Photo by: Iwona Bielecka
Most people ascribe to Poland things that are white and bland: namely snow, people and pork. The propensity towards a diverse, creative environment breeding artistic ingénues has never been similarly associated, however that may change at the emergence of a beautiful, young singer-songwriter with a proclivity towards divergent folk and an aptitude limited only by the clouds. Julia Marcell, a Polish-born multi-instrumentalist and flawless chanteuse, could be comfortably placed amidst her American cohorts, pop rockers like Sara Bareilles and Colbie Caillat, in that her voice is wispy, reverent and embracing of an inner longing. Unlike these fellow female leads however, Marcell’s sound is grounded in symphonic splendor rather than rootsy blues. Furthermore, her recent work experiments with electronic vibes, taking on the more experimental, atmospheric quality inaugurated by dance artists like Bjork.
Describe it how you may, Marcell offers zest for any type of audiophile. At times, her music and voice run tangentially; other moments these parts are distinctly independent. She may begin her song with a piano phrase wandering fancifully into a starlight drift, but quickly counter such delusion with a heavy lyric dragging behind. The contrast, be it ever so beautifully melded, becomes the musician’s trademark manifesto.
“Poland is a huge part of who I am, because I was born and raised there,” comments Marcell, who is now based in Germany, and quotes her influences as indie rock, cabaret and folk. “I’ve never listened to a lot of Polish music though, and, oddly enough, I started to discover it after I moved to Berlin. But people have been telling me my songs, even though written in English, have Slavic sensibility, a certain mood, or sense of melody, that could remind one of Poland.”
Marcell’s latest release, June, came out last year in Europe, but has yet to hit the U.S. market. By far, this album is her most progressive and unique piece of work. Bring in the flutes, the tympani drums, the callous crescendos and brazen octaves. She has said this record focuses on rhythm, and beyond a doubt, she’s achieved a spontaneous flow throughout, keeping in tune while breaking free of any template or pioneered trail. The title track begins with a tinkle, a hum and an intimation something magical might occur. The vocals are as much about the music as they are the lyrics, with a consistent chanting melody serving almost like a synthetic pulse, and punchy verses adding percussive alliteration along the way. On the same notion, “Matrioszka,” the album’s first single, harnesses mood and nuance to tempo, and incorporates the influence of flutes and strings to tell the dramatic story of a life better lived as a dream.
“I tend to think that the work I’m doing at the moment is the best I’ve done so far, which is healthy,” Marcell replies when asked about her proudest efforts. As for the process, she enjoys every step, but mentions her favorites as “composing and playing shows. I need both; I need to sit down and have my inner fights with my songs for months. Then, I really need to get out of the house, and play these songs to everyone I can.”
Since the age of 14, Marcell has been writing and playing music, an artform she says she’s “always craved.” Her look is glam punk – pale face defined by rouge lips and black hair streaked with silvery white. Unabashed, mysterious, yet surprisingly approachable, she’s emblematic of music’s evolution, a pastiche character of old and new, dark and light, effortless and intense. On recollection, the earliest album she remembers purchasing is Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours, and along with her aims in the business, she intends to continue traveling the world solo, something a wise voice once advised her to do and she finds quite fulfilling.
Poised to soon become an international breakout, Marcell nevertheless remains pragmatic on the idea of superstardom.
“There are so many stories, all of them so different,” she observes. “You just have to be the right person with the right song in the right time and space.”
When she’s on the down and out, she turns to her family and friends, boring them with futile worries till she herself no longer has interest. She seeks no celebrity accomplices, no professional suitors or tags to push her forward; instead she relies on the strength of her independence. As it turns out, the recurring woe of her career might be typical artist’s defeatism.
Explains Marcell, “I always get really down when I have high hopes for a very important show. I get so stressed out, and in the end, very disappointed with the resulting show. Because even if it was pretty decent, I’m gonna be sure it’s the worst I ever played.”
Despite what she says, you can expect the best with Marcell and her music. And maybe look out for Poland too.