play it here…
Well, thank you, loads. It will have to be a song I’m loving at the moment: Cranes in the Sky by Solange. Thank you so much!
Follow MAR I AM
PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing