Interviews

From L.A. to The Grammys: An Interview with Lakin Marie

Lakin Marie

AB: Today I have the honor of speaking with up and coming Singer/ Songwriter Lakin Marie. Lakin, thanks for your time for this interview. Will you give us a brief bio of yourself for my readers, please?

LM : I am a songwriter and singer. Born and raised in a small village in upstate New York; I have been singing since the age of 5. I left home to pursue a career in music and currently live in Los Angeles. I incorporate an appreciation for all music into my writing. No genre is off-limits. I can naturally hear and deliver between 2-3 different harmonies in any song. Growing up, I would lock myself in my bedroom perfecting vocals, writing lyrics and building harmonies from scratch on an old-school stereo tape deck. 2 slots for record & playback. Keep cycling the tapes and many harmonies can be built from scratch. The days are long gone for tapes, but I still enjoy something to hold onto. I’ve retained the majority of my CD collection while everybody seems to have done away with theirs. One of my favorite pastimes is sitting on the beach and writing. Water and music are always a good mix. I also did an internship at J/RCA Records 11 years ago. I passed Clive Davis in the hall every day. Finally, 2 years ago, when I attended my first Grammy awards I spoke to the man himself and referenced that. I went to the Grammys this year too but nothing close to the experience the year before. That was out of this world. This year I didn’t have a permanent seat and nowhere near the floor. But, I digress.

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AB: You went to The Grammys? What was that like? Who did you meet?

LM: Yeah, two years ago I got a seat on the floor. Sat in front of Sway from MTV news in back of Paris Hilton and next to Luke Wood: the CEO of Beats by Dre. Also, across from Clive Davis. His advice to me when I approached him in a commercial break was, and I quote; “Write the song and see what happens.” He said that twice. The whole experience was electrifying and surreal.

AB: What were your earliest musical influences? When did you know you wanted to be a singer?

LM: My earliest musical influences include Madonna, Mariah Carey, Boyz 2 Men, TLC and 311. I knew I loved singing in kindergarten at the age of 5 when all that seemed to matter to me in my 5 year old mind was leaving the playground (when my friends were all at recess) and singing in chorus. That was the beginning of it all. Choir and a Capella group in the years following. At around the age of 10 or 11 I discovered my love for songwriting. I would write EVERYWHERE. I had about 4 different journals and if for some reason I wasn’t carrying one, my hands would get scribbled on. I still do that to this day. I’m also very influenced by Flyleaf and Linkin Park. Taught myself how to scream and not ruin my voice.

AB: What was your first exposure to public singing?

LM: Talent shows and choir. I also organized talent shows at the high school I went to, to give myself and my peers that outlet. Caught the talent show bug and kept at it with local, regional and national competitions. Sometimes I placed 1st or 2nd but regardless of the outcome it was always a lot of fun.

AB: I can see that you were inspired by music from early on. When did you record your first song?

LM: I recorded my first song at the age of 18. It was called “I Know Your Type”. I didn’t write it. I knew a writer that needed a demo and I was happy to do it.

AB: What is your approach to songwriting? Did you come from a musical background?

LM: My approach to songwriting is very organic. I almost hate to use that word but in the same token — it is the best word to describe it. I like to write as if I’m talking to someone, having a conversation or try to say things that haven’t been said. Shining a light on the unsaid fascinates me. I like to open up on that world and my own in the process. In addition, I enjoy writing about other’s stories. Not limited to my own. I do come from a musical background, my grandfather (Father’s side) was a professional singer/entertainer and my sister is a talented pianist. In fact, several of my cousins on my dad’s side are musical and actively pursuing music.

AB: You can be heard singing the hook on “Game On” and “Believers” on Rapper Jonezen’s fantastic new EP: The Party Ain’t Over volume II. How did you two meet?

LM: Jonezen and I met by way of a mutual friend.

AB: I know you did a show with Jonezen recently. Would you like to collaborate with him again?

LM: I’d absolutely like to collaborate with Jonezen again should the opportunity present on one of my projects or his. He’s talented and hardworking. Usually you have one or the other, but to have both elements is not as common and harder to find.

AB: What was the process like recording with Jonezen on his new EP?

LM: For his new EP he sent me some tracks he needed hooks for and I wrote the hooks based off of the content in his verses. Then we got together at his studio and I recorded them.

AB: I see. Which song of yours are you most proud of?

LM: I would have to say I am most proud of the first song I wrote and recorded entitled “Listen” (I have 3 versions recorded of it, one of the versions is on my Reverbnation page). The versions I have are as follows: One pop/R&b, one Folk/Pop and the other, pure acoustic vocal and guitar with a fully new melody. That song was a labor of love. First traveled to Baltimore, MD to work on it while still living in NY, then after completion of the Pop/R&B version and bringing it back to NY, I started to hear variations of it. Some may say, “Leave well enough alone!” But, this song grew legs and I ran with it.

AB: How long have you lived in L.A.? What songs are you most proud of?

LM: I moved to LA a year ago and since than the two songs I’ve done here I am most proud of are “Do Me Better”, and “Hopeless in South Carolina”. Wide difference in genre. From urban pop to country, but truly and genuinely exhilarating experiences in the writing process and also the collaborative element of it. One thing I love to do is co-write, and I’m happy to be amongst such an active community of creatives. I think the wide range of the projects I start are a product of my inspiration and love for many different genres. I remember growing up and being among classmates who would walk around saying they “hate” a certain genre. I still hear it to this day. I firmly believe one can have their “lean” while still honoring every genre’s contribution to music.

AB: What does a studio session in L.A. go for nowadays?

LM: I couldn’t say what studio sessions cost in LA nowadays. I know when I first started recording, (NY, NJ, Baltimore) Rates would range anywhere from $30-$125 per hour. It adds up and it’s unaffordable, but I needed to do that in the beginning to create a chunk of songs I could show others who are interested in working with me. I no longer pay for studio time. It served a purpose at that time only.

AB: As both a Singer and a Songwriter what type of subjects come easier for you to vocalize or write about? Would you consider a collaboration with one of your musically inclined family members?

LM: I think dark subjects are easier for me to delve into. For some reason I always went there with ease. It can be trickier writing and singing about happier things. I’m a very happy person, nothing to do with that, but I feel that for a long time dark topics have kind of paved my creative direction. I love to sing, love to perform but I love creating concepts just as much. My own artist identity encompasses so much stuff (while my leans are Urban and Alternative) that it’s more fun for me to write with a concept in mind than it is trying to figure out what I should be singing about. I am pulled to hip hop and rock music. I’d love to collaborate with my family. We’re all spread out though! Boston, Holland, Florida…Fortunately with technology that isn’t so much of an issue.

AB: Have you written anything besides songs?

LM: I wrote a few stage plays before I left N.Y. One is a thriller. I’d love to do something with them! One day for sure.

AB: Where did you live before moving to L.A. and how did that shape you musically?

LM: In a small town in upstate N.Y. There wasn’t much to do there besides lock myself in my apartment and practice my vocals or write. Musically in my hometown, I’d participate in talent shows, open mics, and a collab here or there but nothing like here. Two different worlds. There is good in both but this is the place for me.

AB: Have you ever done any solo shows?

LM: I have always performed here and there but never any solo shows. About 10 years ago, I shifted gears from trying to figure out where I fit in as an artist, to doing what I enjoy to do most, which is writing concepts I could envision another artist performing or concepts I could hear in media (TV/Film etc). The performing bug is always with me, so I’d love to do a “Lakin Marie” solo show if and when the time is right.

AB: I have mentioned acting, but what other passions or interests do you have besides music?

LM: I’m very interested in the paranormal. I love Halloween, a good ghost story or ghost hunt. In 2012, I appeared briefly on an episode of Ghost Hunters as a candidate for team member. I love animals.

AB: A lot has been said about people substituting real vocal talent for computer effects like auto tune. What are your thoughts as a singer on this phenomenon? Is it something you would ever attempt?

LM : As far as auto-tune goes, it’s there to serve a purpose, but is no substitution for raw talent. It’s all about what the song needs. Each song today is its own “thing” its own package deal whereas years ago the CD was the package. I think the majority of what we hear on the radio is auto-tuned, no matter how great or not so great a singer is. If it’s glaringly obvious, I’m against it, but if it’s in moderation, I don’t think it’s bad. As long as it’s not covering up an ability or lack thereof. There shouldn’t be a problem.

AB: How did you come up with the name Lakin Marie?

LM: I came up with it 6 or 7 years ago. My real name is Heather. Marie is my actual middle name and the name Lakin means “Of the ocean, of the lake- something having to do with water.” That hit the nail on the head for me because my favorite place to write is by the water. I’m most inspired with water. Lakin Marie makes sense.

AB: What are your thoughts on profanity in music? Is the Parental Advisory sticker superfluous anymore since it seems nearly every artist uses swearing in their music?

LM: By no means is profanity necessary in art but it can serve a purpose if it helps to get an emotion across. It’s up to each individual artist to make that call. I’ve used it in some of my songs. Could it do without? Maybe, but it’s reflective of the emotion and the place I was in writing the song. As for PA alerts I think they are important. Just like a surgeon general’s warning on a pack of cigarettes, the more info the better in my opinion. The public deserves to be informed. But it’s also funny what we are informed about and not given a heads up on. To a large extent it’s up to us to form our own conclusions and self-educate. But as far as profanity and content goes or any issues related to health- especially for the younger segment of the population. The more heads up, the better. At the end of the day the choice will be made to listen, consume or not.

AB: Do you think streaming services help or hurt an artist?

LM: I think streaming services do both. Help and hurt. It gets the word out there but does not generate any kind of meaningful or justified revenue with the streaming itself. Clearly, no one can put a price tag on the value of exposure so in that regard there is a point. We are in a digital age but writers and artists need to put food on the table. A great deal of money, blood sweat and tears goes into the creation of music. That work is not met by any means in streaming.

AB: From a musician’s perspective: do you think that, realistically, if someone listens to music for free that they will still go out and purchase the music to support the artist?

LM: All depends on the person. The people that value the art may buy it after streaming first but free downloads of the same song they stream can always be accessed. It’s a toss- up that all comes down to the individual.

AB: I agree. Too many see music as a right and not a privilege. What does honesty in music, as both a Singer and Songwriter, mean to you?

LM: The artist/ writer’s responsibility is to create honest material. Whatever that means, they should have at it. No one can define what is honest for another writer.

AB: Since you are into acting, I have to ask: Are you a fellow Horror movie fanatic?

LM: Yes, I am a huge horror fanatic. Always in search of a quality horror film. It’s exciting to me to find one that’s great as so many are lacking these days. Would be a dream role to be in a horror flick. Actually a few years ago I was casted as supporting in a film and then the role was taken away due to ‘double casting’ and a mix-up on the director/producer’s part. Needless to say that was a bummer.

AB: What kind of Horror movies are your favorites?

LM: As for horror movies, I don’t care for gratuitous gore. I love films that scare me and make me think.

AB: Are you doing any acting now?

LM: Yes, I go on some auditions here and there, can’t pursue it exactly as I’d like because of my music. So I do whatever background work or voiceover work or bit parts are available. I have a background in theater and have taken acting and scene study classes over the years.

AB: I see that you have been on Criminal Minds. What can you tell us about being on set of such a popular show?

LM: I did Criminal Minds yesterday (July 13th, 2015). To be seen or not to be seen all depends on how it’s edited. Worked again on a different show today. I do background work to pay the bills, but I’ve also had bit parts (acting jobs in NY and here). First time on Criminal Minds I played an injured bomb victim crawling out of a coffee shop.

AB: Have you done any feature film projects in the past?

LM: I was in a neat film available on Amazon called White Creek. I played opposite Andrew Sensenig, as Mary, his scheming serf. I’m completely makeup-less, headscarf etc. Good times!

AB: I recently watched White Creek on Amazon myself. What a beautifully done, stylish and witty Science-Fiction/ Horror tale! It plays with ideas brought forth by time travel well. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for intelligent entertainment! Were you in any other shows aside from films?

LM: Yeah, a bunch. State of Affairs with Katherine Heigl was a job I had fairly regularly last year. This year worked a lot of pilots.

AB: I see on your I.M.D.B. page it says you were in Furious 7! Where did you appear in the movie? What was the experience like?

LM: You know the beginning of the film where they start out in the race wars scenes? I was pretty well featured when they shot it but then they scaled me down to where I’m hard to see at all. It was a fun experience but I don’t know if I’d do work like that again in the desert 130+ degrees with no guarantee of making the film and being visible. So many people dropped like flies.

AB: Did you get to meet James Wan? He’s a Horror God!

LM: James was cool. Wish I could say I spoke with him though.

AB: Did you meet anyone else from the cast?

LM: Yeah, I met Vin (Diesel) briefly. Other than that: nope, everyone was in their zone.

AB: I see that you were also in Martha Marcy May Marlene! That was quite a brilliant psychological portrait. Who did you play in that film? What was your experience like? Did you meet anyone on set?

LM: I met everyone from that shoot. It was a great experience. First time on set actually! That was 5 years ago.

AB: What are you listening to now? What are your top three artists and why?

LM: Top 3 is tough, but, if I had to narrow it down it would be Linkin Park, Miike Snow and Major Lazer. Linkin Park has always spoken to me from day one. They bring so many elements together and do it WELL. That band was meant to happen because many other people in their position wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I think Mike Shinoda is legendary as a rapper. He’s one of the best of our time. Love his side project Fort Minor as well. I dig the underground vibe of it all. As for Miike Snow and Major Lazer they seem to draw from as many influences as I do. Their music speaks differently, and therefore it speaks to me. I’ve seen Fort Minor evolve over the years from band to now one man show. I feel like anything Mike Shinoda takes on, he makes his own. No matter how abstract, he makes it very accessible and unique. He speaks to the underdog, especially in his new single “Welcome”. Listening to his production, and lyrics you can hear everything he is saying and communicating and know where it’s coming from. That is very rare to find and as a result makes his work so relatable. No one wants to hear the same thing over and over. He takes the listener out of that cycle. I have nothing but respect for his music and journey in this business. As mentioned before I feel as a rapper, he’s one of the best in the game. It would be an honor to share a stage or studio with him.

AB: What are your goals for the future?

LM: I’d like to get cuts with artists (have my songs placed) and continue doing more features (hooks) with other artists. Also, expand further into the zone of me as Lakin Marie, the artist.

AB: Do you have any final thoughts or words of advice for our audience?

LM: Live what you love, if for nothing else, but for your inner peace. I love to do features because it’s my way of peaking out from behind the studio curtain and getting what I do out there. I’m just as happy being behind the scenes as I am on a stage. I love music, regardless of how I’m making it.

AB: Thank you, again, for your time.

LM: Thank you!

You can hear eleven of Lakin Marie’s remarkable songs here. Connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter.

The photos of Lakin Marie were taken, and used with written permission, by Christine Petit at Le Petit Studio, the web address for them is http://www.petitpics.com/ , and Lea Sophie for Lea Sophie Foto.

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