I fell in love with Mariami's sultry bedroom vocals after hearing her track "Waking Hour" with George Watsky. But don't for a second think that this lovely Georgian native can't do it alone. She's got a catalogue of music that gives pop music's leading ladies a run for their money. She's R & B's freshest face, putting her many years of musical training to good use (she's a recent graduate of Emerson College). I sat down with her recently, and turns out, she's a whole lot more than just a pretty face - and she's definitely not slowing down anytime soon.
LaTasha James: Well first of all, I hear that congratulations are in order, I hear that your song "Move Along" was played on the radio last night.
Mariami: It was! Yes, it was on this Brooklyn in Action Show and it made its debut, it was like chills down my spine. Yeah, it was really exciting.
LJ: Cool, that's one of my favorite songs. I just feel like it's so empowering and inspiring to so many women, and I just think that's fantastic. I think we're starting to see a lot more young women being respected for their songwriting versus just their looks. Has that been something that's been a struggle for you, just coming into the scene, and you're obviously so pretty...has that been hard for you, earning the respect that you deserve?
Mariami: I mean, yes and no. It's definitely a man's world. The music industry, everything from like musicians to people on the production side, managers, engineers, it's like a very male dominated industry and I don't necessarily think it's hard to earn their respect because you do that by, you know, hard work and being committed, but the competition is what's really hard. I live in New York City, and there's a lot of pretty girls, a lot of pretty faces, and a lot of girls who are willing to show skin, and not to say that they're not talented, but there's definitely this appeal when there's this sexy edge to the way you market yourself, and I mean, I'm definitely not going to take that approach. I started writing music because I'm a songwriter, and I play the keys, and you know, that's the path that I want to take. So I mean, yes it's a struggle sometimes because it's a man dominated world, and like a sexually forward industry. Especially with R & B music, it's like very female sexy driven, but it's fun, I have fun with it. I find creative ways to get people's attention. And that's the challenge for me, and I love every minute of it.
LJ: That's so refreshing for me to hear. So the first time that I encountered your music was on your collaboration with George Watsky in "Waking Hour", which I absolutely love. I listened to it once and I was like hooked on it. So I know you both went to Emerson College, is that how that collaboration started? How'd you guys get together on that?
Mariami: Yeah, we were both at Emerson and I heard his first album and I loved the production on it. I approached him, and at the time I was looking for a couple producers to produce my album and he put me in contact with Daniel Riera and Max Miller-Loran, they had a rap group called Invisible Ink and they produced a bunch of the stuff on there and Daniel, one of his producers, started producing my album. And I approached George about doing a track, and he rapped on this track called "The Way" and then I wrote the hook to "Waking Hour", the thing that got you hooked. I produced this synth-y thing to it and I sent it off to George. I was like, "Does this do anything for you? Could you write to this?" And originally, I wanted the song to be like a, you know, like a bedroom song. And then, his concept evolved and he was like, "I know this is gonna be crazy, but what if..." And George is crazy, he's like the funniest, he's got the most highly evolved brain I think I've ever experienced. Just so intelligent. And he's like, "What if I make a song about how I can't get it up?" And I'm like, "Okay, George, whatever, let's do it". The funny thing about that song is like, there's these sultry bedroom vocals and then George rapping about how when he's with a hot chick he can't get it up. It was fun. We have a new track coming out that hasn't been released yet called "Frozen" so look out for that.
LJ: So what kind of music are you listening to right now, what's on your iPod?
Mariami: Well I have a show coming up on the 21st so I keep replaying my own setlist. But besides that, I have been bumping a lot of Sade recently. I'm really getting back into that like, old school R & B, because I think she's honestly one of the not only sexiest women, but her voice, the tambor of her voice is just so warm and simple, like she's not out there doing like crazy riffs, and like crazy vocal tricks, she just has these really beautiful, passionate love songs. So I've been really inspired by that. If you look through my recently played stuff, you'd find a lot of her, you'd find Reggaeton, cause I love Reggaeton, and I love Hispanic music. I've been bumping a lot of Amy, of course, Amy Winehouse. It's still like, hard to fathom.
LJ: I also love that on your record you did a Georgian folk song, "Patara Gogo". How would you say that your Georgian roots inspire you musically?
Mariami: Well, I was born there and I grew up there...my country has a really rich, folkloric tradition, music that's like ancient, that has beautiful, intricate harmonies. And from a young age, I grew up learning Georgian music and old folk songs, and playing the piano. So those seeds were planted when I was like super, super young. And then when I started writing music, I always kind of knew that I wanted to somehow bring that, cause that song is like an old, old folk song. Like from centuries and centuries ago, that I rearranged and adapted. That was my idea, like I want to take this old stuff and bring it to light in a contemporary, funky, urban way. So that's how the Georgian stuff comes through, it's a big influence.
LJ: I think it's so beautiful, I mean I don't know what you're saying, but it's gorgeous!
Mariami: It's funny, nobody does. I'm saying the same thing pretty much over and over again in a lot of different ways. It's an old lullaby, it's a lullaby about a little girl that had this dream. "Patara Gogo" means little girl, so it's a very sweet theme. I'm hoping to do a couple more Georgian songs on this new mixtape I'm working on.
LJ: So when can we hear this mixtape? What are you working on now?
Mariami: I have a couple songs in the vault that I haven't released yet, I'm working with a Queens-based MC here. We're collaborating on a track, and then another producer that's based out of Queens. I call them baby maker tracks, baby making music. So they're gonna be like sultry, like love songs, but with that funky edge, in the vein of...I don't know what, it might be a new sound.
LJ: I think that's what I like about your music so much, is that it's so new and refreshing. It's kind of a blend of so many different genres.
Mariami: That's refreshing for me to hear. Thank you for picking up on that.
LJ: So I can tell that you're a go-getter, you're always on Facebook and Twitter connecting with your fans, which is so important these days. How do you feel about coming up in the game in this social-media crazed society we live in today?
Mariami: Oh boy, I fought it, girl! I fought it for a long time. I was like, "I am not gonna start a Twitter, no way!" And like, it's in my best interests to do so. And if I want to make a name for myself and if I want to get heard, it's a really important medium. And you can't deny that. Since I started actively being on Twitter and Facebook and everything, it's crazy how much the fan base has grown, and the awareness of my music has grown. I try not to abuse it too much, because I don't wanna be on there all day, but I don't know, I've accepted the reality that that's how it is right now, and until I really do make a name for myself and establish my music on a larger spectrum, then I'm going to be on there. And then maybe when I do I'll be like, I don't need it anymore, I'll just put out music and make music videos.
LJ: So since my site's really influenced by fashion I totally have to ask you a style question.
Mariami: Let's do it!
LJ: You seem like you're a busy girl, always on the go - what are some of your wardrobe staples, things that you can just always throw together in a pinch?
Mariami: There's nothing I love more than like, even in the summer I'll rock this, a pair of tight, dark skinny jeans, a thick pair of fashion-forward wedges, a sexy top that's a little low-cut, and some big earrings. I love big earrings.
LJ: Nice, big earrings are very R & B.
Mariami: Yes! Big earrings are very R & B!