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Cheeky Interviews Marina & the Diamonds

The Cheeky Lady Discusses Collaborations with Plastic Pop Producers

by Jennifer Boyer – August 31, 2012

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 and the DiamondsCheeky: You originally set out not to co-write in the beginning of your career. Why was that?

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.

About the Author: Jennifer Boyer

Jennifer Boyer photographs and reviews artists live in concert with the added bonus of interviewing her favorite musicians, singers, songwriters and producers. She resides in New York City where she captures and witnesses great moments in live music. Jennifer’s obsession with music and concerts has turned two of her hobbies into dreams come true.