In January 2022, Etta Marcus released her debut EP, View From The Bridge, a five-track set of intimate vignettes that blend personal introspection with warm melodies and a storytelling prowess beyond her years. Here, she tells Headliner about her journey from secretly writing songs in her bedroom, to becoming one of the UK’s most exciting new talents…
For a time, Brixton’s Etta Marcus wasn’t sure she’d ever make the progression from music fanatic to music creator. Which is remarkable, given the cool assuredness that flows through View From The Bridge, her inaugural EP release. At just 20 years old, her songs are filled with a sense of experience and a troubadour spirit that one might (understandably) expect from someone with another decade’s worth of living under their belt. From her controlled, melancholy vocal lines, to her knack for seamlessly intertwining personal tales with the stories of others in her lyrics, it’s a record that’s as revealing as it is mysterious. Echoes of Sharon Van Etten and Lana Del Rey circa Norman F**king Rockwell can be heard on occasion.
“Songwriting came later than my infatuation with music,” she says as we join her over Zoom from the bedroom of her family home. “I’d always been curious with music and understanding what I was listening to from a very young age. Even in nursery school I was singing the nursery rhymes way more seriously than anyone else! I didn’t know why but I knew it was important to me. Then at primary school I joined the choir and started thinking, ‘I like singing and I might be good at it’. So, my parents really encouraged me and my brother to take up piano and guitar. That was the start of the journey, but songwriting didn’t come into play until I was about 14. Secretly I would write songs and not show anyone. I would make up stories, but never about me, as I found it a bit cringe to write anything about myself [she laughs]. Then at the end of secondary school I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
After writing and discarding numerous songs that will likely never see the light of day, Marcus made a breakthrough with a song called Envy, which gave her the confidence to consider releasing her music from the confines of her bedroom out into the world.
“I don’t know what it was, but something just clicked, and I realised that if I was going to do this then others needed to hear it,” she explains. “But until then I was so insecure about it. My parents would ask my music teacher how I was because they never heard anything from me. It must have been a moment where I had written a song and didn’t feel terrible about it.”
Since taking that step, Marcus’s songwriting skills have – and continue – to evolve rapidly. The storytelling chops she acquired when writing about anyone but herself now reveal themselves when weaving far more personal narratives into her music.