After wowing her school and peers for years, Erin Marcellina is ready for the big leagues
At 18 years old, Erin Marcellina’s first memories of music go far beyond the lessons she’s accrued over the years. She still remembers very vividly being a toddler listening to her older sisters play the piano and trying to annoy them while they played. Then, at just four years old, Marcellina began working on her piano fingers, one key at a time.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Marcellina has held music near and dear all her life. Raised by her mother, a music teacher and performer, the family talent was bound to rub off at some point. At six years old she began taking music lessons from private instructors and later enrolled in a formal music academy where she learned classical piano and composition, remaining enrolled until age 17.
In June of 2019, Marcellina began uploading recordings of her playing to YouTube. Between a mixture of covers and original songs, she started gaining local acclaim at her school and amongst peers.
Having performed at a plethora of recitals, bar gigs and continuing to post online, she eventually gained the confidence and momentum to begin working on her first project, a self-released EP.
After two months of planning, writing, recording and mastering, on July 11 Marcellina released her first cohesive project, Wait for You. Though she was only 17 years old when she released it, Erin is not resting on her laurels and continues writing new music as she gears up for a debut album.
Now enrolled in Concordia University’s music program, Marcellina is working on her coursework remotely from the comfort of her home in Ottawa, though she maintains that Montreal is where her heart is and always will be.
Most recently, Marcellina released a second EP on Sept. 24 titled Blue Skies & At Peace. The two tracks build on her first release and serve as a snippet of what the artist is capable of.
We spoke to Marcellina to discuss music and her goals with it.
TC: When did you first realize music was what you wanted to do with your life?
EM: It wasn’t until last year that I decided to pursue music as a career. Before then, I had always wanted to study science and go to medical school. The first time I released music on YouTube I was so surprised and overwhelmed with the responses from listeners. Everyone loved what I had created and many people asked for more. It was at that moment that I realized that music would no longer just be a hobby.
TC: Tell me about the YouTube songs. Where did you draw from to put all of those out before?
EM: All of the songs that I have released on YouTube were songs that I wrote at 3 a.m. Each song holds a very special place in my heart. I would write each song in 20 minutes while just sitting with my guitar or at my piano. Each piece has a deeper meaning behind the lyrics and when I go back and listen to these songs that I wrote over a year ago, I feel nostalgic and remember how I was feeling at the time. I started to release music on YouTube after performing at a recital at my old music school. I remember someone approaching me and asking where they can listen to my music online.
TC: Who are your top three influences in the music world?
EM: My top three influences are Clairo, Jacob Collier and Edwin Raphael. Clairo’s style and individuality in her music is something I strive for as a musician. Jacob Collier is a genius and his interpretation and love for music is a huge inspiration. The fact that he won a Grammy after writing, recording and producing his own album in his room is incredible to me. Edwin Raphael is an indie singer/songwriter from Montreal who I’ve been listening to since 2017. I’ve watched him grow as an artist and his dedication is amazing. After my first EP release, I was able to get in contact with him and show him my work.
TC: As a young artist what are your biggest challenges with creating new music?
EM: My biggest challenge is being young and not knowing my “sound.” My music has changed drastically since my first upload to YouTube as well as from my first EP, Wait for You to my recent EP, Blue Skies & At Peace. I am constantly surrounded by new ideas and inspirations for music, as well as suggestions from other people. I don’t see an issue with me releasing music of different genres or sounds but I am still trying to find my true style that feels and sounds the most like me.
TC: Your debut EP, Wait for You came out this past July, what’s the story behind it?
EM: I worked very hard on the concept of Wait for You and many people don’t realize that this EP is a concept album. I started working on this EP when I first released the song “Wait for You” on YouTube (April 2020). The original idea for this EP was to be about my journey to finding both self love and love for another person. This all changed when I fell in love with a boy in May (a month after I started planning my EP). The concept then immediately changed to the feeling of falling in love to the feeling of losing myself in love. The first three songs of the EP are all about looking for love and feeling that I will never find it. The last three songs can be seen as autobiographies and how it feels to take a step back from your past and surround yourself with love moving forward. The song right in the middle of this EP, “Needle and Thread,” is about the boy that I fell in love with and how with the right person, you can let go of your past and find your true self.
TC: What’s your artistic process like? How do you go from an idea to a polished track?
EM: Before releasing Wait for You, I would simply sit at my piano and improvise until I played something that I liked. I would then record myself and sing a melody on top of this chord progression or ballad. It would usually have taken me about 20 minutes to write a song. I go about writing very differently now. I plan my songs in advance with chords, harmonies and the overall instruments that I have in mind. From there I will lay down my chords and start the layering process. I will always complete my instrumental before attacking vocals and harmonies. Planning harmonies alone takes me about two days to complete. Unlike before, it will take me at least two weeks of recording, editing and producing to have a polished song ready for release.
TC: Do you see yourself collaborating with other artists on your next project? Or do you want to build your own name first?
EM: I have collaborated with musicians in the past and I truly find it beautiful to share ideas and create a project together. These times make it more difficult to collaborate but I am planning on working with other musicians for my next release. Building my name is important for pursuing music but to be a true musician and be prepared for the industry, I must work with other artists in order to grow as a musician myself.
TC: Last month you released a second EP, Blue Skies & At Peace. When should we expect a full length project?
EM: Blue Skies & At Peace is a taste of a future full-length album that will be released at the end of 2020. I have been planning and working on this album since I started releasing music on YouTube, as it has always been a dream of mine to release a full-length project of my work. It will include new versions of my older YouTube songs, as well as songs similar to “Blue Skies” and “At Peace” and new genres such as R&B and jazz. The album is still in the planning process and I’m hoping to start recording early November and have the full project done before the new year.
Feature photo by Vincent Baluyot