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CheekyChicago sat down with Welsh alternative pop singer-songwriter Marina & The Diamonds before her sold out Park West concert and delved deep into her creative process and that of her hitmaking co-writers.
Marina: On the first album (The Family Jewels), I had a 75/25 split of me writing on my own and then co-writing. It wasn’t that the songs I’d co-written were bad, but I felt that when I co-wrote with people I couldn’t achieve the same depth in songwriting because some of the songs I wrote on my own took months. Then I’d suddenly do a song in a day. I’d start from scratch and I found it hard to completely let go and be myself. That’s why for awhile I was like, I’m not going to co-write again. I connected the idea of credibility with writing on your own on the piano, which everyone does to a certain extent.
For the second album (Electra Heart), I was writing a lot on my own. A lot of these songs like “Lies” and “Starring Role,” where it started on the piano, they would just stop either before the chorus or before the pre-chorus. I wasn’t very inspired on my own, or for some reason musically I just couldn’t take the next step. When I started co-writing I was incredibly nervous. Got over that pretty quickly actually working with people like Dr. Luke. In the beginning I thought I would never suit because I was from a different background. He definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things. Not personally, but because he stands for a certain thing which is plastic American pop. Which I adore, but which is not necessarily what my fans at the time would have associated with me. I met him and he said, “Do you want to come over tonight? Diplo’s in the studio.” That was the night that I wrote “Lies” with him, which was a verse that I’d written on my own and I took it in and then we developed it. After that night I thought, Oh my God, that’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written and I wrote it with two other people. That’s when it started to click to me that maybe it was a good thing that I ended up co-writing.
Cheeky: How did you end up working with Dr. Luke (“Primadonna,” “How To Be A Heartbreaker,” “Lies”)?
Marina: It’s weird because luckily so far I’ve never had to contact someone or had to decide who I was going to work with. Mainly because I’m not very good at it. I usually wait and see what comes in my path. That’s how I’ve always worked with co-writers. Greg Kurstin was one person like that. Rick Nowels badgered my label for ages on the first album and really wanted to work me. I said no because I wasn’t ready. Then I went back to those people, called them and said I really fancy working. With Luke it was through my A&R who knows us both very well. Luke knew of me anyway because Katy Perry gave him a mixtape of some of my stuff. I guess he was just interested to meet me.
Cheeky: Having listed Britney Spears as one of your influences, what were you feeling when you first met the man responsible for so many of her hits?
Marina: At the session I wasn’t out-of-my-mind scared, but before it I was. I was so, so nervous that it was almost like a really pivotal moment for me in my whole career. It sounds so extreme, but I felt like from that moment onwards I was taking a leap and taking a risk with this album working for me. The background and the industry that I come from, which is the alternative industry, really hates when artists who they’ve supported and loved – because they were left field and unique – suddenly go and work with these people who apparently are the antichrist. Which excites me. I like to challenge people and I like to take risks. That was a huge moment for me. Once I did that one session I thought, Wow, I can really work with anyone now and feel really confident.
More to come next week! Check back with Cheeky to find out where Marina stole a song title from. Good artists copy, great artists steal. Click here to read our review of the Marina & The Diamonds concert and pore over images of her glamorous self.