Interviews

Interview: Marie Naffah talks new EP Trains, playing 50 gigs in 50 days and more

Photo Credit: Parri Thomas

London based singer/songwriter Marie Naffah is like a breath of fresh air within the music industry. A voice with rich soulful tones and lyrics that truly inspire and captivate the listener, Marie is an artist to watch.

Having been championed by BBC Radio 1, named MTV’s Unsigned Artist of the Year before even releasing her first song, Naffah is a star that is going to keep on rising. NME also named her part of their ‘Big 10’ to watch for this year.

Marie’s lyrics are drawn from personal experience, life experience and in the case of her most recent EP ‘Trains’ her travels across the US.

The EP was written on her travels during her ‘50/50: For the Love of Live’ – a tour in 2021 where she played fifty shows in fifty days across the country at gyms, vaccine centres, refugee centres and more.

Tomorrow, June 21st Marie releases her short film that accompanies her EP.

The film is made by filmmaker and friend Holly Morrison and is titled Fifty Days.

The film follows Marie through her her 50/50 challenge and in her words is a “cinematic reminder of the kindness of strangers, the romance of train-travel, and our intrinsic need for human connection’

You can see the film before anyone else, along with live renditions of her new music, at Brixton’s Soho House on the 21st of June. TOMORROW

Timings:

19.00: Doors

19.30: Film Screening with Marie Naffah & Holly Morrison

20.00: A performance of the EP ‘Trains’ by Marie Naffah

Tickets here

We caught up with Marie just a couple of weeks back to discuss her EP Trains, her 2021 50/50 tour and much more!

Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Parri Thomas

Hi Marie – how are you?

I’m well – thanks for taking the time to interview me.

How has your week been? What have you been up to?

My week has been good! My team threw a little launch party last night to celebrate my EP ‘Trains’ coming into the world. I played to a silent audience which was really special. I also invited my friends Celine Love and Fox Gunn to open the night and we even ended the evening with a (slightly tipsy) rendition of Aretha’s Natural Woman.

With a full room and a full heart, I couldn’t have asked for more.

You have recently released your second EP Trains. Can you tell us a bit about it please?

This is my second EP and I think it marks a kind of musical arrival for me as an artist. Vocally, I’ve been lucky enough to be compared to Florence and the Machine or Amy Winehouse. Lyrically, I look to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Alex Turner. So if you’re fans of any of them, maybe you’ll enjoy my stuff!

Why did you title it Trains?

Last year, I travelled over 2,500 miles by train to play 50 gigs in 50 days to celebrate the return of live music after the lockdowns. These songs were written while I was staring out windows pretending to be the star of my own movie.

The tracks aren’t about trains at all, but they hope to encompass that aspirational, introspective and almost cinematic experience that train travel can give you.

I hope people can put the EP on, look out the window and delve deep or dream big.

What song was the biggest challenge to write and why?

It took me a while to make the chorus of ‘Angie’. I knew I wanted something really strong. I tried a few things and felt they were too flimsy and not powerful enough considering how emotional the song is. I love what I have now.

Angie is said to be the most serious track off the album. Why were you nervous to put it out?

A big test of this second EP was to be as honest and brave as possible. I was worried that the song would come across a little too sad and people wouldn’t relate to it. It was only after playing it at a gig that so many people came up to me afterwards and said ‘was it about me?’ that I knew it had to go on the record. I’m really proud of it – I’m a firm believer that being vulnerable makes great music.

Who did you work with on this EP?

After writing most of the EP myself, I took the tracks to Steven Griffiths, a brilliant writer who helped knock them into shape structurally. Whilst Tom Donovan gave ‘Angie’ her groove, it was Ian Barter who produced most of this EP and I owe a lot to them both.

Do you learn something from everyone you work with and if so, what did you learn working on this EP?

Absolutely – I learned that going in with a strong idea of what you want is important, but also being open to suggestions can really shape and strengthen a song. I also learned that if a part of a song doesn’t feel right – change it.

Photo Credit: Parri Thomas

How do you get prepared mentally for a release like this? Other than all the usual promo stuff, do you feel calm in yourself? Nervous? Too excited to sleep? Anything like that?

At the risk of sounding a bit earnest, I felt quite emotional this time round. What only looks like 4 songs to some is actually a whole year of work and thought. To me, these songs are made from memories of going into and coming out) of lockdown. The release definitely finishes a chapter and makes me excited for the next.

What will you do on release day? How will you celebrate professionally and personally?

I will drink with my friends, order a pizza and probably be asleep by 10pm.

Who outside the industry, who in your life do you ask to listen to your new music first and Why?

I usually ask my partner because he will just tell me how it is.

How do you determine the tracklisting order?

For me it’s about how the songs flow together. But ‘I Want More’ felt like the perfect title track which summarised the entire EP and ‘Good Luck’ felt like the cheeky, confident finale.

Are there any songs written for the EP that didn’t quite make the final cut? If so, can we know anything about them and why they didn’t make it?

I tried adding a really upbeat song that I’d written from a different time but it didn’t really fit. The four tracks on the record were written all in the same month so I feel they share the same magic. They belong together.

Tell us about your 50 gigs in 50 days, firstly, what a way to celebrate the return of live music. That’s pretty much go big or don’t do it all haha!

Haha it definitely was! It was a kind of crazy idea I had last year. I had been tired of staying indoors and craved the dialogue of gigs – the connection. So yes, I did a little shout out online and basically asked ‘who wants to book a show’ and the next thing I knew I was travelling around the UK playing in homes, refugee centres, vaccination centres… It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my career so far.

Did you get any time to explore some of the places you played at?

A little bit yes! But I spent most of my time soaking up the spaces of fans and friends. They shared their worlds with me and that was really special.

What song of yours is a family or friend favourite?

My friends like ‘Run Away With Me’ – they’re all dreamers!

What do you have planned next?

I’ve got something very special happening on 21st June. Sign up to my newsletter to find out what!

Photo Credit: Parri Thomas

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