Pop

Marina On Transforming 'Love + Fear' Songs For Acoustic EP: It 'Felt Very Natural'

Marina
Zoey Grossman

Marina

The U.K. pop star also opens up about what U.S. fans can expect from her tour.

Marina isn’t quite finished exploring the emotions of Love + Fear, her ambitious dual album released in the spring. On Friday (Sept. 13), the Welsh pop siren formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds dropped Love + Fear Acoustic, an EP featuring five stripped-down tracks.

Hours before her Sept. 3 performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the singer, born Marina Diamandis, spoke with Billboard about releasing her first acoustic EP, what fans can expect from the U.S. dates of her North American headlining tour (which kick off tonight in Boston) and how she’s reframing fan-favorite songs such as “Teen Idle” and “I’m Not Hungry Anymore” in the wake of embracing her new, eponymous artistic identity.

How do you feel now that Love + Fear has been out for a while?

I guess it's been four or five months, so I feel pretty level about it, but interestingly it's gotten really busy recently, which you don't really expect as a campaign goes on. You expect it to die down and it's kind of doing the opposite, which is nice. So I'm actually at Jimmy Kimmel today to perform "Karma" and I just shot three videos last week for the EP. They're, like, stunning, I'm so, so happy with them. So it's going to be exciting to give it a little bit of a new life again. Because my acoustic versions of songs have always been really popular in the past with fans, so I thought I'd make an official EP and record three videos for it. 

I assume the videos for the acoustic EP are probably "True," "Superstar" and maybe "Karma?"

Yes! [laughs] You guessed correctly... and they're all extremely different to each other as well.

How did you choose which songs off of the album to record acoustically?

Well, I think sometimes when the production is more... I was about to say about the production being more synthetic sometimes some songs don't carry as well acoustically, but I think it's more just to do with the structure of the song and the ease of singing it. Like, it's down to how comfortable I feel singing it, so I've picked songs that felt very natural and easy for me to sing.

Were there any challenges with changing the production?

Yeah, it does take quite a lot of time to get it right if you want to do it properly. I think when I started doing the acoustic series from the days of, like, "Hollywood," I think what we were doing was, we were recording the songs on set and then I would perform to them. So I'd essentially lip sync to a version I'd just recorded because it was too difficult to record it live and do a video; it just didn't work out well. And then with Electra Heart I did the same, and the same with Froot. With this one I've treated it more like I would an album, so I've really taken care with the production and done it in a way that isn't just like, 'This is a semi-live acoustic version of this song.' It's more a very polished, honed version of it.

Will you be performing any of the songs acoustically on tour?

You know what? I will. "True," I've rehearsed just with me on piano. And then out of the Love + Fear songs, I don't think there's anything else. But I'm also rehearsing "Teen Idle," "I'm Not Hungry Anymore," which is like this old demo that fans seem to love... and "Happy" as well, which I always do. So, yeah, I've got four acoustic versions coming.

You are just about to start the American leg of the Love + Fear Tour. What can fans expect this time around? (I saw your tour nails on Instagram by the way, they are in-cred-i-ble.)

Oh, thank you! Well, I think, compared to Froot and the other times I've toured America, it's changed a lot actually, because I scrapped my whole format from Froot. [During 2016’s Neon Nature Tour], I was essentially performing like the frontwoman of a band -- I had an all-male band, and I'd always had that. And I don't know, I just needed something different this time and a new energy to work on... something that was fresh and challenging for me because I always was a very physical performer, but I never had any kind of choreographed element to that. So with this new band, I have four dancers -- two who sing and then one musician who's a multi-instrumentalist; he plays drums, pads and keys.

They still have that live energy on stage, but it seemed like definitely the right move for me. It's really energized me. And also, it keeps you really fit on tour, having to dance quite a lot and having to train before you go out on the road. So that'll be the biggest shift. And then our stage is all white vinyl and we have these beautiful projections going on throughout the show. The narrative is like the cycle of life: You start with seeds and flowers blooming and you end up with the eventual decay [laughs]. So, yeah, I'm so happy with it and I hope U.S. fans will be too.

With this being the first tour since you changed your stage name, do you feel like there's any difference internally between being on stage this time versus the artistic personas that you've presented in the past (as Marina and the Diamonds)?

Yeah! I do feel a really large difference, actually. I don't even think about it. I think I was taking things too seriously [before]; for example, even things like my joy of dressing up or doing different looks. For me now, that's just, like, pure experimentation and that doesn't say anything about me. That's just superficial stuff that's part of my creativity as a person and as an artist. Whereas before, I think the way I was interpreting that side of my industry was that it was like a mask, if that makes sense. Now I see that it's just fun and it's part of how I want to present myself that night, but it's nothing deeper than that. It doesn't mean anything more. So that's been a nice feeling of relief to have that.

And even, you know, one of my main sources of anxiety on other tours was, like, constantly being recognized. 'Cause on the day that you're in your tour town, people are more aware of you, I think, if they see you, than if it's just a regular day. And I used to really feel a lot of anxiety about that and feel like I had to, you know, look a certain way or not be able to go out in my regular clothes, which is just very chilled; I'm a very low-maintenance person. So that I don't care about anymore at all. Fans know who I am and if they like my music then they probably like me [laughs]. So they would never be judgmental in that way. That's really changed a lot and I feel much more comfortable, and I'm so glad, even though I know some fans were sad about the name change, I'm so glad that I did it. 

Any songs that you're particularly excited to perform live?

Definitely "I'm Not Hungry Anymore." Love performing '"Karma" and "Superstar," just 'cause the choreography's so good. But also, "Bubblegum Bitch," I'm adding that to the set list again, which is so fun. We have an amazing choreographer, Lisa Eaton, who's really brought it to life, and yeah... I think that's about it! I mean, it's funny because every song gives me new feelings. I was practicing "Teen Idle" last night, and I was kind of putting it on the set list 'cause I know it means a lot to my younger fans. And I was like, 'I don't know how I'm going to feel singing this anymore,' but actually I related to it in a new way. So you kind of go through different phases with songs and, like, what they actually mean to you when you're singing them 10 years later. 

Do you feel like you're relating to all of your old music in a new way in this era?

It's more specific songs that take me by surprise. Like "Hollywood," I like the fun aspect of it but it doesn't really mean anything to me. And I'm fine saying that [laughs]. 'Cause it's a narrative about a tiny moment in my life when I was, I don't know, how old? Twenty-one or something? So I'm not going to feel something emotional about that. But maybe "I Am Not A Robot" or, like I said, "Teen Idle" or... I'm just thinking on Froot. "Happy" will always mean something to me and will always touch that same place emotionally. So, yeah it's interesting. I wonder how I'll feel when I'm older, in my forties, you know? Am I going to be singing "Primadonna?" I don't know [laughs].

What is it about "Teen Idle" that has changed for you?

I think mainly like when I was singing the chorus last night, I was like, 'I still feel sad about not being free when I was younger.' I feel like I still have issues with that or longing or sadness about that. Because of, you know, personal stuff that was going on for me when I was in my teens, sometimes even in my twenties... that's the thing: if something has affected you in your younger years that has made you not feel free, that doesn't go away when you turn 18. That sticks on you and it's really up to you to remove that. But it can be very difficult and I haven't really felt free until very, very recently in my life. You know, the past year probably! So that's why I still relate to that song and I don't know if that's why other people relate to it, but that's the feeling that I get from it.

Wow, totally. As a fan, that's totally why it resonates with me too. 

Oh, that's good! Yeah, it's kind of amazing how many of us do actually have those feelings, but it's like... it also makes me, not angry, but like, I feel mad at myself that I've left... there's like so many years that I could have been having a completely different experience, and I just wasn't able to. But then I suppose that's just life and that's what you learn. I guess it's better to feel free at some point than, like, never [laughs]. It's never too late to feel free!

Is there a catharsis with performing it now, at this stage of your life?

I mean, honestly I won't know until I'm actually performing it on stage, but that's just how I felt yesterday when I was rehearsing it... 'Cause back in the day when I was doing it on Electra Heart and maybe on the Froot tour, I was still kind of in narrative mode. Electra Heart was just, like, expressing it and then Froot was narrating it. And then this time it's looking back and feeling something about what I had gone through. What I had missed out on. 'Cause I have loads of friends who are very kind of, you know, they like partied loads in their twenties and they let themselves live life, and I'm like [sighs] 'Ah wow, I wonder how that felt.' I wonder how it felt to be allowed to be yourself. I was literally just having this conversation the other night with two girls who live in New York and who I've known for a long time, and I was like, 'That's so cool that you could do that.' But yeah, there's hope for us all though, you know?

So you've mentioned "I'm Not Hungry Anymore" a couple of times and a few days ago you posted rehearsal footage of it on Instagram. A lot of fans know the background of the song -- that it was a Froot album cut that didn’t make the final version -- but why do you think that song resonates with fans so much as a cult favorite?

Oh my god, I literally just don't know. Part of it might be because it was never released, so it's gained this cult status... thematically, maybe it's just that people love the idea of feeling in a position where you're not... I mean, for me the song was about not needing certain things anymore, not being attracted to certain things. Particularly with my career and my industry, it was like a letting go feeling, so maybe that resonates with people.

Was there a specific reason that made you decide that it was time to play it on this tour?

Yeah, I just thought it would be fun. Never happened before, so... and I think I will try and put it out on Spotify at some point. I mean, no harm is done really... if they love the demo version, then that's great. Because that's what I've got [laughs]. I don't think I'm producing it again unless I do an acoustic version. I kind of think, 'Oh, maybe I should've put it on [Froot],' but I guess at the time something just wasn't right for me. But maybe that doesn't matter; maybe it's more just about the lyrics and the sentiment.

Listen to the Love + Fear acoustic EP below.