Sunday 16 June 2019

'Nothing could convince me to have a showmance for record sales,' says Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds performs on stage at Oslo on March 11, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns via Getty Images)
Marina and the Diamonds performs on stage at Oslo on March 11, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns via Getty Images)
Marina Diamandis arriving for the 2015 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena, London.
Ellie Goulding has been knocked off the number one spot in the singles chart
Ellie Goulding during the Elle Style Awards 2015 at Sky Garden @ The Walkie Talkie Tower

Ed Power

This is awkward. I've just asked Marina Diamandis if she feels any rivalry towards friend Ellie Goulding.

he question strikes me as perfectly reasonable: the two are long-time chums and broke into the music industry at roughly the same time. But while Goulding is now an official Friend of Ed (Sheeran, as if it needed clarifying) and arena headliner, Marina, arguably the better songwriter, remains more niche. She can surely empathize with the Morrissey dirge We Hate It When Her Friends Become Successful?

But no – apparently we Cannot Go There. For one thing, Diamandis – 'Marina and the Diamonds' is her stage alias –  feels the comparison with Goulding terribly sexist. Would you put a male artist on the spot in the same fashion? (actually I would but never mind…). Marina's very sweet and not at all stroppy and yet, right now, there seems a very real possibility that she might properly go off on one.

Read more: LISTEN: Ellie Goulding records a smoky, smouldering take on Hozier's 'Take Me to Church'

Marina Diamandis arriving for the 2015 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena, London.
Marina Diamandis arriving for the 2015 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena, London.

"That is SUCH a silly question," she says, in one of those estuary English accents with all the letters 'r' rounded off. "It always happens. Not with Ellie, who I really love. She's amazing. We female artists are ALWAYS pitted against each other.

"Because we came out at the same time, the idea that I should compare myself to her? We are so different. Everyone is on the own road, everyone has their own journey.."

It's a little after the fact but it might console Marina to know her spell in Goulding's shadow may be drawing to a close. Twenty four hours followings its release her third album, Froot, has rocketed to the top of the Irish iTunes charts, giving Diamandis the first global number one of her current campaign. In truth, she probably isn't flabbergasted. Ireland has always been a solid market for her –  even her much panned 2012 LP Electra Heart was a straight-out hit here.

"The interesting thing about Ireland is that the demographic is very balanced," she says. "In some places, the States for instance, the audiences on the last record were teenage and gay. Ireland was one of the few places where there was a perfect blend between the indie demographic from my first LP and the pop following I gained later."

Ellie Goulding during the Elle Style Awards 2015 at Sky Garden @ The Walkie Talkie Tower
Ellie Goulding during the Elle Style Awards 2015 at Sky Garden @ The Walkie Talkie Tower

Read more: Ed Sheeran picks Irish venue for intimate gig as part of VH1 ‘Storytellers’ show

Aged 29, Diamandis is at a transition point in her career. Last time out, her record company pressured her into working with high profile songwriters (Lily Allen wing-man Greg Kurstin, Rihanna / Ne-Yo collaborators Stargate etc). Open-minded and unburdened by the traditional music industry ego, she went along – curious to see what might result. However, Irish love notwithstanding, Electra Heart wasn't quite the pop heatseeker Warners had hoped for and so here she is, on record number three, charting her own course once more.

"Some people 'got' [Electra Heart] and some people didn't. Whatever I do seems to be quite Marmite [in terms of splitting opinion] I'm at peace with that. I have complex feelings about my previous album – so many good things happened, a few things that irked me."

Strangest of all were the critics suddenly likening her to Lana Del Rey, at that moment gobbling up the charts with 'Video Games'.

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey

"At the starting everyone was comparing me to Lana," she told me at the time. "You will always be compared in that fashion when you are a girl. People zero in on the fashion, on stuff like 'well, she's a got a curl and Lana Del Rey has a curl…they must be the same thing'. I adore her, think she's tremendously talented. However, I'm glad the comparison has gone away."

As her surname name suggests, Diamandis is of Greek heritage. She grew up in Wales and attended school in the Old Country for several years. Aged 20, she fetched up in London, determined to break into the music business. Initially,the music business didn't seem up for a wooing. It took a lot of graft for her to get to where she is today.

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"I was seriously depressed," she told me early in her career. "It was tough. I  didn't know anyone in the city. I didn't have any talents to speak of. I was an academic person who had supposedly high hopes of going to uni and studying. And suddenly I didn't and was going to ridiculous auditions. But you know, if I didn't do it then, when was I going to ? "

She isn't obsessed with being famous. In fact, you get the sense Diamandis is quite happy ticking along in the b-league – well known and much adored by fans but, in general, able to go out in public unmolested. She would certainly never play the game in order to boost sales – the idea of, for instance, dating another celebrity to drum up exposure horrifies her.

"I've heard that still happens in the industry," she says mock appalled-but-actually-really-appalled. "It astounds me – it is SO nineties. It is bizarre – you couldn't get me to do that for a million pounds. No way. It is too weird."

Because it's in the news, I ask her how she might react if Kanye West interrupted her as she was about to receive an important award. Would she guffaw rigidly, like Beck at the Grammys? Or let her jaw clack to the floor in the fashion of Taylor Swift at the VMAs? She doesn't even have to think about it.

"I'd probably laugh. But I WOULD say something. I don't think he'd do it to be again. The thing is, I'm a big Kanye fan. I get him. He's a one-off, that's for sure."

The new album Froot is out now.

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