Nothing worth having in life comes easy, but soul singer Kara Marni knows exactly how to work for what she wants. Confident in her own style, from her outfits right through to her soul-infused voice – she’s ready for the world, and we’re only just getting ready for her.
Natural confidence aside, the 20-year-old from East Finchley is very grounded and down to earth. “Should we all just go to sleep?” she jokes, noticing the giant bed in the middle of the hotel room at The Hoxton where we all meet. Oozing good energy, Kara can make others feel at ease without even having to try, which enables our conversation to flow naturally despite the 10:30am start. “I’m actually not a morning person, it’s just because I’m in good company now. When I wake up and my sister has taken half of my wardrobe to work, including the outfit I wanted to wear, trust me I’m not a morning person then.” When she changes into her first outfit for the shoot – a pair of black combats, a crop top and her mum’s black vintage leather jacket – it’s clear to see exactly why her sister rates her taste in clothes.
“Can we put on some 90’s RnB?” she asks, as Philipp Raheem begins to photograph her. She knows just what works for her, and some people might not expect as much self-awareness, neither such a voice from someone so petite. But Kara composes herself, not only in person but also through her mesmerising music videos, in a way that (weirdly) you can’t take your eyes off her. “I’m from a Greek family so you don’t really have the choice to be quiet. If you want to be heard in the household then you have to scream above everyone, and it’s just sort of like who screams the loudest”, she laughs. “So it’s always been quite natural for me to perform. At family events I was always up on the table performing.”
Without wanting to restrict her voice to the confines of her family home, Kara introduced herself to the music world by releasing covers of music by soul legends such as Angie Stone whilst perfecting her own songwriting skills. “I wanted to show people a part of me and also rework some of my favourite songs by my favourite artists like ‘Nothing Even Matters’ by Lauryn Hill, ‘Wish I didn’t Miss You’ by Angie Stone. Sade has inspired me a lot too. I guess I just wanted to put something out there so people could hear my voice and see who I’m in inspired by.”
Not every 20-year-old can be expected to assume such classic taste in music, which makes me curious about other aspects of her life growing up. “Well I did feel like a square peg in a round hole at secondary school. The area that I’m from and in the circle of people I grew up with, their parents were kind of like do your work or become an accountant. It was quite taboo that I was doing something different, but honestly it just made me want to fight even harder and it made me want to leave. I moved to the BRIT school and surrounded myself with like-minded people and it was great. Luckily for me my parents understood that you can be good at other things and work equally as hard. That it’s not just academia that you have to pursue. My sister pursued that but we’re different people, it doesn’t mean I’m working any less hard, which certain people seem to think.”
There’s definitely a soulful thread there, and if I’m being honest I think my voice is the thread, it threads all the sounds together.
If perfecting her sound and spending 3-4 years writing music isn’t hard work, I’m not sure what is. Taking inspiration from her musical heroes and re-working classic sounds to lend herself a new soul direction, Kara broke into the industry with her debut single ‘Golden’ last year. Catching attention from the go with it’s 80’s vibe and of course, her voice, Kara made quite the arrival, “I think I wanted to fuse those soulful inspirations that I grew up listening to with what I’m listening to now, people like Daniel Ceasar, Ella May, Alessia Cara. RAY BLK, there’s so many people I’m currently listening to.”
I ask her if she thinks she’s found her signature style in mixing the old with the new, to which she replies, “I don’t want to be put in a box. There’s definitely a soulful thread there, and if I’m being honest I think my voice is the thread, it threads all the sounds together. But if I had to say anything I’d say my sound is soul pop”.
Voice aside, I just have to ask how she got her great set of abs (which make various appearances on her Instagram page), which I can only assume has something to do with the ballet she so gracefully demonstrates in the video for ‘Curve’. “I did all kinds of dancing while growing up, from tap to ballet to jazz. I thought, I should really incorporate something I learned in all those ballet lessons,” she laughs. And although ballet probably isn’t something you’d expect to see in a 60’s inspired video, Kara pulls it off (of course) as well as the glamorous dress she’s wearing whilst doing it. “The song sounds so retro that it felt organic to do something that gave a nod to 60’s old Hollywood glamour, that’s where the idea came from for the dresses and the overall styling. I’m really happy with it actually, Sophia and Robert are incredible directors from Berlin, they’ve directed my next music video. They’re so amazing, it worked so well that I just had to work with them again.”
By this point it becomes clear that Kara has no problem with bending the rules, and speaking of new videos, I’m interested to see what else she plans to pull out of the bag with her forthcoming project. She certainly doesn’t do anything in half-measures, and if her previously released music is anything to go by, her new music won’t disappoint. The 7-track EP which features both ‘Curve’ and ‘Golden’, further touches on everything about love, as well as gullibility and selfishness. “The EP is named after one of the songs ‘Love Just Ain’t Enough’. I enjoy writing from experience and all of the songs focus on different feelings and emotions I’ve experienced in my relationships. Actually being able to put my thoughts and feelings into a song and speak to people in the way that I have been spoken to through so many songs in the past, feels very empowering.”
Speaking of empowerment, Kara Marni is breaking out at a fitting time in the music industry, just as a new wave of women are coming out on top. “It’s definitely an exciting time for females around the world, you know with Oprah and the whole #MeToo movement for example. Women in music are killing it, artists like myself are being given more platforms and opportunities to be on stages doing amazing things. I hope that one day I can be one of those women that young girls are looking up to and say I want to be like that.”
I just love that we’re witnessing a time in the music industry where females seem to be really supporting each other instead of competing with each other.
On the topic of performing, Kara is also joining fellow rising artist Raye in supporting Rita Ora on her forthcoming tour, “I’m so grateful to Rita she’s bringing on two females – it’s called The Girls Tour which I think is super cool. Raye has been so supportive of my music as well. I just love that we’re witnessing a time in the music industry where females seem to be really supporting each other instead of competing with each other. I don’t think it was ever really like that before and so it’s amazing that now we’re all teaming up” she beams. “Even in other areas of the industry, for example my management company is predominantly female, the CEO Sarah is female, I mean I’m literally surrounded by all these great females. My mum is the strongest female I know and all she’s ever told us is that you can achieve whatever you want as long as you work hard and you’re kind, you can do whatever you want.” Advice well and truly taken on board it seems.
For too long women have had to work twice as hard to get to the top of these industries and strive for things like equal pay. It’s clear that Kara doesn’t shy away from the work, humble, determined, talented, and not to mention a kind soul at heart, all of this will undoubtedly play a huge part towards her success. Yes Kara Marni is one to watch for sure, and from what I can see, work is nothing she isn’t ready for – she’s just getting started.
‘Love Just Ain’t Enough’ the debut EP by Kara Marni is available to stream on Spotify now.
*Kara Marni photographed by Philipp Raheem at The Hoxton Hotel Shoreditch