Marina Diamandis is not in a glittery costume, nor is her dark, wavy hair coiffed. The woman sitting before me at the Midtown Manhattan offices of her record label is sans theatrics, in an athleisure cardigan and leggings. She's in New York for just four more hours, prepped for a flight. On this day, it is just Marina.
"It's been a whirlwind," the singer says of her recent time in the city. But she could also say the same of the past three years. “I couldn't really go back to music for a while after Froot"—her third studio album, released in 2015 and her first Billboard Top 10 album in the U.S.—"because I'd been doing this for almost a decade, and I just had started to feel as if too much of my sense of self was connected to my artistic profession, I suppose,” Marina says while staring out the window at an overcast sky. So she made a decision: she decided to go back to school to learn more about another passion of hers—psychology. From 2017 to 2018, she spent six months studying at the University of London. Since last year, she’s been living between London and Los Angeles; she even bought a house there. She just wanted to feel like a human being again. “I have been completely obsessed with being an artist since I was 15, and I'm 33, so it's been quite a large chunk of my life,” she says.
This, in part, explains why Marina also decided to drop her moniker Marina and The Diamonds in favor of just Marina. It was an effort to ensure that she’s not creating a barrier between herself and other people. “The whole point in being an artist and writing songs is bridging that gap,” she says. The decision came with the 33-year-old singer wanting to move beyond the image she created nearly a decade ago. “I don't want to be some kind of elusive star,” she explains. “I felt like I should feel like that in the past, but I've realized that's really not part of what I want to do in this life at all.” She compares her image to the way people see their favorite artists or influencers on Instagram. “You just see them as an image, and all of the steps that I'm taking are kind of to go against that,” she says of her name change. Marina has instead been striving for authenticity, creating in a way that feels intentional and honest. “It's not that I didn't feel authentic before; I just felt a pressure to appear to be a certain way to people at some points, and I don't feel like that anymore at all,” she says.
She’s continued to strip whatever perceived image may have existed, slamming non-consensual photo editing of women’s bodies after seeing a digitally-altered photo of Cardi B from influencer Dan Bilzerian circulating the Internet. “I saw that had happened, and I was like, Oh my god this is where we are at!” she says. “An influencer photoshops her, because he doesn't think she looks acceptable, I'm presuming, but he leaves himself untouched and even photoshops the girl in the background from far away. Whereas he's got a stain here on his shirt and he's untouched.” Marina was not having it for multiple reasons. She felt panicked because it felt like it was deliberately an action against women, and it also triggered her to recall something happened to her from a while ago when a designer posted an image of her digitally-altered body on Instagram without her consent. “I was just shocked when it happened because it wasn't even an editorial, it was an Instagram photo of me at an event. That sends a direct message to me that says ‘you are not acceptable.’” It concerns her that this is still an ongoing problem. “I'm a size U.S. 6, so if it's happening to me, how is someone who's a 10 going to feel?”
Marina has, in fact, kept writing, but she placed it on the back burner until recently, when she began compiling her new two-part record Love + Fear, to be released April 26. She eased her way through the process for her fourth studio album during the past two years, ending up with 16 tracks that she absolutely needed to be on it. Soon, she had the idea of splitting up the songs on the record, finding two parallel threads running throughout. “I found was that there were a lot of songs that came from a feeling of joy or love and then there were songs that came from a place of fear,” she says. The idea for the records tie into a theory about love Marina admires from Swiss psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Marina reads a quote from her aloud: “'There are only two emotions love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety, and guilt. It's true that there are only two primary human emotions, love and fear. But it's more accurate to say that there is only love or fear. For we cannot feel these two emotions together at exactly the same time. They're opposites.'” To Marina, it was a revelation: “I thought, That's the most universal thing that bonds us all."
As with her stage name, Marina adjusted her vocal approach on Love + Fear. “I feel like it's coming from a different space in me, and it’s actually the way that I sing, that hasn't got the tension anymore,” she explains. To her fans’ delight, a promise of new music came last fall with Clean Bandit’s Latin dance-pop anthem “Baby,” which featured Luis Fonsi and Marina. It did, in fact, signal new music to come. Marina shared two ethereal singles since the beginning of 2019, “Handmade Heaven” and “Orange Trees.” “‘Orange Trees’ was inspired by an island I'm from in Greece, and I think that it just came from a similar place to ‘Handmade Heaven’, which is just the longing to feel less dislocated in life,” she says. The island she’s referring to is Lagos, which is as beautiful as you imagine a Greek island to be. As she was about to visit on a sailing holiday, Marina found herself inspired to write about her home. “I wasn't living a life where the natural world is a big component and that makes me really sad,” she says. Marina was looking to fix that and find where she was comfortable again. “I think I was looking for that reassurance at that time of my life,” she says.
With the looming release of her album, Marina is not worried about what other people might think. In fact, she’d rather fans not be thinking about her. “I think a lot of fans have really been day one people,” she says. “They've been around for a long time so they've seen the growth, and they've related to that in their own lives along the way. So, I think they understand where I'm at.”