theaussieword.com’s special interview with new pop act Jake Marra.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry? Looking back, I’ve been musical all my life but it wasn’t something that I knew I was any good at for a very long time. It was something I kept hidden away. I did it in secret. That all changed in 2010 when I started my first YouTube channel where I upload mashups I’d produced. In 2014, I started a second channel where I’d upload covers of popular songs. It was supposed to be a hobby. Something I did on the side while trying to find a real job. Soon enough I started to realise that I needed to somehow make this my real job. So here we are!
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music? I’m such a big fan of pop music. I always have been. I remember sitting in front of my stereo as a kid listening to Britney Spears “Oops… I Did It Again” album on repeat and being completely in awe of the melodies, the harmonies, the huge, unapologetic production. That is something I constantly think about when I make my own music. I want to make great pop music that invokes that same sense of awe that I felt as a kid.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish? I would love to be able to write with some of my favourite pop artists. As much as I love to sing and perform myself, the process of creating a song out of nothing is truly my favourite feeling in the world and to be able to do that with someone like Dua Lipa or Troye Sivan or Kim Petras would blow my mind!
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour? No tour plans just yet. It’s still early days. I’ve only just released my debut single and I’m still trying to figure out where to go from here. I definitely like to release another single before the year ends!
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music? My debut single “The Day That You Left” is basically the product of all the failed relationships I’ve experienced in my life. It outlines the denial you can’t help but experience when somebody is no longer in your life, plus the wave of emotions that comes with that. Most of us have experienced the feelings that come with losing somebody and I wanted to channel that into a dark, pulsating synth-pop track that you can still bop along to AND cry your eyes out to. Cry-dance bops. That’s me!
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs? I usually start with absolute nonsense! I’m constantly humming random melodies to myself, you should see my voice memos app. That’s always how it starts. Rhythms and melodies. Once I’ve got a basic idea that I think is worth building on, that’s when the lyrics come into play. It’s usually the last piece of the pie for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a super important part of the process, and I want my lyrics to mean something, but if I don’t have a strong melody to glue them to then it doesn’t really hit as hard.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music? Subtlety has never been my forte. Everything I write is brutally honest. Sometimes maybe too honest. For me, music is my one place to be as blatantly honest as I want. There are certain situations where I find myself holding back and being too afraid to really say what’s on my mind. My music is where that all goes away.
Success, what is the secret to it? You have to figure out what success means to you. While winning 10 GRAMMYs and charting a #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 is the definition of success for some people, maybe even most, that’s not the reality for everyone. For me, I never thought I was going to release original music. I’m an incredibly insecure person. I convinced myself a long time ago that I wasn’t talented enough to have a career in music in any capacity. I told myself I shouldn’t even try. Now look at me. I’ve just released my debut single. The dream I had as a little boy is now a reality. That’s my idea of success.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far? In 2015, I produced a mashup of Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time” and Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I just uploaded my mashups to my YouTube channel (which has since been deleted due to YouTube’s annoyingly strict copyright regulations back then), replied to a few nice comments from subscribers, and was on my way. THEN it went viral. I had articles written about me by “Billboard” (https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop-shop/6700635/ariana-grande-cover-justin-bieber-what-do-you-mean-one-last-time); “MTV” (http://www.mtv.com/news/2261797/ariana-grande-justin-bieber-mashup/); and; “Teen Vogue” (https://www.teenvogue.com/story/justin-biber-ariana-grande-mashup) to name a few. In an interview with Ariana Grande, Ryan Seacrest asked if she’d heard it, to which she replied “I’m obsessed with it! Whoever did that is a genius”. (https://soundcloud.com/virginradiotoronto/ariana-grande-wants-to-mashup-a-song-with-justin-bieber-live). I still get chills every time I think about it.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring? Billie Eilish and Finneas are two people I always think about. They managed to turn a bedroom hobby into a legitimate music career and if that doesn’t motivate you I’m not sure what will!
Are there any new projects in the pipeline? It’s much too early to say. You’ll have to wait and see!
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself in a few years? I would love to be touring in a few years. One of my favourite things in the world is seeing live band arrangements of super produced pop songs. Adding that layer of live instrumentation just gets my blood pumping and I would love to be able to create arrangements like that for my own songs and play them to crowds everywhere!
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why? My favourite part is obviously the music. The creative process, writing, recording, performing. It’s the best feeling in the world. My least favourite part is that it’s not something I can do full-time. I’m an independent artist and trying to forge a career in music is expensive. I work 80 hours a fortnight in an office and I still struggle to afford to do what I do. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything. This is where I want to be and I’m never going to quit.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists. Where do I start?! Troye Sivan, JAYDEAN, CXLOE, Ruel, GENES, Benjamin Trillado. I could go on and on and on!! There is so much talent in Australia, I’m so grateful to be in the mix of such incredible people!
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye? I feel like it’s a lot easier to get your music out there nowadays. YouTube and Spotify makes it super easy for people to share their music. I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here without it. It’s getting noticed amongst the crowd that’s hard. You need to find a way to make an impression and in a world where social media is oversaturated it can be quite hard and a little bit disheartening.
How will you continue appealing to the international market? I just need to focus on the music. That’s the one thing I have full control over. I want to be proud of the music I make. I want to be my own biggest fan. I like to think I have great taste in music so if I’m digging my songs, other people should, too. Right?!
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list? I’ve been working with Melbourne-based producer Ben Oldland for almost a year now and it’s been so wonderful. He co-wrote and produced my debut single. We make such a great team! I would love to branch out and collaborate with other pop artists, like GENES. Her brand of synthpop is right up my alley and I would love to jump on a track with her, or even just write with her! As far as pop music goes, she’s one of the best in the business!
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps? No matter how hard it seems or how much that little voice in your head tells you to give up. DON’T. I can’t even tell you how many times I cried myself to sleep at night wishing I could make music. One day, I woke up realised the only one stopping me from doing it was me. Self-sabotage is the biggest hurdle I had to overcome but once I did, there was no stopping me. It may not work out for me, I may not end up having the biggest and brightest career, but I’m here. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of. So can you.
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans? Instagram is definitely the way to go! I will always reply to a comment, and tagging me in memes will absolutely score you bonus points!
Any last words? Thank you so much for having me and stay tuned! This won’t be the last time you hear from Jake Marra.