Meet Marie White, the winner of Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition 2019 

Sun and music has been hammering the countryside of Pilton as of late, but sadly, it wasn’t quite Glastonbury Festival yet. Instead it was at the festival’s annual Emerging Talent Competition which offers unsigned artists a chance to compete for a set at Worthy Farm this year, along with a £5000 PRS talent development prize.

Eight artists travelled from across the country to the local Working Men’s Club to perform live and bag a key slot on the bill. Having already topped thousands of online entries, each act performing to a panel including names like Michael and Emily Eavis, Huw Stephens, various Glastonbury stage bookers and music industry professionals.

The talent showcased grime through to afro-beat and indie pop, and some of the intriguing new talent in the country. Winners in previous years have included familiar names like Declan McKenna, Flohio and She Drew The Gun which goes to show how pivotal the competition can prove to the trajectory of unsigned names.

23-year-old Marie White, a modest singer-songwriter from Hastings in East Sussex was victorious, and now will be performing on the Acoustic stage this year. Marie delivered a wholesome and deeply personal set, alleviating any pressure of being the first up onstage by cracking a joke about a nervous toilet break in the artist area.

We caught up with a musician whose world has seemingly been turned around in the space of a weekend.

Has it sunk in that you’ve landed a set at Glastonbury?

“I think immediately after it was quite a shock and the moment caught up with me a little bit. When I woke up the next morning I couldn’t believe it. I think sometimes you can forget about these things and then wake up and think, what on earth just happened? It was an amazing achievement to get to the top eight and that’s where I thought my celebration would end. I certainly wasn’t expecting to win.”

It sounds like the hard work came in developing your sound then?

I didn’t start music until I was about fifteen or sixteen which is quite late for a musician. I have worked incredibly hard from that point to pursuit it as a career. I’ve put in the years of playing to two people, two hundred people and two thousand people. I wasn’t very good but I still had that desire to become better and that’s one trait I’ve never had in any other field of interest.”

 You also won a £5000 PRS talent development prize, that must open a lot of doors for an emerging artist?

“I’ve always made a living to a degree out of playing other people’s music in a cover band but I think there’s only so many times you can play ‘Sex On Fire’. I’ve built up a great reputation for myself locally for playing other peoples’ songs and for entertaining people. What I really want is a captive audience for my original music.”

Do you remember entering the competition?

“I spoke to my manager about it and we said between us that we should just go for it because the worst that can happen is absolutely nothing. There isn’t a what if, if I don’t get through then I don’t get through and nothing has changed. My first thought was wondering if anybody would even really listen to it. I remember sitting there and submitting the track thinking I had no chance, it’s absolutely weird that it’s all happened.”

What ran through your head when you were announced as the winner?

“I was so nervous and was so out of my comfort zone. To impress people with just two songs is really difficult, there’s no room for error and you’ve got to smash it otherwise you’ve lost the chance. I’ve got a video of Michael Eavis announcing my name and in the video I go head first straight into my Dad and rugby tackle him on the way to the stage. That’s probably quite a strong reflection on how I felt about it.”

What’s the plan?

“There’s no danger of me being anybody else. All of my inspirations are quite big from Hastings and it’s really nice to see people doing really well that actually live up the road from you. I don’t need to change and this is an amazing achievement. The biggest thing for me coming out of this is that I do a lot of mentoring and teaching for young artists in this town. I think aside from the fact I’m completely overwhelmed and can’t wait to play at Glastonbury, if I can inspire the kids that I teach to realise that anything is possible then that’s done it for me. Hopefully it inspires others to give it a shot.”