In association with Squarespace
Last year, NME and Squarespace launched ReBuild Music: a search for new, grassroots projects taking a fresh look at the music industry. While each of the 10 selected winners had a unique idea, they were united by the fact that their projects were inclusive, accessible, ambitious and, at their core, had the simple aim of sharing music with people.
Singer-songwriter Marie Naffah, the sole performing artist in the mix, was feeling the withdrawal of her creative lifeblood – live performance. The Londoner’s response to loosening pandemic restrictions in summer 2021 was both immediate and instinctive. She wanted to reconnect with people in real life and with the wider world, and so launched an audacious project to play 50 gigs in 50 days – titled 50:50 – For The Love Of Live – appearing free to whoever wanted to see her play, wherever they wanted to see her.
The resulting 2500-mile journey around the country took Marie to back gardens, front rooms, a refugee centre, house parties and even a vaccine centre. It was an exercise in re-establishing human connection after the periods of isolation, and in blurring the boundaries between performer and audience. These genuine connections comes naturally to Marie, who typically introduces her songs with a genuinely funny anecdote about them, then apologises for talking too much.
While the travel and schedule was sometimes exhausting – she played multiple gigs on some days – Marie says she was energised each day by the people she met, and the gratitude she received for sharing her music – for free – with fans in such a unique way.
Indeed, some of those who had welcomed Marie to their own homes and events last summer were present when NME attended her landmark show on April 22, 2022 at St Pancras Old Church in the heart of London. Before playing for the sold-out crowd at one of her most significant headline shows to date, Marie told us about her extraordinary year, and how she’s used her Squarespace site to support her idiosyncratic, DIY approach to music in our mini video documentary.
The St Pancras gig – performed by Marie and her full band – showcased the four brilliant tracks from Marie’s brand new EP, inspired by her experiences travelling the length and breadth of the country on trains and by the people she met on her journey. Titled ‘Trains’, the EP (released on May 27) is the emerging artist’s best work yet – an easy-feel that brings Marie’s classic-feeling songcraft to life. As well as ruminating on the people she met, Marie also looks introspectively into her own experiences in the music industry on the song ‘Good Luck (Mrs. Tambourine Ma’am)’.
In the run up to release, Marie has been making the most of her Squarespace site to amplify her brand and build on the momentum she gained on the road. As a resolutely DIY artist, she maintains and curates the site herself with ease by sharing news updates, preparing to sell new lines of merch, and showcasing multimedia mood boards filled with images and thoughts that flesh out the world behind her songs. She’s also been putting the finishing touches to a documentary of her ’50:50′ tour and the year of creative work it inspired, which is due to be unveiled at a special screening on June 21 at Soho House, Brixton – exactly a year since the first of her ’50:50′ shows.
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