French recording artist Mahrnie will transport your mind to the cinema, song after song!
Mahrnie is an artist from Paris who not only has the good looks of a young Francoise Hardy but also a truly impressive background in theatre and music, having obtained a bachelors degree in film and studied at the renowned music conservatoire of Burgundy. The singer-songwriter is now established firmly in the London music scene and is quickly becoming an artist that people are feeling intrigued and obsessed with due to her unique vocal tone and her dark pop theatrical production.
Mahrnie’s sensual and delicate French vocal tone absolutely stuns while lyrically she delivers darker and deeper thoughts on life that leave you wanting more. While the singer embraces her cinematic background as an artist, creating a vision and character for herself in the studio is of high importance and it’s the vulnerability of singing on stage that really pushes her artistry to the next level.
The singer just debuted her song “Obsession” exclusively on Toronto Paradise and is performing Zealous Festival on Wednesday 13th January at Rich Mix in London. There’s definitely no signs of the singer slowing down anytime soon with all the great buzz surrounding her!
We got to talk with the Parisian singer about balancing her two soul mates film and music, and having full creative control and power over her career – from lyrics to imagery, and even videos!
See the full interview below:
1. How has being French influenced your musical style? Which French artists inspire you the most?
France and art have a very special relationship! It is serious! So I do music seriously and by that I mean that I believe in putting the artistic side first and then the rest. I’ve done music and acting all my life and from an early age, when I was living in Paris, which is the best city for culture, I spent my time in the museums, cinemas and theatres, I was working as an actress, I was also writing scripts and doing photography. I actually don’t know another way to live than to have an artistic life! I really like Vanessa Paradis, we can feel integrity in her work, her album Bliss is one of my favorite albums. A really rare one. I also love Serge Gainsbourg who was playing with words when writing, doing it in a very metaphoric way. A true poet! He often used classical music in his pop songs and it gave something really interesting. I discovered more recently Ibeyi and I was really impressed by the tone of their music, there is something really moving and organic! I like Laurent Garnier and his incredible mix! Charles Perrault and his fairytales are always with me and there is also a French sculptor and visual artist named Louise Bourgeois. She has had her work exhibited at the Tate Modern and I often went to see her drawings. She said something that I find very true and funny, explaining her representation of the Mother by spiders in her work: « because my best friend was my mother, and because she was as intelligent, patient, clean, useful, reasonable and essential as a spider ». I have to admit that I am also fascinated by the spiders and they are often present in my lyrics, video…
2. Having spent ten years at the Conservatoire of music in Burgundy, music has obviously been a huge part of your life. You also have a bachelors degree in film studies. How much does your background in acting help on stage when it comes to performance and connecting with your fans musically?
It is actually completely different. When you’re on stage as an actress you feel very protected (by the costumes, your partners on stage, the make-up, the dialogues…). Being on stage as a singer is the opposite, especially when you write your own songs. It is like being naked! You tell your own stories, it is your music, your sensibility and even if there are musicians with you on stage, you are the one at the forefront… When you are an actor on stage, you create the 4th wall, this imaginary wall between you and the audience. As a singer, you have to break this wall! And this is so much harder! My first steps on stage as a singer were tricky, I felt a bit lost and moreover, I started by doing acoustic gigs which is really intimate and that’s not necessarily what I had in mind for my music. I naturally came up with a character when singing. I can’t imagine doing that kind of very cinematic music without being myself cinematic if I can say so! There were something missing at first and I realized that I had to be an actress on stage even if I was there as a singer. It is part of me. I also have a very precise idea of the visual that I want on stage and I am aware about the scenography. I also knew that you need to use the space on stage and that the person at the bottom of the venue needs to see you, you have to connect with everyone, which is hard sometimes! Edith Piaf was singing with her hands, this is something that I noticed and it adds something really dramatic on stage, I love it! I was aware of my body as an actress and I know that I have to use it too as a singer.
3. You incorporate a lot of cinematic techniques and imagery into your music! If you could record the soundtrack to any film, which would it be and why?
Ooooh I love that question! Honestly I love big studio movies, the very visual and spectacular ones as well as very independent, small budget movies but I think that I would prefer recording a track for a big film as there is some grandiloquence in my music. I want people who listen to my music to feel like if they were heroes! I want them to close their eyes and see themselves riding a horse in a meadow in the 17th century!! Queen were the best for that! The number of times that I saw myself in a movie while listening to their music! I am a huge fan of James Bond movies for example and it would be the kind of movies that I would love to record a song for. Or any Tarantino, Lurhman, Burton movie. These directors give a lot of importance to music in their movies, it is like another character. And I never understand why the music is always credited at the very end of the generic! Can you imagine a movie without music?
But I also would love to do the soundtrack for a movie where a woman is the main character! Something to accompany a strong female character! It is so rare to see that!
4. You’re very involved in the songwriting and creative process in your musical career. Where do you find yourself the most inspired when it comes to writing songs?
I actually can’t write in a silent room! I always put some noise when I write a song but nobody can be here! I have to be alone! Sometimes I have topics that I want to explore or sometimes I simply like to escape in my imaginary world! It is important to dream and imagine when you are an artist and this is something that the society and education deprive you from, so most of the time I go deeply in my mind and I see images, like a movie actually, I create a story and then I write. Sometimes I talk about things that never happened to me, it just come from my imagination or sometimes it is related to my life, my feelings but I like to transform these personal emotions into something bigger and more interesting. I like to do an impressionist work and to add some poetry and metaphors. I go very far in my ideas and I choose very carefully my words. A French singer that I love named Charles Aznavour said once: « you need to rape the audience ». And I agree with that in the way that people are so used to listen to what they have been told (on the radio, internet, tv, the mainstream music…) that you need to shake them and make them react, think, or whatever emotion that you can bring but do never choose the facility and do never put limits in your creation!
5. Some of your songs touch on sensitive topics such as mental illness, depression, loneliness and humanitarian issues. Do you feel as if more and more artists today talk about real life issues because fans need that extra support?
I don’t think so and I think that it is a mistake to write for someone or to write thinking about what your fans want to hear, or don’t want to hear… As soon as you write thinking about the people who will listen to your music then you lose some freedom. I do it in a very selfish way and I think that’s the best process! That’s how you can do an introspective work and be honest to yourself and so to your fans. I remember one of my cowriters who has been disturbed by one of my sentence, or a producer asking me « Did it really happen to you?» If I had thought to this before writing it, I would have never done it. I think the power of an artist is to say and to do what the society condemn but you have to do it for yourself not because you think that someone will like it.
Maybe some singers are thinking: « ok my fans want to hear that so I am going to give it to them ». Or « I am not going to say that or to show this in my video because it doesn’t go right with my image and I will lose some fans … » This is when you don’t see an artist anymore but simply a singer selling his music. That doesn’t move me. People relate to your music as long as you put integrity in it.
6. You’ve directed some of your own videos – is that something you’d like to do with another artist? To bring another artist’s vision to life?
Oh yes I would love to! Every time I watch a music video I analyze every little technical detail! I can’t simply watch a music video, I always re-direct it in my head! This comes from my cinema studies when you spend 9 month analyzing the same movie shot after shot! I would certainly avoid all of these vulgar music videos that exist now specially in pop music with female singers. It is like if pop music was made by men for men. When you watch music videos of Lana del Rey for example, they are so beautiful, sensual and interesting. There is a real artistic choice. My favorite one is Blue Jeans by Woodkid!
7. In the studio, do you have any rituals before starting to record?
Yes I touch a thousand times my lyrics paper! It is never at the right place on the music-stand and it annoys me a lot!
Seriously, I always do the same warm-up. I also have a specific preparation before going to the studio with meditation and yoga. It helps me, little by little, it is a slow process!
8. If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would it be and why?
I don’t know him yet, but a songwriter/producer. I would love to meet someone who understands my music, to have a special bond with him and do a complete album together!
Until now I worked with many different people and this is great but if I have to release an album I would love to do it with the same person. And to be in a very creative process, with a lot of research and improvisation. Also by taking the time to do it! I spent most of these last 3 years in the studios writing and recording so many songs and very quickly that I lost track of time!
9. You moved from France to London to pursue your music career seriously, what was one of the hardest parts of adapting to a new city?
The language! Every time I was saying my name to a British person, I had to repeat it a thousand times before he could understand me! I had a basic level of English and now of course it is better but at the beginning I couldn’t have a phone call with a British person, I could’t understand a word! And they are so many different accents in London! France and the Uk are not far away but everything is different: the manners, the way to think, the way to do, etc… But when you arrive in a new city, you want to start something new! And that’s what happened for me with singing. I would have never done it in Paris. It all started in London, because of the people that I met, because of the city! This is a very energetic and creative city and there is a great community of musicians, songwriters and producers…
10. As a singer where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I don’t really like to speak about what I have in mind! It is better to do and to keep your plan for yourself!
11. Tell us more about your new song ‘Obsession’ and the story behind it?
When I first wrote it, I wanted to speak about any kind of bad dependance (drug, food, alcohol…) and I started thinking about how your mind and your thoughts can influence your choice in your life and especially how your negative thoughts can control you and drag you down. The more I was writing the more I realized that it could sound like if I was speaking about someone and I actually started playing with words to confuse anybody who would listen to the song. The producer who worked on it actually thought that it was about a man that I loved! I also wanted a very dark production with distorted sounds and something completely electro (it is really hard for me not to include strings in my music!!) Something really powerful, deep and not clean. I wanted to bring a sense of embarrassment.
12. What’s the best piece of advice a music industry insider has given you?
One of my co-writer who actually co-wrote Obsession, really knows how to bring me back to reality! He gave me a lot of advice actually. The one that I remember the most is to stay surrounded! Not doing all of this alone and this is certainly the main issue that I have. I do my music 24/24, it is a lot of sacrifices. I am a solo artist and I don’t have a team with me at the moment (manager, etc…) so it is important to meet people working in the music industry but also to spend time with your friends, etc… I also have a text message from him saying that nobody has the key of success, you just have to learn and keep going! I like to read it from time to time…
13. What can we expect over the next year from you? 2016 is going to be a great year!
It starts with a big show at Zealous Festival on Wednesday 13th January at Rich Mix in London, I can’t wait to perform my latest songs there!
I have several songs in the hands of producers and engineers and I wait for them! And I started writing new ones in a different way, thinking about songwriting differently that I am looking forward to releasing..
And some other projects are on hold so I have to keep my mouth shut but 2016 will be even busier than the previous years!
14. What does Paradise mean to you?
Simple things make you happy isn’t it?!
Being in Paris, drinking delicious wine with the man that I love while listening to great music or watching an old movie is enough for me to make me feel like if I’ve wandered into Paradise! And did I mention that I love lemon pie?…
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