Emerging singer Marie Digby is the sensation with the beautiful voice and unique look who’s viral video has become one of youtube’s most viewed videos. You might know her by the acoustic version of Rihanna’s hit song, Umbrella.
Her success does not come without some controversy. On September 6, 2007, The Wall Street Journal published this article titled YouTube Phenom Has a Big Secret indicating her YouTube sensation was just a marketing ploy manufactured by her record company… .as if she was the next “Lonely Girl”. In reality, Ms Digby is doing what any artist would do today, taking advantage of the power of the internet. Marie took to the internet again by responding to the WSJ article on her myspace blog. Read her response to the article here
Marie stands 5’5 with raven black hair and the finest porcelain white skin. We interviewed her at her Brentwood residence where she resides with her parents and two sisters.
ASIANCE: How did you get started?
Marie: I’ve been into music my whole life but I started writing when I was 15. I never wrote for the intention of performing. When I was a senior in high school, I decided to try out for the talent show and I couldn’t find a singer so I did it myself.
ASIANCE: What was your first onstage performance like?
Marie: I remember they had me sitting on a stool in front of red curtains. My heart was pounding and I could hear the noise of the curtain and then I could see hundreds of faces and my family. I got a standing ovation and it was my first taste of what I got.
ASIANCE: We heard that you went to college for a year. How was that?
Marie: I went to college for one year and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had a great time and made great friends. I had to go to college to find out what I needed to do. This was about 5 years ago.
I went to UC Berkeley and I was going to major in philosophy. It was there that I had the best time. Everyone is a freshmen and everyone is open to meeting new people. I made the best friends in my life from college.
I’ve noticed that my shows, 80 to 90 percent of my fans are Asian American. I feel like I’m really being embraced.
ASIANCE: Did you ever perform in the bars and clubs up north in San Francisco?
Marie: No, I didn’t but I was flying back home to LA to perform.
I started in open mics playing in Mexican restaurants, the Whiskey, the Roxy–pretty much everywhere. You need to start with open mic and then you need to wait around for your name to be called. You get to go up on stage and play one song and if they like you enough, they invite you to play one show.
ASIANCE:How has youtube changed your life?
Marie: Everything exploded after Youtube. I didn’t realize the marketing power of it. Youtube is very global and I feel like I’m reaching so many people in different countries. New people are constantly finding your page.
Now, I’m on the radio, I’ve done tv shows so its pretty crazy. My goal was to pick top 20 songs whether or not I liked them. I knew if I did cover songs, I knew people would find me. It was just luck, good timing.
I started the youtube videos because even though I was signed with the label, I was afraid they were going to sit on my album. I knew it was up to me to find an audience. It’s working better than I thought.
I’ve sang Maroon 5, James Morrison, the popular songs of the summer of 2007.
ASIANCE: What would you be if you weren’t a singer?
Marie: If I weren’t a singer, I would be doing something in the arts. I couldn’t imagine doing a desk job. I think I would fail miserably. I think I have a secret passion for gardening, maybe when I’m an old lady.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your heritage.
Marie: My mom is Japanese and she came here in her 20s. I think I got lucky because a lot of half kids don’t speak both languages, but I do. My dad made a decision to teach us Japanese as a first language when we were little. I didn’t learn English till I was four.
My parents enrolled me in Asahi Gakuen, which is a Japanese Saturday School. It’s primarily for Japanese American kids. I went every Saturday even though I didn’t want to go. I missed so many birthday parties but I learned a lot.
ASIANCE: Would you ever sing a song in Japanese?
Marie: Definitely, I think one of my goals is to be successful in Japan. I’ve noticed that my shows, 80 to 90 percent of my fans are Asian American. I feel like I’m really being embraced.
ASIANCE: What’s a typical day in your life like?
Marie: I wake up around 10 or 11. I go to sleep late. I check all my YouTube and MySpace emails in the morning, maybe do a video or 2. Then, I’ll go to band practice for a while. Then, I’ll meet my friends up for dinner. Then I’ll write some music.
ASIANCE: Do you book all your shows yourself?
Marie: The last show I booked for myself. I ended up opening for a death metal band and it was awful. It’s nice because when I didn’t have anything going on, I was happy booking my own shows. Now it’s nice to have help because I can’t keep track of everything by myself.
ASIANCE: Any favorite restaurants or food?
Marie: Any restaurants where old people eat. I don’t like the trendy places. I like Dante in Pacific Palisades, Takao, Asia de Cuba.
ASIANCE: Who are your favorite designers?
Marie: Chloe, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and Rebecca Taylor.
ASIANCE: Who are some of your favorite musicians?
Marie: Smashing Pumpkins, Portishead, Radiohead, Push Stars, Chopin and Tool.
ASIANCE: What are some of your future projects?
Marie: I have an acoustic EP out on itunes. I have Umbrella up on itunes already. I think it was on the top 20 in itunes. I’m opened up for Matchbox 20 in October and I’m working on finishing up my album for an early 2008.
ASIANCE: How would you describe your music?
Marie: I would say it’s pop with substance–early Jewel to John Mayer.
Photography and interview by David C. Lee www.davidclee.us
Hair and makeup by Stephanie Brynstad
Marie Digby’s fashion designers: The first dress with the vest is by DBLA. The black dress is by Elijah Linh.