Hi! Marlee, your single “Salieri” draws inspiration from the film Amadeus. How did this concept come to you?

A: Oh hi! It was around 3 years ago. We were in the throes of the COVID pandemic; I had rewatched the film for the gazillionth time and had just downloaded TikTok as pretty much everyone I knew who worked in the music industry was telling me I should be on it and I fell into the bad habit of ‘doom scrolling’. I found more often than most I was comparing myself to other artists/musicians that were popping up on my feed and wondered what it would be like if Salieri had social media back in the day… and how pissed off he’d be having Mozart constantly rubbed in his face that way!

How do you believe the character of Salieri relates to the modern phenomenon of social media envy?

A:  In Amadeus, Salieri’s envy of Mozart wasn’t just his talent – it was that in Salieri’s eyes, God had chosen Mozart as his ‘divine messenger’ through music instead of himself, and had thus given Mozart this amazing talent. Salieri would see Mozart at social gatherings, concerts etc and hear other people sing his praises through word of mouth. 

Peter Shaffer wrote about envy from a creative’s perspective so brilliantly, he hit the nail on the head pre-social media era. 

Nowadays with social media being at all our fingertips, I think most of us experience envy every so often from looking at what each other post and choose to share of our lives (whether that’s envy towards how someone looks, their lifestyle, what things they own etc). 

Times may have changed in the different ways we share news and gossip – but envy remains the same. 

As an artist who produces all your music, what unique challenges did “Salieri” present in its production?

A: The initial production was pretty straightforward for Salieri, I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound in my head. I had started with the chords using Logic Pro’s own harpsichord/synths, and the lyrics pretty much wrote themselves over the top. After that, I brought the track to a great producer Barnaby Cox who added some live bass to it, beefed up the drums and gave it a mix/master to finish it off. I then added an extra verse about a year later just to balance out the overall feel of the track as it still felt unfinished to me, but I didn’t have the logic file Barney had worked on so having to balance the new verse out with the rest of the mastered track was probably the most challenging bit.

Your music has been described as a mix of witty lyrics and infectious hooks. How does “Salieri” embody this?

A: You tell me! Haha. I guess the catchy hook would be the ‘I fell so far…’ bit, I had that stuck in my head for ages before recording it. I’m not sure if the lyrics are particularly witty in this one, but something to note that I don’t think anyone’s picked up on is at the beginning of the track I sing a line from an old demo of mine called Requiem (“She’s finally approaching the end of her life as she knows it”), and I sandwich that together with a nod to a part of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor that Mozart and Salieri transcribe together towards the end of the film (“Confutatis Maledictis/Confutatis Marlee did this”). Pretentious as hell, but it fits and it’s fun!

“Salieri” is noted as a baroque pop bop. Could you explain your approach to blending genres in this track?

A: Baroque pop is a fusion genre that essentially combines elements of pop with either the elements or instrumentation (or both) of Baroque era music. Salieri is a pop song in terms of structure; combined with a modern drum kit/bass and synth parts. The Baroque part comes from the harpsichord and string sections. When making the original demo, I loved blending the synths with the harpsichord – the synths gave this nice rich background texture for the harpsichord line to sit on.

We absolutely loved the music video for “Salieri”. How did you come about with the concept?

A: Thank you so much! It was my first real music vid and I’m proud of it. 

The general concept developed from first writing the song. I like to wander around listening to my demos and letting my imagination run to try and generate some ideas for visuals. In the video, my Salieri is wandering around with headphones on listening to her own music imagining conducting a massive orchestra on Southwark Park bandstand… similar to how I daydream performing my music with a full band at Glastonbury! Haha.

I had a small budget and came across Michael the cinematographer (The Night Factory) through a friend. We had a video call where I could explain the idea and he was fantastic, when it came to the shoot he knew exactly the sort of shots and vibe I was after and got some great angles.

In “Salieri”, you explore the theme of comparison. How has your own experience shaped this narrative?

A: In the video, there’s a moment Salieri is laying in bed having a doom scroll which is directly out of the Marlee canon. I question if I’m on the right path or if I’ve just been wasting time and all sorts. Endless questions and an endless stream of random thoughts… some helpful, some not. So I wanted my interpretation of Salieri to be that mirror of the frustration I’ve felt with my own career so far. 

Your signature drag makeup is a bold part of your identity. How does this aesthetic complement “Salieri”‘s theme?

A: It doesn’t! If anything, it suits Mozart’s flashy characterisation in Amadeus more. With that in mind, when making the music video I knew my interpretation of ‘Marlzart’ was going to be the drag persona. That allowed me to have a bit of fun making the posters and ‘social media presence’ for Marlzart – I had screenshotted the Instagram and Spotify pages of a certain pop star with many followers and badly edited my face onto pics of Billie Eilish and Harry Styles etc for the feed which is very silly. Salieri’s own sad-looking Spotify is just a screenshot of my own Spotify page in its current state!

Performing at festivals and receiving radio features, how has the journey been leading up to “Salieri”‘s release?

A: It’s been good! I’ve put out a few singles since April last year, and at the moment it’s pretty much the same process before each release. You have to submit the song through your distributor at least 4 weeks before it goes live to try and get on a Spotify curated playlist – as an independent artist it’s tricky and a hugely competitive market in which I haven’t had any joy with yet. Salieri isn’t the type of song I had expected any radio play or playlisting from anyway – but Fern Buckley at BBC Introducing Solent had picked it up and very kindly given it a spin on her show which I’m incredibly grateful for. 

With “Salieri” reflecting on social media’s impact, what message do you hope listeners take from the song?

A: Stop comparing yourself to other people! Much easier said than done, I know. I keep trying to tell myself this too, it’s an ongoing thing. We’re all on our own paths, there’s always going to be people out there who won’t get you or like you. As a creative and for the creatives – you just have to make what you want to make and stay true to yourself (which sounds like a massive cliché BUT IT’S TRUE!). Remember why you started making stuff in the first place and take it all one step at a time.