If 18-year-old singer, Marina Kaye, is not on your radar yet then put on your headphones immediately. The Marseille native is set to be a break-out star of 2016. Case in point: Sia is her biggest fan. When it was time for the French singer to put out her debut EP, Homeless, Sia surprised her with a song written especially for her. “Freeze You Out,” is only one of the stand-out tracks on Homeless. The EP was just released in the United States in March, but already the music video for the title track has over 20 million YouTube hits and has paved the way for Marina to achieve global recognition, a goal she has been working towards since learning to sing in English at an early age.
Although she is young, Marina possesses a surprisingly mature nature and proves that confidence is the key to success. She loves classical music and has the work ethic of a seasoned professional. She is set on achieving her musical dreams by doing her own writing and production. Her relentless drive has been present since a young age when she longed to trade in her beachy Marseilles existence for the big city lights of New York or Los Angeles. At age 13, she got her first shot at stardom when a friend signed her up to audition for the hit television competition, France’s Got Talent. After being crowned winner, a producer discovered Marina’s YouTube covers and flew her to London to audition. Since then Marina has been hard at work channeling the frustrations of a difficult childhood into a sparkling debut. Fearless, her first full length album, had its European release in 2015 and has since gone double platinum, spending 35 consecutive weeks at the top of the charts in France. Marina is now embarking on an extensive European tour which will only help to solidify her status as a rising talent before Fearless drops in the US later this year.
We talked to Marina Kaye right before her first performance in the Big Apple. Check out the full interview below and make sure to watch this space for breaking news on the sure-fire star.
Indira Cesarine: What was it like to grow up in Marseille and how did you get into music?
Marina Kaye: In Marseille it’s very hot and there are a lot of beaches and palm trees. It was fun to grow up there but I wanted to move to a big city like Paris, London, or New York to be able to really work. There’s nothing like that in Marseille. I started singing when I was ten years old. One of my friends heard me singing and was like, “Oh my God, that is so cool! You should try to get a record deal.” I was like, “No, I’m 10, haha. I want go to school. I don’t have what it takes to be a singer.” She signed me up to audition for a French television show called, France’s Got Talent, It’s the same idea as Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent. I went on the show when I was thirteen years old, and one year later my producer came across one of my covers on Youtube. It was, “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato. He called me to come to London to do an audition. I sang three songs for him and we started working on my debut album when I was fifteen. That’s how everything started!
IC: Amazing, you were so young! Can you tell me what it was like to be on France’s Got Talent?
MK: Stressful, it was very stressful. I really wanted to win, it was a big deal for me, it was kind of an obsession for me. I couldn’t really enjoy it.
IC: What did you perform on the show?
MK: I performed three different songs. For the audition, I performed “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. For the semi finals, I performed “Firework” by Katy Perry and “Set Fire to the Rain,” again by Adele.
IC: How would you describe your sound?
MK: It’s kind of dark because I was dealing with some really bad stuff when I was writing the album. I think I’m ready to move on now. I want to start writing some cool and optimistic music.
IC: What musical influences do you feel have most inspired your work?
MK: Amy Winehouse and Prince, I’m a huge fan of Prince. I do think that voices ruin music, so I listen to a lot of music with just pianos and strings. That’s what inspires me the most. I don’t know if you know this piano player called Ludovico Einaudi but he’s so talented. He’s really the one that inspires me the most.
IC: So you like classical?
IC: Do you play any instruments?
MK: No, but I have just started to produce all of my stuff.
IC: I heard you recently collaborated with Sia, who wrote a song for your album?
MK: Actually, that’s the only song I didn’t write on the album. I write everything that I sing. I think it’s just easier to feel what you’re saying when you write it. Sia wrote “Freeze You Out,” which is one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s also on my Homeless EP.
IC: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be working with Sia?
MK: She just gave me the song! My producer called me and was like, “You got a song from Sia.” I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” That was just one week before the album came out, so it was really fast. I couldn’t really absorb it at the time. Now that it’s out, I have time to just listen to it and know how it feels to sing something that Sia wrote for me. I’m very, very proud.
IC: That’s amazing. What inspires your songwriting?
MK: My life. I had a very difficult childhood and went through a lot of things when I was very young. It is difficult for me to talk about so it’s just easier to sing and to write about them.
IC: When you talk about a difficult childhood, was it problems with your family, school, or something else?
MK: I would say that it was mostly with myself. I was just trying to find a way to love myself. Being a child was a difficult time for me. I always wanted to be a grown up.
IC: When you were living in Marseille, did you dream of being elsewhere?
MK: Absolutely. I wanted to go to a cool place like New York or LA. I felt so small in my little town.
IC: Are there any particular songs off of your new album that really resonate with you?
MK: I would say “Sounds Like Heaven,” featuring Lindsey Stirling. She’s a very talented violin player. She’s huge on Youtube. I met her in 2014. I was opening for her in France and we had this cool connection. I was excited to make something together. Other than that one my favorite songs are “Freeze You Out,” and “Homeless.” I love that song.
IC: What was the inspiration behind the video for “Homeless?”
MK: It’s all about my childhood. I wasn’t protected. You know when you feel like anything could happen and no one’s going to protect you and no one’s going to help you get through things? I was just feeling “homeless.” I also love wolves. I always wanted to be one. I wouldn’t say that this was exactly about the homeless thing but I did want to look like someone who was suffering inside because that’s exactly how I felt. You don’t see that much. Usually, you just put on a lot of makeup and just look pretty in your music video.
IC: What about your song, “Dancing with the Devil”?
MK: “Dancing with the Devil” is about a guy that I met. He was pretty fucked up. I don’t know why, but I just kept “dancing with the devil” even though he wasn’t the right person.
IC: It was a bit of a love story?
MK: Yes, a big one. I just think we all go through this kind of love story once in a lifetime. A relationship where it’s just not the right person, it’s just not the right one, but you keep going and trying to make up. You keep “dancing with the devil.”
IC: You performed at Pianos recently in NYC and this year at SXSW?
MK: It was is my first performance in America. I also performed at SXSW in Austin, Texas, which made me even more nervous. I recorded my entire album in New York, London, and LA, but I’ve never performed in those places.
IC: Do you feel like you’ve had any sort of challenging experiences so far in your career? You won the show and you’ve already had an EP and album come out. Have you ever faced any big obstacles that you were nervous about?
MK: I think back then, it was just kind of natural. Now, I’m just trying to learn things—how to behave, how to perform, and how to look in front of a camera. It’s very challenging for me and I really want to make it here in the US. I know it’s going to be really difficult because I’m not American, I’m not English, I’m French. I think it’s going to be really tough and challenging but, I really want to try to make something here.
IC: Do you sing in English?
MK: Yes, I do.
IC: How old were you when you started studying English? You speak it very well.
MK: Thank you. When I was very young I was always listening to English songs. I was never listening to French songs. I always wanted to be able to speak English, sing in English. It’s kind of a fascination I think.
IC: So what’s next for you this year?
MK: I have my own tour in France, Switzerland, and Belgium coming up. I will be doing festival appearances this summer, and hopefully, I’ll be back in New York in October to do something.
IC: Do you have any words of wisdom that you live by?
MK: I don’t have a motto, no. I think I have what it takes to make music internationally. I think I’m talented enough so I just have to prove it now. That is what is sustaining me!
IC: You’re very serious about life! Do you make time for fun? I think you should slow down and enjoy the ride. You only get one right?
MK: (laughs) Why is everybody saying that? I’m very serious, to make it internationally is an obsession for me. I have to work hard now and maybe one day I will enjoy it.
Interview, photography and styling by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Hair by Ezio @ Judy Casey
Makeup by Colby Smith @ Jed Root