Ms. White on her new album, listening to critics, and ditching the pop persona

PHOTO: Tanner Abel & Nicholas Needham

PHOTO: Tanner Abel & Nicholas Needham

Ms. White has the voice of a soul singer, the hands of a piano player, and all the time in the world to make her second album everything her first EP wasn’t.

According to Ms. White, who’s christened herself Marina (a nod to her fisherman father) after transitioning in 2016, she’s stopped listening to the parts of herself and the internet that tell her who she should be, and is more focused on who she is.

Ms. White took the time to be interviewed to give WUSSY an in-depth look at what we can expect from her as an artist moving forward. She happily relayed details of her creative process, why she doesn’t listen to Jade, and why it’s taken so damn long to release new music.

Can you tell us about the new music you’re releasing soon?

Things are gearing up, music wise. I just wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to happen. I’ve been working on a new album. As of now [my manager, Rick Marcello] and I had a meeting and we were like, ‘when is an ideal time to release this?’ We actually set out the dates and then I was like, ‘I have to do this now.’ I have to actually deliver. We’ve had things in the works for a while... It puts a fire under my ass a little bit. I originally wanted to release this last summer and it just didn’t happen. It’s not even that many songs. I just have to make sure.

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Would you say that it’s taking a long time to release the album because you’re a perfectionist, or do you just want to take your time?

Kind of both. The first album I released, Theo (her collaborator and producer) and I had been working on for three years. We just had a bunch of shit. We were like, ‘we should release something.’ Let’s find the songs that make sense together and put it into an album, call it an album, and nobody will know that we didn’t really write it like that. It was just songs that we were having fun doing. This album -- I have a concept. I am setting out to tell this story and actually write an album that’s cohesive. This one is a very personal album. It’s called Marina. The first album was called Jade and that is Amy Winehouse’s middle name. I did that album aspiring to be like my heroes. That’s sort of all it really was. This album is figuring out who I am, which I didn’t do for a very long time.

I released Jade and I had just started transitioning. I recorded that album before I transitioned. I was going through it and pretending I had this aesthetic and was doing all these performances. I had this performance at Stanford, and it was really fun, but I could tell that the audience… I was not what they wanted. I could tell that I had been marketing myself kind of improperly. They wanted this pop princess person, but I was doing this kind of weird jazz set. People were leaving. And I was like, ‘oh, shit.’ This isn’t a testament to me as an artist, but it was rather they thought they were getting Ms. White, this glitzy person, and meanwhile that’s not what I am. I’m trying to make sure [with this album] that I’m not that anymore. I felt like I was pandering by accident. I was doing these pop songs that the gays were loving, but nobody that I admire artistically would have liked. If I happened to meet a musician I loved and they asked me [what I had] out, I would never want to show them that album. I was considering taking it down for a while.

Really?

It was recorded before I transitioned and I sound so different. Everything about it… I just don’t connect to it at all. But people responded so well to it and I realized that if I were a young queer artist, and I could see somebody go through the motions -- starting with Jade and going to Marina and then going to whatever I do next, and seeing the progression of me as a woman throughout that -- would be really important for somebody who needed somebody to look up to. I’m hoping that people will see the trajectory. Going from Jade to Marina, there is a thread. It still does sound like Ms. White.


Where did you feel the most pressure from to adopt that persona: from yourself, your fans, the industry?

To me, I’m my biggest critic. I listen to people that I look up to as my critics. For me, it wasn’t really the perception of me, but what I was seeing on the internet as me. It just felt so removed from me as a person, and who I think I can be as an artist. My goal is just to work with people that I want to work with. That’s the standard that I hold myself to. It’s like, what would SOPHIE want to hear? What would James Blake want to hear? Would they fuck with this? Because if they don’t fuck with this, then I don’t fuck with this.

Before we end, I have to say, I’ve been trying to get an interview with you for months.

Really? With my past interviews, a lot of it was centered on the trans thing. Which of course, it makes sense to do that. In doing that, I didn’t get to talk about a lot of this stuff. Being an artist as a trans person, those things get conflated all the time. It informs everything that I do, of course. Marina is very much about figuring out who the woman I am is, because I didn’t know.



Photography by Tanner Abel & Nicholas Needham

Dakota is a poet, journalist, and right in the damn center of the Kinsey scale. Follow her on Twitter: @Likethestates.