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Interview: Marina & The Diamonds

PUBLISHED: 11:19 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 09 December 2010

Emma Lee

If the tastemakers are to be believed Marina Diamandis - aka Marina and the Diamonds - will be the big name this year, following in the footsteps of the likes of Florence and the Machine and Little Boots. EMMA LEE spoke to her.

Further listening: Marina & The Diamonds
Further listening: Marina & The Diamonds

Emma Lee

If the tastemakers are to be believed Marina Diamandis - aka Marina and the Diamonds - will be the big name this year, following in the footsteps of the likes of Florence and the Machine and Little Boots. EMMA LEE speaks to her.

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Her theatrical vocals have been likened to those of Kate Bush and Lene Lovich. But 24-year-old Marina Diamandis -aka rising star Marina and the Diamonds - reckons that she wouldn't get anywhere if she auditioned for the X Factor. It wasn't around when I was starting out, she says. But I wouldn't have got through. I don't have a good enough voice.

Her growing band of admirers might beg to differ. Simon Cowell would be missing a trick if she didn't get the coveted four yeses. Half-Welsh half-Greek Marina is one of this year's most exciting new pop stars and she recently came second in the BBC's influential Sound poll, which has a great track record in accurately predicting who will be bothering the higher reaches of the charts in the coming year.

And she's just about to set out on tour supporting her eagerly anticipated debut album, the Family Jewels, which is out on February 15, including a Valentine's Day show at Norwich Arts Centre. For Marina (the Diamonds are what she calls her fans), it's the culmination of years of hard work - firstly getting a foot in the door, then getting her ideas on record.

She may look like a pop princess - but appearances can be deceptive. Marina wears her heart on her sleeve, and the album is deeply personal. She explores commercialism, the thrall of America, social values, family and female sexuality.

If that sounds like heavy going, it isn't. It's a refreshingly original album with a split personality - from the pure shiny pop of Shampain and Hollywood, to the quirky Mowgli's Road and Hermit the Frog to the fragile and elegant Obsessions and Numb.

Marina worked with three of the best producers in the business on the album - Liam Howe, who was formerly a member of dance act Seaker Pimps, Biff Stannard, who has worked with Kylie and Pascal Gabriel, who helped create Ladyhawke's signature sound.

Marina is such a perfectionist that she made Pascal record a staggering 482 vocal takes for one song.

For Marina, having braved the pop audition circuit, it's a dream come true to be making music on her own terms.

Well I knew I wanted to do it from a very young age. I knew I would do something to do with the media. I did a lot of performing arts and it became more clear that I wanted to become a singer. I had something to say, she says.

I went to lots of 'manufactured pop' auditions. I did that for two years and remember being incredibly unhappy, I felt like a real outsider.

As she tells it at she at one point answered an advert from Virgin records who were trying to put together a boy band. "I dressed up as a boy and went along to the record label," says Marina, laughing. "They wouldn't let me in, funnily enough, but I did leave a letter and a photograph saying I was amazing and was going to take over the world."

Amazingly, a label executive contacted Marina soon after and asked her in for an audition, but she was so nervous when it came down to it she could barely sing. "I just felt sick," she says.

When it comes to her career, she couldn't have a better role model.

Madonna has always been a great icon for me. I felt I could relate to her. She took about five years to get to the point I'm at. I admire her determination and she challenges people as well, which can change our culture, she says adding that she's also partial to listening to girls with electric guitars and a bit of Dolly Parton.

Having broken into the music business the hard way, what advice would she give to someone thinking of setting out on the same road?

I would ask them the question why are they doing it. And if it's for glamour and money then don't bother. That will run out at some point. I think you're born with star quality and it takes hard work, drive and ambition and you can't force someone to be ambitious, she says.

And is she looking forward to the album's imminent release? I have to keep calm and focused. Last year I put in a lot of the leg-work. But I'm more excited than anything else. I want to see what people think, she says.

Frank and funny, Marina's a real gem and deserves to go far.

t Marina and the Diamonds play Norwich Arts Centre on February 14.

t The Family Jewels is released on February 15.

Further listening: Marina & The Diamonds
Further listening: Marina & The Diamonds

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