In this edition of #CREATORTALK, we speak to Miriam Carone (@miriamcarone on Instagram). #CREATORTALK is a series of articles and interviews, with a focus on the creative industries and the the talent working within them.
PW- Hey Miriam! How’s it going?
Hi Rob! I’m in my “default state” i.e. stressed out about upcoming exams and spending most of my time either studying or feeling guilty about doing anything else (sadly that includes music, but doesn’t stop me from playing!), but London has been so nice and warm I can’t help but be in a good mood. Makes coffee breaks a lot more enjoyable.
PW- So, first thing’s first. For those who don’t know yet, how would you sum up who you are and what you do?
Well, I am a medical student. Hopefully a year away from being a doctor! But in my spare time, I’m a singer/songwriter. I play a few instruments (mainly guitar but also some piano, ukelele and drums) and I’ve been writing my own songs since I was a teen. I went through a YouTube cover phase, and now I mainly write my own acoustic music. Also, I’m Italian from both parents, but was born and raised in Brussels, which means I speak 3(+ 2 I learnt later) languages, but mainly play in English because it’s my favourite.
PW-You’ve released two songs this year so far- the incredible house track “Stay Away” and “I limoni”, which is acoustic blues. Can you tell us a bit more about how these projects came around?
Haha, good question! I mainly write acoustic music. Last year I released “Like a Scar” which was all pretty melancholic acoustic in the same style as this year’s “I Limoni”. “I Limoni” was inspired by a poem by one of my favourite poets in school, Eugenio Montale, whereas “Like a Scar” mainly drew on my own experiences and hinted to/was how I came out about my OCD. The sound is similar, though, because the poem was actually alluding to a post-war era, and the time when I wrote “Like a Scar” was kind of an emotional war for me. I was going through a tough time, as you can probably hear from the lyrics in that album, whereas “I Limoni” is meant to come across a lot more neutral, like a rehabilitation phase.
However, I do really like to experiment with different genres, both when I’m writing originals and when I’m covering songs. When it comes to listening to music, I really like all genres depending on the situation, from classical to raggae, from electronic to hard rock. My favourite genres though would have to be folk and indie pop/rock, which I think is just about where my music fits most of the time when I’m writing on my own.
Last year though, a producer who was also an Italian living in London got in touch with me to ask me to write and sing some vocals for his house track. So that’s how “Stay Away” happened! It was completely outside of my comfort zone but also really fun, and it ended up getting quite a lot of attention on SoundCloud (186k plays as of today). I’m still working on a few projects with that producer, so you can expect some more “surprising” tracks to pop up if you look me up in the future.
PW- Who or what would you say are your main influences?
I guess the music I listen to influences me subconsciously, and that’s things like Alt-J, Florence and the Machine, The National, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Editors, Kings of Leon, The Killers, Muse, Daughter, Bon Iver, Elliott Smith, Keaton Henson, Paolo Nutini and James Morrison. I used to listen to a lot more soul and rock when I was younger, though.
The ones that inspire me consciously though are mainly Radiohead, Florence and the Machine, Daughter, Keaton Henson, Paolo Nutini and Bon Iver – although I realise the last three may come across a lot more than the first two because I haven’t yet released many multi-instrument tracks (but hopefully will!)
PW- Your body of work is stylish and spans a few genres, and the production is top notch across the board. How do you find your producers, and what do you look for when collaborating with a producer on a track?
Thank you! I actually produce all my music myself, with the exception of “Stay Away” which was produced by Ejmusic. I have my little set up at home, and try to do my best with what I can. When I collaborate with people though, I mostly look for enthusiasm, it’s so much nicer to work with people who love what they do!
Most producers would frown upon the way I record my music. I always record the guitar and the vocals at the same time, with just the one microphone, as if it was a tiny live acoustic gig. Let’s be honest, fact I only use one microphone is mainly because I’m a relatively broke student. But the reason I record vocals and guitar at the same time is because when I focus on playing the guitar and singing at the same time, it makes me just a little more nervous and less confident, a bit more vulnerable, and I think you can hear it in my voice. Because of the nature of my songs, I like to think that that fragile, vulnerable touch fits in well. Also, I want to make sure that I am actually able to do both things at the same time, in case I want to play the song live.
PW- You’re hugely active on social media, particularly Instagram and YouTube. How have these platforms helped you on your journey so far?
YouTube helped me a great deal when I started out. It gave me an audience, particularly when one of my videos (embarrassingly the Cup Song) got lucky and reached 3.6M views. I haven’t played live much, mainly because it requires a lot of rehearsal time, which I sadly haven’t been able to spare whilst in med school so far, so having a “virtual” audience has been amazing.
However, I’ve mainly shifted away from covering songs, partly because I’m not a huge fan of chart music these days so I ended up covering songs that most of audience didn’t know, and partly because I just prefer writing my own.
When I do make covers I post them on Instagram, which caps the videos to 1min, so I have a bit more of an incentive to keep it short but interesting. Then I can focus on originals but still post something relatively regularly, without the huge commitment of a full blown music video for each cover.
PW- This blog focuses heavily on creativity and the real people behind the art. How does creativity affect you on a day to day basis? Do you get super inspired out and about, or is it more of a focused effort, where you can shut off from the world and just think?
I get inspired from the most random things. Airplane rides often inspire me because I am so shut off from the rest of the world and I have to confront my own feelings. But most of the times when I write, I’m walking to a place, listening to some music. All these thoughts rush through my head, and I have to get my phone out and start typing some of them down, otherwise it feels like my brain will melt down.
The truth is I spend most of my waking time studying or on hospital placements, so the moments when I’m doing something that doesn’t require all my attention I always end up with this tangle of feelings that I need to deal with, and the easiest way is to write lyrics about them. Sometimes I try to keep the lyrics more vague, that helps me distance myself from my own emotions when it gets a bit too dark. But it’s almost always my way of getting out things I’m too scared to say, or I’ve been scared of saying in the past and now it’s too late to say them. Sometimes it’s about scenarios I imagine/worry about happening. Sometimes it’s about other people’s stories.
I’m quite an anxious person, so I get overwhelmed with thoughts, the hard part isn’t coming up with things to talk about, the hard part is putting them together into music, rather than drowning in them and letting it get to me. I have struggled with depression and an OCD-related disorder, and tried to turn that into something creative, and that’s how “Like A Scar” came about.
PW- In this kind of economy and industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
I think in my case, I rely on having my primary focus set to my medical career, but I understand that isn’t the case for most musicians. My approach to music has always been a “que sera sera” type of thing, I would love it if more people listened to my music, but nothing terrible would happen even if everybody who does currently listen to it stopped doing so right now.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition, but as a pessimist I do tend to approach things with the lowest possible expectations, so I can’t really be disappointed by surprise. Many artists I’ve met would say mine is a terrible approach and that I’ll never achieve anything if I don’t think I’m the best and act like I know it, but I’ve also seen these types of artists get really depressed if things didn’t go the way they planned, whereas I like to think that with calm and focus you can reach your goals, and if you don’t, it’s never the end of the world.
If you really love music you do it for yourself a lot more than you do it to get big and famous, so if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy what you do massively.
PW- And final question! It’s more of an invitation actually. Use the next few sentences to self-promote the hell out of what you’re up to, what we can watch/ listen to- no judgement!
Haha, I find this really hard to do – how about instead of me telling you I’m awesome, you go check me out and tell me that?