INTERVIEW WITH… LONDON SINGER-SONGWRITER MARIE NAFFAH
Impassioned British folk-pop artist Marie Naffah is truly making a name for herself. Known for her signature blend of ‘contemporary folk with a brush of soul’. Announced as 2014’s ‘MTV’s Unsigned Artist Of The Year’. She has since given a few TedTalk, made a documentary, receiving much buzz over her music, and selling out venues like The Lexington in the process. ‘Wasteland’ is her first release for 2021 and is off her forthcoming EP. I chatted with Marie via email about ‘Wasteland’, her new EP, and the recording process, and much more. You can read it all below…
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Hi, Marie, First off… How are you doing? How has the new year been going so far?
MARIE NAFFAH: Despite the obviously shoddy circumstances, I’d say I’m doing a solid 7/10 today. 2021 has been weird for everyone, but I am so grateful I was able to start it with the rush of releasing music.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: For my readers who are unfamiliar with your music and work. Can you tell us a bit about your music and background?
MARIE NAFFAH: Sure – I’m a born and bred Londoner. After singing my little heart out all over London, selling out beautiful venues like Omeara and The Lexington, I travelled to the US to try on a different lens. My upcoming EP is inspired by that trip and, I suppose, marks a bit of a turning point for me as a songwriter. Coming back home to the U.K. made me realise that I wanted to make London-based contemporary music but with a brush of the raw soul that I’d found in the world of Americana. Track 3 of the EP, ‘Wasteland’ came out about a week ago and the full EP is out next month.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How did your new single ‘Wasteland’ come to fruition? What was the recording and writing process like?
MARIE NAFFAH: I wrote ‘Wasteland’ after feeling the greyness of London coming home from the golden coastline of California. The song is about kicking off that apathy, throwing on your best jacket and owning it. The recording process gave me such a thrill as a writer – the driving bassline, the beat, the backing vocals… each layer we added made the song bigger, thicker and stronger. I love working with my producer Simon Byrt because he understands who I am as an artist and is constantly pushing my creative boundaries. This can be a rare thing to come by in a musical-partnership and I never take it for granted. I want people to listen to ‘Wasteland’ and feel their force. I loved every moment of making it.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How would you describe your overall sound?
MARIE NAFFAH: Honest, soul music with a little somethin’ else.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What’s a typical creative process like for you?
MARIE NAFFAH: It always changes, but tiny buds of ideas come months before I try to make roses from them. I don’t like having rules, but it seems that, for me, lyrics and melody have to grow hand-in-hand as I write. One can never run off without the other. They must hold hands and grow together.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How has recording the EP been? How have you adjusted to recording an EP promotion during a quarantine?
MARIE NAFFAH: Recording the EP has been a real ride. We were lucky to have created most of it before the first lockdown. I think I would have found not being physically in the studio really difficult. For me, the production process relies on such a level of spontaneity. It is filled with mistakes, excitement, boredom, weird experimentations, tea, tangled wires… tangled hair. It’s when you come up for air on the other side that you feel like that sound has really been worked – that’s a terrific feeling.
(cont.) (I did record my backing vocals remotely in my boyfriend’s parent’s house and let’s just say I’m glad they’re still talking to me.)
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Anymore you can tell us about the EP? What you have coming up next?
MARIE NAFFAH: I am so excited to be releasing this EP as a collection because the individual songs really feel like they were born, and belong, together. The songs are multi-layered memories of my trip to the West Coast: the going, the coming home, the exhaustion and the exhilarating revitalisation that comes with an adventure. I’m so proud of this EP because, sonically, it takes a spoonful of all the genres that influenced me. So if ‘The Cage’ was electro-pop, ‘California’ had jazz and a hip-hop beat, ‘Wasteland’ is a rock and indie-pop anthem and the last track is a big, swooning love song, heavily influenced by The Beatles’ ‘Something’. Unified through my vocals, it feels rad to have made a sound that is uniquely mine.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What was it like being named MTV’s Unsigned Artist Of The Year? What were the biggest surprises or opportunities that came from that honor?
MARIE NAFFAH: To be honest, I still can’t believe that accolade belongs to me! I remember where I was when I picked up the phone and heard the news – I’d bought George Ezra’s ‘Budapest’ EP the same week that I got to meet him at the launch party. To be an unsigned artist and recognised amongst the likes of him, Sam Smith, Ella Eyre and Royal Blood was the stuff of dreams. Parties and glamour aside, it taught me that I needed to really know who I was as an artist and what I wanted to stand for. You can’t do this sh*t half-heartedly.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Is there a favorite place that you like to write? Or that you find inspirational as an artist?
MARIE NAFFAH: Anywhere with a real piano. Those keys always feel like a treat to write on.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: If you could collab with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
MARIE NAFFAH: Oof, it’s a good question. Leonard Cohen if he wasn’t too busy collaborating with every other songwriter who’s answered this question…Bernie Taupin, Justin Vernon, Alex Turner – Why? Because I hang on every one of their words and they remind me how to feel properly.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: If you could write a song about any fictional world in pop culture what world would you choose and why?
MARIE NAFFAH: Game of Thrones – never seen it but there’s surely good dollar in that.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What is your earliest musical memory?
MARIE NAFFAH: Hating piano lessons.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What artists have been “On Repeat” for you lately? What music have you been listening to & playlisting?
MARIE NAFFAH: Ladies are ruling the show for me at the moment – with The Staves’ new album, Angie Mcmahon, Delilah Montagu and Holly Humberstone.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: To end… Thanks for taking the time out, Marie! Is there anything you would like to say or add?
MARIE NAFFAH: Just a thank you to ‘The Reclusive Blogger’ for supporting musicians like myself and hope to see you at a live-show sometime. First beer on me.
Cheers to Marie and her music, I hope to take her up on her offer sometime soon!
You can follow Marie Naffah on Socials below. Plus stream her new single ‘Wasteland’ here.
Marie Naffah // Socials