Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
The stars are aligning for Marieme. The Senegal-born singer, who came to the Bronx when she was still a child, is having the kind of year she once only dreamed of, and it’s thanks to a manifestation of her hopes in her new song “Leave.” When you listen to her music, you’ll likely be struck by her strong voice and the sanguine lyrics, which have become her hallmark. But Marieme, who calls Los Angeles home these days, had to put the kind of career she wanted to have out into the universe, through her songwriting. Before she did that, she was just another dreamer, taking a chance on moving across the country to chase her aspirations.
Marieme, who draws on the vocal influences that range from Billie Holiday to Mariah Carey, wrote “Leave” two days after she moved to California. Within a month, she found herself with a publishing deal and a career that started to take off. This is the latest in a series of acoustic videos, sharing the stripped back version of the songs that have earned her a loyal following, and showcasing the fundamentals of how she got to where she is.
Up next, Marieme has a song featured in the Apple+ show Truth Be Told, out 6 December. She spoke to Refinery29 about manifesting the energy she wants to attract, how she discovered music, and why Mariah Carey changed her life.
Refinery29: What inspired you to write “Leave”?
Marieme: "I lived in New York City, and I was doing music, but not fully. It was a passion. I decided to move to LA and make it happen. You know how there are stories about people moving there all the time, like in the movies? I said that's going to be me, I'm going to make it [laughs]. I did it on January of 2018 and wrote the song on my second day there. It opened all the doors, every single door. I only had three songs in my repertoire after that, but weeks after I got started I got signed to Universal Music publishing. I thought it was going to be grinding a lot — and I have been. But the fact that I'd just moved to a new town and was being embraced made me feel like I did the right thing by leaving everything behind.
"It was a necessary first step in the music I was making. The lyrics are all about leaving behind what doesn't serve you anymore and becoming your higher self — no longer blaming other people and believing in love. This song is how I like to introduce myself, I think it's the most unique song perspective for me. It showcases my vocals, my style, and my message."
Tell me about where the concept of stripping your songs back down for an acoustic project and this video treatment came from?
"When I met with Andy Rose, who is the producer on it, it was the first day we'd met. We sat down and talked for two hours about life. I was telling him about my family and growing up in a religious household where I didn't know music was an option for me, really. He was playing different melodies on the piano and whatever hit, when I liked it, I would start writing to it. We finished the song that day. Sometimes a song can take just an hour to do, because it's just within you. This video is us going back to the basics of just me and him on the piano — he's playing in it."
"I think my strongest suit is my vocals and one instrument — not overproduced. I was going down that route a little bit and I wanted to step back. I'm not releasing new music at the moment, but I wanted to revisit what I have done and showcase it in a raw way. When I came out with my first EP, I had a full-blown afro and now my hairstyle is completely different. I wanted to showcase the new style also. It was about showcasing my influences and rawness. The director I worked with, Jacob Sacks, was amazing. I'm excited to do an acoustic video in this style and let people hear the song in a different way. My voice has evolved since I released it and a lot of things have changed, so I sing it differently too."
When did you discover music?
"I grew up in Senegal until I was 7 years old. There was always music around, but it wasn't encouraged — I grew up in a very religious household. When I came to America, I found a box of CDs under my parents' bed. It was a surprise to me because I didn't think they listened to music. I found out later that my dad was the one who bought it because there was a discount at his job or something. There were CDs by Ace of Base, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and more — about 10 albums. I would put them on and cry because of the way the music made me feel. Mariah Carey's album that changed my life. I was learning English through listening to music, which was a powerful connection. My assimilation to America was all through music. I was teased a lot for my skin colour and for being straight from Africa.
Is there a meaning in the change of hairstyle for you?
"People notice my hairstyle everywhere I go. I was walking with a friend and she told me, 'I feel so free walking next to you.' People always ask me how I walk around with this look and want to know if I don't care. I don't, it's freedom and evolution for me...All of us, I feel, aspire to be free. People think it takes me forever to do this hairstyle, but if I do it one time then for the next two months, I wake up like this. It's easy. The thing I notice is that people are curious about it. Even when I went back to Senegal, where I'm from, the kids there were so curious about my hair because they haven't seen anything like it. At the same time, their minds are open to it because they have the internet and social media. They embraced it, even though it's a Muslim country where some people wear hijabs. I can tell it's a powerful object on my head; it's a crown."
Has the reaction to this song made you believe in the idea of manifesting what you want?
"Yes, it reaffirmed that a thousandfold. People don't realise they're in control of their thoughts. That is where manifestation begins. I stopped thinking about the things I didn't want to happen and started thinking about what I did. When I focused my energy there and started to understand what I was putting it into, I also started to understand that my thoughts are energy and what I put out is what I'm going to attract. It's been working, I'm manifesting my ass off."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.