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INTERVIEW: Marcella Puppini introduces 'The Mayoress Presents'

Recently crowned Mayoress of Camden, Marcella Puppini is out to put her powers to good use. 'The Mayoress Presents' is her latest venture, designed to showcase emerging musical talent. Marcella has a wealth of experience to share with young hopefuls, having fronted both The Puppini Sisters and Marcella and the Forget Me Nots. We grilled her on what she's looking for in new musicians, the similarities between showbusiness and politics, and making music in the age of the internet.


RR: Tell us about how you came up with the idea for 'The Mayoress Presents' musical showcase?

MP: When Jonathan Simpson, the Mayor of Camden, asked me to be his Mayoress I knew that he was keen for me to be a sort of music ambassador in the borough. Initially I was only going to curate regular music nights, but then I started thinking that I should get more ambitious. You see, I have two bands, one of which is quite successful while the other one is more underground and niche. The experience I have had of playing with my more underground band is that it's a tough world out there for musicians who are not quite at the point in their careers where they can command high fees. Often bands end up losing money from gigging, and I want to offer a different experience. So I decided to rally a few troops to donate their time to the cause, and 'The Mayoress Presents' concept has now grown into a monthly showcase for independent musicians aimed at promoting outstanding talent through live events, running with an accompanying YouTube TV channel and a radio show. I got HUNCH Creatives to design the website for free, I have Ian Grant from Desorden.org helping with the first stage of the TV show by coming to film the bands (there are further stages in development), and I am getting a lot of support from Proud Camden and of course from Camden Council. Local restaurateurs David Waddington and Pablo Flack from Shrimpy's in King's Cross are offering a dinner for two to one lucky ticket buyer and Oxjam are helping us promote the live night. What I am loving about this is that there's a genuine spirit of coming together to create something good, and I'm extremely excited about this.

RR: You describe Camden as being London's rock'n'roll capital- what's the most memorable gig you've ever been to in the area? Or performed at?!

MP: Performance-wise, I have been lucky enough to play at Koko twice, once with The Puppini Sisters and once with my band Marcella and The Forget Me Nots supporting Gabby Young and Other Animals. I'd say both were amongst the proudest and most exciting moments in my career. My most memorable Camden gig was Einstürzende Neubautem at The Forum in 2010. I think I cried and yelped a few times that night, it was that good!

RR: The mayoress position has been held by performers before, like Amy Lame, and of course Eddie Izzard is talking about running for Mayor of London. Do you think politics has a lot in common with show business?

MP: Ask Boris that! Politicians are turning more and more into showmen, because they understand the power of showbiz to get a message across. And of course there's a great tradition of musicians and entertainers in general harnessing their fame for causes they believe in. It's a wonderful thing to be in a position to make a difference, however big or small.

The Actionettes

RR: What are you looking for in applicants for the showcase?

MP: Quite simply, excellence. Great stage presence, great musicality, just greatness. And a hard-working attitude. I have quite a broad music taste, and I am hoping that The Mayoress Presents will reflect that. On Sunday the 20th we have Viktoria Modesta, pioneer of the new 3-step genre and fashion muse, The Lottery Winners, an indie-jangle-pop quartet with clever and witty lyrics, and The Actionettes - an all-female '60s dance troupe that describe themselves as "a joyous celebration of women in all shapes and sizes". Future nights will feature R&B artists, avant-marching bands and more dance troupes, which we are looking to bring in to collaborate with the musicians. RR: What are the main lessons you learnt from your experiences with the Puppini Sisters, touring with the likes of Cyndi Lauper, that you'll be passing on to these young musicians?

MP: I'd say the main lesson I've learned is to never think I'm done learning. I find that I am still constantly surprised and challenged by everything I do, and there's nothing better to sustain enthusiasm and creativity throughout a long career. It's hard not to think "I know best", and often we do, but in my opinion keeping an open mind and constantly expanding one's knowledge are the keys to success. That, and killing your darlings. Without any remorse.

RR: Will you ever be doing any performing yourself at the showcases?

MP: It's possible, but not for a while. My main role here is that of champion of musicians, so for now I'm just concentrating on that. Also, it's not guaranteed that I'd book myself: it all depends on whether or not I fit my own stringent criteria!

Lottery Winners

RR: The internet has made it much easier for musicians to share their music with a wide audience, but they're also in danger of being lost in the sea of hopeful musicians uploading their material. Do you think it's ultimately more beneficial than it is challenging?

MP: Progress comes with its gains and losses. I am all for it, because it's inevitable and also because a lot of the greatest innovations in music have come from technological advances. Ultimately, it's not just the record companies who decide who becomes massive and who is destined for obscurity. I strongly believe that success comes from a combination of talent, presence, hard work, tenacity, shrewdness and self-belief. It's almost a mathematical formula. Those who are confined to obscurity may lack one or more of those vital ingredients. If anything, the internet is helping those who wouldn't get signed (because they're either not young or pretty enough, or don't have enough balls to go and pester music industry people) find their own niche. But even on the internet, those who stand out from the sea of hopefuls are the ones that work the hardest and are the most tenacious. So hail to the internet, and the change it has brought!

The first 'Mayoress Presents' showcase will be on 20th October, details here.