Meet the North Londoner turning her Greek heritage and love of soul classics into funky pop bangers.
After being recruited by Rita Ora and Ray BLK to support them on tour, and slipping into the studio to work with the likes of The Invisible Men (Zayn, Ellie Goulding) and Sebastian Kole (Alessia Cara, Jennifer Lopez), Kara Marni is well on her way to being ushered into the upper echelons of the pop’s sisterhood.
The North Londoner dubs her sound “soul with sprinkles of pop”, but it’s perhaps more accurately described as take-no-prisoners-pop that addresses topics like empowerment and turning your back on toxic situations and relations. Since splitting from London’s infamous Brit School, Marni has been honing her craft via the hard graft work ethic she’s inherited from her eccentric Greek family. The result is her debut EP, Love Just Ain’t Enough, a collection of songs inspired by her love of soul greats like Minnie Riperton and Donna Summer. With her unabashed ambition firmly in place, it’s clear Marni is coming for the crown.
When did you first catch the singing bug?
My grandma says I could sing before I could speak. She claims that she discovered my voice! I have a twin sister and a brother, you know when you’re crying when you’re a baby? I was always going on the longest making ‘aah’ noises, discovering my voice. My mum was like ‘why won’t that girl just be quiet?’ and my grandma was like ‘she’s singing’. I think she was probably right.
What’s it like being a twin?
We’re not identical—that’d be quite nice though, she could fill in for me. She’s really academic so she could’ve done stuff like sit my GCSEs for me [laughs]. It’s all I’ve ever know and it’s nice having a permanent best friend or enemy as well—don’t put that in there [laughs]! As much as we drive each other completely insane, it is nice to have that person that you know is there, like if I wanna go on holiday and friends bail or whatever, I can drag her along with me.
What you’re saying is that she’s your back up then?
She’s basically my back up plan yes. I’ve actually written a song called “Backup Plan” but it isn’t about her.
How has your Greek heritage influenced you?
Being part of a Greek family, we definitely wear our hearts on our sleeves. We’re quite open and I guess that’s helped me in terms of my writing. When I’m writing, say with a producer, it’s like speed dating, you’ve never met these people, you just get a day or a morning and you literally have to have that connection immediately. That kind of open heartedness has helped me in terms of writing. My Greekness has had a definite influence on my eating too [laughs]. Food is of such importance to my family. I’ll come off stage from Brixton Academy and my mum’s like ‘have you had your food that I made?’ It’s like ‘mum. I’ve just done a show’, but all she cares about is if I’ve eaten.
Are your family a fiery bunch?
My household is a complete madhouse, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that it’s completely insane. When I meet people, especially dating, it’s like ‘I don’t think you’re mad enough I think we would scare you, you’re to sane, this isn’t going to work’. I think it goes with me being an artist, I’m constantly being all over the place with my emotions.
What’s your personal experience of the music industry been? How do you cope with the pressure?
I’ve had a lot of female support. Ray BLK took me on my first ever tour, Rita Ora then took me on tour with other RAYE, all my management are predominantly female—I’m really lucky in that respect. I’m in the industry at a time when females are uniting which I’m really happy about. In terms of pressure, I’m very close to my family so they’re my grounding, especially my mum, she always puts things into perspective for me and helps me through any time I’m upset or stressed. Sometimes I just need to have a little cry, which is completely normal, and she’s like have some food [laughs]. In all seriousness my family keep me real.
Did Ray BLK and Rita Ora impart any advice to you?
Rita said to always try and just enjoy everything because those moments are fleeting. So when I’m on stage to really actually be present in that moment. That stuck with me because the moments of pure joy, when you’ve come off stage, you’ve had an amazing show, you really do need to realise how amazing that is because you don’t get those moments back and you don’t know when they’ll stop. So I try to enjoy everything. I’m lucky to be living my dream, even though I hate how cliche that sounds.
How was Brit School, was it like the movie Fame?
Brit School was good in the sense that it confirmed for me what I wanted to do but I left after a year because I met my manager and I was ready to work on my music. I realised I wanted to take things more seriously when I saw how serious everyone was about their music.
What are you singing along to when you’re washing up?
I’m really inspired by the soul greats, Minnie Riperton, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin. My dad’s a huge muso, he collects thousands of vinyls. I grew up listen to big incredible female voices, that kind of soulfulness I try to put into my own music.
What’s your writing process?
It happens differently every time. Sometimes I start ideas at home with my guitar, just come up with a lyric or chorus that I like and then take it to the studio. Most of the time it comes from something I want to write about, that’s the most important thing: a concept.
Last night with Naughty Boy in the studio he had an idea that he wanted me to write on, he played it to me and I was like ’oh my god this is sick’ and then we started from that. Sometimes we’ll start from scratch from just a guitar or piano chords. Voice notes are my life, if I didn’t have voice notes my life would be over—okay that’s a bit dramatic. It wouldn’t be over but I rely on that, I have thousands of voice notes, all my ideas basically. I should actually back up my phone incase I lose it!
Would you say you’re unapologetically ambitious?
One hundred percent. I’ve always been ambitious right from a young age, I was one of those people that all my friends would be going to parties and I’d be at dance class or practicing or at singing lessons or just working. I’m a bit of a workaholic, I thrive off that.
It takes a lot of work to get anywhere in the music biz!
Exactly and even when you’re working your hardest nothing’s guaranteed, you have to give your all if you’ve been given an opportunity. It’s not something I think about. My family are very hard working people as well, so I’ve always seen my Mum and Dad work so hard and I’ve always wanted to work and do things for myself. I used to do a lot of dance and drama classes, I’ve always been able to perform, I was always that person at the wedding, I’d sing or dancing on the table or at christmas Grandma would be like sing for us.
What would you sing?
They’d want me to sing Greek, so I’d sing Greek songs and then crack out “Silent Night”.