An interview with Marinho

By Mya Berger

“Not too calm and not too turbulent; the sea mirrors me.’’ Says one of Marinho’s Instagram posts, with a picture of her turning her back at the sea. If there was one way to introduce the Lisbon-based singer-songwriter, this would be it. Her opening album, called ~ and released in October 2019 is a breath of fresh (saltwatered) air. She skillfully crystallises the fleetingness of taking stock of one’s feelings, of growing into a back and forth of emotions. With clear folk influences, the album sounds like going on a trip, or the rushing of waves over seaweed and sand. But she doesn’t stop at nostalgia and the sea. The artist’s cool effortless vibe is enriched by raw sincerity. 

The cover of ~ shows Marinho with hair over her face. One can catch a glimpse of her eye, the reflection of a transparent pair of glasses. The artist is at once revealing and hiding parts of herself, just like in her album, a delicate and complex mixture of words and sounds. But without further ado, here’s a conversation with Marinho.

How do you want to be introduced to your audience? 

It’s funny when you’re an artist, you sometimes have to come up with so many different ways to say the same thing. I write songs and I play them for people, basically. I guess you could say that it’s more guitar-based music since I write on the guitar, but I consider myself a songwriter first. And the songs could live on the guitar, but they could live on some other instruments. Funnily enough, with my Liveurope residency, I worked with this French band called Phoebe. They took a couple of my songs, and they transformed them completely with different arrangements and different instruments, with more of a soulful jazzy kind of vibe. And that, for me, was a great confirmation of, yeah, I write songs. I don’t necessarily write folk songs or indie rock songs or whatever you want to call them. I just write songs. 

What did the title  ~  mean to you?

Yeah, it’s a tricky title and I’m aware of it. It’s a tilde sign, used in Portuguese and Spanish to change the sound of a letter or word. Although the whole album is in English, it felt familiar. It felt good to use something that’s from home. It looks like this wave going up and down. And I love that. I thought of it before completing the album because a lot of songs felt like this acceptance of the ups and downs. I’ll have a moment when I’m down, and I’ll think “Ok, this feels like shit, like a part of me is slowly fading’’. But I can stop and think this is going to pass. When I’m low, it’s comforting. It doesn’t solve the sadness in the moment. It doesn’t solve it quickly, but it helps to accommodate the pain, accommodate the loneliness. When I’m even way up I’ll think you’re up now, but just wait till it passes. Then I wrote the last song, ‘Freckles’. It almost didn’t even make it, because it was so recent and so fresh and vulnerable. But by the end of  ‘Freckles’, there was this line that came out: “and life is like a tilde sign / with ups and downs, not a straight line”.

Upon hearing your songs, it feels to me that you are singing to an audience. Am I projecting or is it a decision?

I’ve never heard that before, that’s a good provocation. Sometimes I write a song to say something that I couldn’t say otherwise. In ‘Ghost Notes’, I very clearly had one person in mind, and it was almost as if I was saying that to that one person. Once you put those feelings into song, they stop being yours and they stop being about just one thing. I think whenever, whatever we do is truthful, it speaks to anyone that’s willing to listen. I’m not going to say writing is a very altruistic thing. I don’t write thinking about the people that might listen, I don’t write thinking “I’m going to spread the truth to other people”. Fuck that. I have no idea what the truth is for other people. And I could never know, that’s for other people to know for themselves. I’m not a Messiah. I speak the truth for myself. And when it resonates with other people, it’s probably cause we’re all made of the same stuff and we’re all not that much different from each other. 

Do you prefer playing in public or in more intimate settings?

I like playing in any setting that allows me to be with people. Whether that’s playing by myself or with the band to a bigger crowd. Well, I haven’t played to major crowds yet, I don’t know how it would feel but I really wouldn’t want to miss that feeling of closeness with people. Sometimes I’ve even had instances where I stepped away from the microphone, I unplugged the guitar and I just said “Hey,  let’s just get a little bit quieter here. I just want to connect one-on-one without the electricity”. I love playing with new people who have never heard of me. It’s like a clean slate, I can be whoever I want to be. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently and thankfully still very much promoting the first album. Although it came out two years ago, there was this whole pandemic in the middle of it. And so there are still many people to show it to. But I’m already working on new music. I’m playing those songs live, I’m just not officially releasing anything. I’m giving myself the time. Maybe if the stars align and if I’m happy enough with how it’s sounding, I’ll release one or two songs next year. And yeah, one other deal for me would be to slowly but steadily start to know more of the European market. I love to play abroad. I would like for 2022 to be the year where I play in a bunch of new cities in Europe.