'I lived in the mountains for six years, and I loved it because it was a place where you needed to rely on yourself to survive.'
Listen Local interview
Marie works in Prague, and helps musicians’ careers, particularly in TV and feature film synchronization. She is also a performing artists, whose music is connected to different parts of Europe. We interviewed her because of our shared interest in how music crosses borders.
So, you’re currently living in Prague, after spending several years located in France, London, and Berlin. What was this journey like for you?
I got locked down in Prague actually. I intended to move to Berlin after leaving London, as my pianist lives there and has kids. It seemed like the best next destination, but it just didn’t work out. Lockdown came out of the blue and I decided to stay in Czech Republic. I eventually found an apartment in Prague and a job I’ve wanted to do all my life, so I think this is it.
I now work for a label and I am in charge of our sync & publishing department. My professional focus is still abroad for the most part which helps me work towards my ambitions, yet also come back to my roots. I feel like this is what I really needed for my creativity to strive.
Where would you like to find an audience for your music?
That’s a great question, one that is hard to answer in my case since I am local in several places. I would say that because my songs are in English and draw inspiration from Irish and British folk music - I started writing when I found Lisa Hannigan and her melody based songs - they will resonate with people in these territories more than they probably will in Czechia.
I consider myself a storyteller. My music is a space to communicate emotions about experiences we might not always talk about. I love performing live and I can see myself doing this anywhere, but mostly in Europe. I feel very close to all the countries I’ve lived in, so France and even the UK. I always build a small fanbase where I live, and then uproot again.
I would like to spend more time in Central and Eastern Europe too. I feel like I neglected these countries and quite unfairly so. This has been a challenge as touring is always an expense, and since I collaborate with a pianist who has two children, there are practical aspects that I have to consider.
However, I am not performing much these days. I channeled all my passion for it into my work with other artists and have been a booker, a manager, a filmmaker, a producer, an event organiser, and just kept on learning about the industry whilst swimming in it.
Listen Local tries to connect local musicians with local music. Can we say that you are looking for audiences that can be reached from Berlin and Prague, so Western Czechia and the Southeastern part of Germany? Our app is designed to find out where you music mind find audience, and for music lovers, to find artists who are close enough to visit on a small venue gig.
Yes, you could say this is the territory where I would like people to listen to my music. I released my songs which were recorded eight years after we wrote them. Spotify became more dominant in release strategy and I had very little understanding of how it worked, what to pay attention to and how much time goes into release planning. I just decided to put the songs up, and let them live their own life. Now that I know much more about digital, I want to be more intentional about the songs I put out and how I do it. I love visual expression, I love collaboration, and I feel that the spaces I choose to live in – which I choose because they are beautiful – play an important role in this. I want to tell the story of how everything lead to where I am now. I always figured it was important to highlight small artist locally and where they performed so that audiences could connect with them and follow them long after, so what you are doing is great.
Having moved around, what do you consider home, in a spiritual or physical sense?
France is really my sacred place. It is a place where I feel insanely inspired and at home. Even from miles away, it gives me a sense of confidence and freedom. I lived in the mountains for six years, and I loved it because it was a place where you needed to rely on yourself to survive. There is no industry there so anything I wanted to exist, I had to create everything myself. And that was amazing, because I proved to myself that I could do anything I decided to. When you are in a city, you always have to ask permissions. As a woman in this industry, no one listens to you. You have to work triple hard for people to let you say or do something.
I come back to the mountains for consolation, really. I even changed my French surname to mean “from the mountains,” as a way for people to stop focusing on where I am from and more on what I do. It worked, and I became Marie De La Montagne. I identified with that name so much, I had a hard time using my civil surname in my professional life when I became a publisher. Me and my colleague had a lot of laughs about it. It just seemed so strange to me.
My other source of inspiration in music is in America. A lot of people might judge me for saying that, but America doesn’t do what I mentioned above. I don’t feel so smothered when I work with my American colleagues. When I started to work with supervisors and people around the entertainment industry, I saw new potential, and my storytelling side resonated there. So I aligned myself at that, and wish to connect all these places creatively and also use the opportunities they offer.
Can you recommend some music from the region of France where you feel at home? Or some music from the US that inspired you much recently? We are interested in how musical inspiration comes to our artists, physically. We want to understand how music travels via word of mouth, algorithms, etc.
I can point you to a few artists that I met and find so inspiring. Definitely Amistat, a twin duo who have Czech roots, lived in Australia, and now live in Germany. We worked together for about two years, and I could listen to their song Love & Light on repeat.
There are many artists in Prague who have their own approach to songwriting and I am a huge fan of Aiko’s. I love Bookie Baker, especially when they play live. Karel Havlíček who just released a neoclassical album Spoken is someone who inspires me so much with his understanding of being an artist. Out of the artists I met whilst I was in France - check out Jake Morley, Nyna Loren, Fionnuala McKenna, Rob Longstaff, The Pedestrians… so many great artists! Many of these artists came with us on tour which we filmed, so you can check out the videos we made online as well!
You are currently not performing much, instead you are helping other artists. What is your day job?
My day job now is building a sync & publishing company under a big independent label, which isn’t an easy task and exactly what I love about it. I need to have these big projects that build on the values I mentioned above. We offer all kinds of deals which evolve around artist development. My main focus is synchronization in TV and film, though mostly not in the Czech market. The industry here is not as standardized as it is abroad, and as you probably know through your research, this comes at a great disadvantage for the artists. I want to challenge that, as I feel like music is universal, and the industry is a tool not a master.
In your work supporting artists, do you ever use data to help them find an audience? What are your challenges?
Oh yes! Data are my daily companion. But the challenges are everywhere, starting with artists not even knowing that they need data and what for. And clearing data is incredibly timeconsuming. I keep striving to find ways to understand the insides of the industry better using data so I can compensate for the disadvantages that the Czech market faces by default - language, historical disconnection from the markets around, the small size of the market, and so on. I also know a few people who are very passionate about this topic and new trends in music, in legal, in digital… There are so many ways you can look at this.
We really would need more time to talk :)!
More about Marie de la Montagne
And a label: