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Marie Naffah

Playing 50 gigs in 50 days last year to celebrate the return of live music after lockdown

Growing up in west London, Marie Naffah has always immersed herself in the capital’s live music scene for as long as she can remember; as a kid, she would perform songs on a tiny karaoke box in the living room, and began writing songs aged fourteen. Naffah’s first song was “awful,” she laughs, and documented a fabricated heartbreak before she even understood the feeling. “It was about missing a bus in the rain and being really heartbroken,” she says.

Over time, Naffah began writing about her authentic personal experiences instead, and the stories close to her. When her grandmother began to lose her vision, Naffah – then, eighteen – wrote ‘Blindfold’ alongside a band of visually-impaired musicians who played on the track. It was the first song she felt truly proud of, because it connected listeners around a shared experience. “I love the power of being able to unite through a piece of art,” she says. Once old enough to start playing in pubs, she began putting on residencies at cult folk venue The Troubadour, and gigging across the city wherever she could. We at Neo Music sat down with Marie Naffah to find out a bit more about her.

1. How long have you been making music?

I’ve been writing music for around 10 years now, and probably writing decent music in the last five. It feels amazing to now understand who I am as an artist and what kind of music I really want to make.

2. How would you describe your music journey?

I think my musical journey has revolved around performing live. I’m constantly craving connection when I make music. That’s all I care about really. When I think of success, it always involves a crowd.

3. If you could describe your brand new EP 'Trains' using three words, what would they be?

Aspirational, honest bangers!

4. What song would you use as the theme song for your life currently?

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Station

5. What is the most memorable moment of your career so far?

Playing 50 gigs in 50 days last year to celebrate the return of live music after lockdown and then being NME’s artist to watch in the post-pandemic industry.

6. Give us 3 things on your bucket list?

  1. Building a studio in my back garden

  2. Touring Mexico

  3. Peforming at Abbey Road

7. Who inspires you?

Those who inspire me to write better - Joni Mithcell, The Beatles, Tracy Chapman.

Those who inspire me to work harder - Self Esteem and Ed Sheeran. I think that in order to stand out you’ve got to have a great work ethic, and those two are great examples of that. They’re constantly challenging the norm of how you release music and I love that.

8. What is the inspiration behind your EP's focus single 'Good Luck (Mrs Tambourine Ma’am)' ?

This song is a spin on the Bob Dylan classic and confronts the ever-changing music industry and how it can sometimes be hard to navigate - especially for women. I wrote it in a pandemic-shaped bubble where it felt like the world was falling apart. Artists were forced to keep up with online-trends - often sacrificing their mental health for any chance of media attention, therefore losing their creative compass. Maintaining creative freedom is so important to me. The refrain 'Good luck with it all' is a sort of tongue-in-cheek referral to those in the industry who often wish artists well. It's my favourite song on the record and I hope it resonates, especially with artists, songwriters, freelancers or anyone trying to go against the grain.

9. If you had a controller that had the power to rewind or fast forward which one would you press and why?

Can I have a pause button? I’m trying hard to keep in the moment so that could be good!

10. What is one thing that you are deeply proud of in your life?

Not compromising on my craft.

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