Q&A: Marina with Professor Tanya Byron on album Love + Fear at The School Of Life

WHERE? Emmanuel Centre, London

WHEN: 5/4/19

A mother sitting next to her bullied son thanks Marina on his behalf for replying to his letter to the pop star with words of courage, kindness and inspiration.

  • Read on for reasons including how a couple fell in love thanks to their shared admiration of Marina’s music

It’s a completely unscripted moment which brings tears to the eyes of both Marina Diamandis and many in this audience, including your intrepid reporter, during a Q&A in what appears to be a church for The School Of Life on the day in which the Love half of Marina’s new 4th album Love + Fear is released.

Elsewhere during the Q&A we meet an audience member who started a business after being inspired by Marina’s song Happy (hear below, Marina on Happy: ‘I had been depressed all my adult life and this was my reaction to the 1st time I wasn’t.’) and another couple who fell in love thanks to their shared admiration of her work.

Much of the credit for bringing the Greek/Welsh pop star so out of her shell must go to her interviewer, Times columnist and psychologist Professor Tanya Byron (pictured with Marina, left above).

We’re here in the main auditorium of the Emmanuel Centre which seats up to 1,000, is completely circular and supported by 24 pairs of marble columns, with natural light flooding through a huge glass dome and arched windows, finished off with original polished English oak panels along the walls.

The event is organised by The School Of Life because Marina has been to some of its classes and read 5 of its books. It starts at 7.30pm and some of audience have been queuing since 9am.

Professor Byron asks whether 4th album Love + Fear, the final, 8-song Fear half is released later this month, is a rebirth?

Marina says: ‘I had a tricky three or four years. I didn’t know if I wanted to be an artist anymore. To come back with this record feels really simple, effortless and thrilling.

‘It’s important because I’m here out of choice and have released a record out of choice. Some artists have to write another album because they’re committed to a contract and I’ve never really worked in that way.’

As perhaps is clear from the devotion of her fans, Marina is not your average pop star.

She describes the eve of release of her 2nd album Electra Heart in 2012 as 1 of 2 times during which she was at her most fearful. The bulk of her debut The Family Jewels was written alone but this time she had been encouraged to choose collaborators who might help bestow greater success.

Diamandis created the titular Electra Heart as a character, later wrote 3rd album Froot alone and felt lost after touring it.

Shedding tears, she remembers: ‘I’d put so much of me into being an artist that there wasn’t much left. I didn’t feel developed as a human being.’

She found an answer in the literature she had been reading and studied psychology at London’s Birkbeck University.

The new album’s title is inspired by psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘ theory that humans are only capable of experiencing the nominal two emotions. All others are derived from love and fear.

The album marks a return to co-writing and it is an experience Marina now describes as a pleasure.

‘The songs I did on my own for this album – Handmade Heaven and To Be Human – took months to write. When you’re working with people, they make you get things finished more quickly. There’s an editing process: when you’ve got 3 different melodies, they say: ‘That’s the best’ and I love it now.’

Turning 30 has also seen her become happier in her own skin and she noticeably starts a sentence with: ‘One great thing about getting older …’. ‘I was 24 when I released my first album and I remember thinking at the time but Britney did it at 16.’ She laughs: ‘How stupid!’

Professor Byron notes that the album is Marina’s celebration of being ‘fabulous and fucked up’ which Marina appreciates. The favour is reciprocated when Professor Byron praises Marina’s observation that: ‘Platforms like Instagram focus on your interests but they are not the whole story of you.’

There’s a resilience throughout Marina’s work which brings us back to the bullied son sitting immediately behind our reporter. Says Marina: ‘Before being signed I was so strong. If I got knocked back down, I didn’t care. I thought if that didn’t work, I will try another route.’

She reminisces about the student loan that gave her the freedom not to have to waitress so much and to buy the laptop that enabled her to produce her own songs.

Marina worries about the division portrayed by the media and, asked if there was 1 thing she could change about the world, she says: ‘I’d like people to see beyond culture and ethnicity to celebrate people, wherever they’re from.’

  • Picture by Neil Durham, clips via YouTube courtesy Marina. Tickets
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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