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Rising Music Star Marta Palombo On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

No one will care about you as much as you do, so you have to be your biggest fan. If I want a job done right or I want specific results, I make sure I am involved in every nitty-gritty detail of the process, because at the end of the day I’m the one that has to drive my music forward and be proud of my art. Plus, everyone’s a critic — so make art you like!

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Marta Palombo.

If Joni Mitchell and Florence + The Machine had a 21st-century hippie daughter, it would be Marta Palombo. Hailing from Florence, Italy, she found her home in Nashville, Tennessee where she spends her time writing, recording, performing, and curating a cabinet full of local teas. Marta effortlessly weaves diverse influences and genres into her own unique blend of off-kilter folk-pop.

Initially honing her wordsmithing and performance skills through poetry, Marta found nationwide recognition as Poetry Out Loud’s 2016 Georgia State Champion and National Runner-Up. After moving to Nashville, she geared her talents towards writing music full-time, releasing a steady stream of covers in English and Italian, as well as original compositions.

Marta has already made quite a name for herself in Music City, garnering a very loyal fan base. She’s played at well-known venues like Café CoCo, True Music Room & Bar, Commodore Grille, Bowery Vault, Two Old Hippies, Boulevard Records, Just Love Coffee and Belcourt Taps. In addition, Marta has added both the Schermerhorn Symphony and Bridgestone Arena, where she sang back-up for Josh Groban, to her impressive musical
resume.

Marta’s leap into the music industry began with an acoustic cover of LP’s 2015 single, “Lost On You”, soon followed by her debut extended play: 2016’s Revisions. Half personal introspection and half mission statement, the EP evokes a willingness to revel in the unknown, no matter the consequences. The single “Sparrows” followed in 2017, as well as two new songs in 2018: the soul-baring ballad titled “Bitter End” and the bubbly, optimistic “Gold.” After a short break, Marta hit the ground running in 2020 with her new EP, Him Vol. 1. The title track, “Him,” received international acclaim and won the Vox Pop Award at the 18th Independent Music Awards. As the events of 2020 came to a head, Marta spent her newfound isolation writing a breathtaking series of reflective songs titled “The Quarantine Tapes,” which she released in 2021.

Admiring her roots while eschewing the traditional notions of what a singer-songwriter should be is paramount to who Marta Palombo is as an artist. With Marta, there is always new music on the horizon. Her signature style is her ever-growing passion for telling life’s most compelling stories, both big and small.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Oh gosh, what a huge question. I’ll try to stick to the Cliff Notes version — I was born in Italy, and my parents and I moved to the US when I was very young. Our whole family is still in Italy though, so I’ve gone back to visit every single summer since we moved away. I’m bilingual, and I grew up jumping back and forth between two cultures. At school, I learned American habits and lifestyles, and at home, I was right back in Italy. That’s definitely had a huge impact on how I live my life, the habits I have, and the things I find important on a daily basis. My parents are incredibly positive, loving, supportive people, and they never batted an eye when it became clear that their oldest child was absolutely not meant for a STEM career and failed every science fair project throughout school.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

That’s an easy one: the day I joined the choir in 4th grade. I talk about music like it’s a person in my life sometimes because it feels like it is. In this case, I can tell you with complete confidence that I fell in love with singing on the very first day of choir class in 4th grade. To this day, the feelings of falling in love and feeling safe and understood by another human being are the same exact feelings I have when I sing, perform, or create in a musical way. When I opened my mouth to sing and I felt the way the world around me shifted, I knew I’d never be able to do anything else. I didn’t comprehend at the time that singing could be a career path; all I knew was that every decision I made from that day forward needed to somehow bring me closer to singing.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Hmm… good question. I’ve found that a lot of things in this career path are unexpected, where they don’t seem like a big deal in the moment but they open up a whole new world after some time. Meetings with people who later give you an amazing opportunity, writing a song that you didn’t think was your best work but it later takes off, stuff like that. One of my favorite stories that constantly serves to reaffirm what I do is regarding my very first EP. I have improved leaps and bounds since 2016, but I never took it down, because it’s a bookmark of a specific period in my life, and it marks the beginning of my career. A few years ago I received a message from someone that makes me happy I’ve never taken those songs down — they told me that my song “Walls” had helped them through an incredibly difficult time, and they had performed their own cover of it. It was so moving and a beautiful reminder that art will always find a way to touch the right people.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The biggest thing popping into my head right now is when I forgot the words to my own song during a writer’s round! It had been a long day of classes, and my brain was fried. Very embarrassing, to say the least. Not sure if I learned a “lesson,” necessarily, but I’m much more anal about memorizing lyrics now!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m incredibly excited about my next project. I’ll be releasing it in the fall, and it’s a character study on the women in Picasso’s life. Specifically, his wife Olga and his lover Marie-Therese. We’re in the process of filming and finishing those up as we speak, and it’s been such an interesting path to explore. The production is very different, the music videos are more conceptual than narrative, and I’m just excited to get it out in the world. It’s not commercial in the slightest, but any art/history / poetry nerds like me will get a kick out of it!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Diversity in the media we consume is a huge way to reach a global understanding of ourselves as humans — humans who all want the same things in our core, no matter what we look like or what language we speak. So…

  1. Representation in media allows young kinds to connect to role models that look, speak, and act like them. It helps reinforce the idea that they can do anything, and builds confidence.
  2. Representation in media (when done accurately) is a huge teaching tool. It helps people learn about languages, cultures, struggles, and differences in ways that aren’t cookie-cutter out of a history textbook. It helps people feel those differences and commonalities on an emotional level, and they can more easily connect.
  3. You are not the center of the universe, basically. If all you ever consume is content that looks, acts, and thinks like you, you won’t learn all of the beautiful crazy things the world has to offer (and you’ll make the terrible mistake of thinking you’re right all the time). Representation in media opens people’s eyes to things they may have never thought of, and that’s important if we want to move towards being an open-minded society.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. You will compare yourself and feel awful a lot. Social media has a way of making me feel inadequate all the time because it’s all numbers and interactions. But I find that more recently, I’ve turned social media into a diary and a game more than a measure of self-worth, and it’s done wonders for my mental health. Still, there are a lot of days where the negative voices creep in, and on those days I like to shut off my apps and do things that make me happy just for me. I need to remind myself that music doesn’t equal social media — music exists on its own, and social media is a tool.

2. Success isn’t linear. Success is different for every person — for some people, anything less than stadium tours around the world is failure, whereas some people see 100 Spotify streams as a dream. Success changes as you go — 12 year old me would think I’m practically famous now, whereas 24 year old me sees how much I still have left to go. Balancing celebration with ambition is important.

3. No one will care about you as much as you do, so you have to be your biggest fan. If I want a job done right or I want specific results, I make sure I am involved in every nitty-gritty detail of the process, because at the end of the day I’m the one that has to drive my music forward and be proud of my art. Plus, everyone’s a critic — so make art you like!

4. You will be “too much” for some people and that’s ok. I get a lot of feedback on my music that it’s “too slow,” “too metaphorical,” I’m “too quirky,” or “not pop enough” — and the biggest thing I have to keep in mind is that people who stick to their guns and do what they believe in are always those who find lasting careers in the end. So accept the feedback, and politely plan never to work with that person again. If they can’t see your vision, they won’t be able to execute it. Move on and find the people who get you.

5. Take criticism from 4 or 5 good people you trust, and ignore the rest. For me, those people are my best friends, my family, and a couple of peers who are more in tune with the music business side of things. Again — your art has to be fulfilling to YOU, and no one else. But it also takes constructive criticism to make the best art possible. And for that, I always look to a few good people I trust who will tell it to me straight. As for all those YouTube comments and TikTok haters, just delete them. No one needs to see that, least of all you.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Schedule time to just do stupid stuff like pizza parties and face masks. And if you get a business call or you receive a last-minute job you should probably take, reschedule it if at all possible. Your time to recharge is just as vital to your success as all of those hours of content creation and phone calls and networking.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Oh God, this is one of those huge questions where my mind is blank and a year from now I’ll read this and think what a stupid answer I gave. Hmm… to be honest with you? My movement for good would just be to do your research. Don’t just blindly read headlines and stick to a single news source, don’t accept what people tell you as fact; and if you care about something, find a cause you can work towards or donate towards that helps you make a difference. Be an active participant in your beliefs — I need to work on this as much as anyone, but it’s the best tangible way to bring about positive change that I can think of.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My parents. My mom and dad came to every concert and drove me to every rehearsal and audition, and they listened to all of my songs as a kid (and they still do). Knowing that they’re in my corner helps me face any goal, idea, or struggle with confidence.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is cheesy, but live a life that makes you happy and celebrate every single day! I’m not talking about a “career” that makes you happy, but a life. You only get one, so fill every day with small things that make you happy to be alive. A good song, a good book, time with your pets or your friends or your family, a walk in the park, a late-night drive, ice cream, yoga, tea — whatever it is that makes you feel lifted, do it every single day.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Taylor Swift. I find her to be an incredible musician as well as an incredible businesswoman, and she shaped my songwriting more than anyone. Being able to absorb some of her wisdom for any length of time would be a priceless experience.

How can our readers follow you online?

On all the socials!

Instagram: marta.palombo

Facebook: @MartaPalomboMusic

Twitter: @MartaPalombo

TikTok: @martapalombomusic

YouTube: Marta Palombo

Website: www.martapalombo.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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