Three years ago, HumanHuman user dearskye added an emerging, London-based songwriter to the site. At the time, she was going by Marna King - having since dropped the surname. A little while later Marna released her stunning debut single ‘Crossfire’ which got the blogosphere chatting, combining James Blake-esque production with sumptuous pop vocal arrangements. It has gone on to register 250,000 streams on Spotify and catapulted Marna firmly into the alt-pop stratosphere.
Since then, Marna has amassed 27 agrees which led her to being labelled as promising a few months ago. We chatted to the Londoner about her songwriting approach, new music blogs, Spotify playlisting, Blue Peter and her new single ‘Days Gone By’.
Hey Marna! Thanks for chatting to us.
Thank you for having me!
Could you tell us something about yourself that fans might not find out otherwise?
When I was about 8, I won a Blue Peter badge for my drawing of a Dalek. I’m not sure it was even for a competition the show were hosting - it was just a completely unsolicited drawing of a Dalek I sent them.
The HumanHuman community is behind you, you've accrued 27 agrees on the site. How do you feel the blog community has contributed to your story so far?
HumanHuman’s format is a little different from a lot of blogs out there with its sense of community. Fans and industry bods being able to “Agree” that a track or artist is promising is a great thing, as a lot of blogs seem to run off one person’s opinion only, which can sometimes alienate the regular user.
I think there’s a bit of a misconception that blogs aren’t for the fans anymore, and the thought of “track of the week” being chosen by one person’s opinion can be a tad off-putting, but that’s where HumanHuman’s involvement with their readers is refreshing.
All types of blogs have been totally integral in giving me leg-up though. Quite a few picked up “Crossfire” when it was first released which caught some eyes, which in turn has sent loads of exciting opportunities my way. Blogs are tastemakers! Artists totally need blogs and often owe any success they have to them.
Do you see yourself as a songwriter primarily, or an artist?
An artist, although I want to focus more on songwriting. I’ll always keep performing my own music, but at the same time, my life’s goal is to get a credit on an Adele song… #dontquitthedayjob
Is there anything about your songwriting approach that you feel is unique to yourself?
I’m not sure there’s any approach to songwriting that isn’t unique - there’s as many different songwriting approaches as there are people on this earth.
Maybe I’m quite shy when it comes to writing. I’ve been in rooms with other writers who sing and hum melodies as they pop into their brain, but I’m pretty silent in the studio. I find it easier to come up with something that sticks when the room is totally silent.
Have you been writing and working with other artists this year?
Lots! I wrote with Moli recently, who’s a songwriting machine. She’s smashing out bangers all over the place. Bangers n’ mash. I’ve also been working with a few friends of mine - namely Oli Hannaford (a funky lil duckling) and one of the dudes from XY&O helped out with my next single “Days Gone By”.
Also got a couple of things booked in that are going to send me way out of my comfort zone, which I love.
Crossfire was a hit with the blogosphere; did you expect that from your debut single?
From my experience on both sides of the industry, I’ve seen more debut singles flop than I can shake a stick at, so “Crossfire” getting the reception it did was a ridiculous and brilliant thing indeed. Didn’t expect that at all!
It's approaching 250,000 on Spotify, was hitting those kinds of numbers in your head during the release schedule?
The highest I was hoping for was about 50k, so reaching 250k is huge. We tried to go in with no expectations - Spotify ended up picking it up, and it got put on three fairly big playlists. Totally improbable situation, which of course means that it’s impossible to replicate! So I’m curbing my expectations for the next singles too - I would hate to jinx anything.
How do you feel the new record “Days Gone By” has extended the sound you built on previous releases?
“Days Gone By” is cleaner and a little bit more spacious. It’s exactly what you want in a rental property.
I’m not sure we’ve even extended the sound, we may have actually reigned it in a bit. The production is JKP’s work again.
What does it draw upon in terms of subject, and how did it evolve in the studio?
I’ve developed an obsession with writing about things that have nothing to do with me. That’s either due to my love of gossip or inability to organise my own thoughts into song - so this one is about the aftermath of a close friend’s amicable breakup with a long-term better half.
The lyrics for this happened in about half an hour. I recorded some vocals on top for JKP, then sent the whole bundle over to him to give it The Vibe.
After working closely together on quite a few tracks, JKP and I have started to properly understand each other’s processes, so it was easy peasy to put this one together. Out of the tracks we’ve done, I have the biggest soft spot for “Days Gone By”.
Is it part of a bigger project, an EP or album?