Mariette is Melodifestivalen, an absolute staple of this competition over recent years. This is amazingly her fourth appearance in the last six years.
Those appearances have all done her very well; finishing third, fourth, and fifth, out of 28 competitors each time and truly establishing her as one of the darlings of the Swedish music scene. That’s especially true when we remember just how incredible her 2015 breakout was. Before her Melodifestivalen debut Mariette had a stumbling career where the limelight was just out of reach, cover bands and TV talent shows were stepping stones rather than launch pads to reach where she is today. Even a fourth place finish in Idol’s 2009 edition didn’t lead onto major releases afterwards. The year before Mariette’s Melodifestivalen debut she had the role of following that year’s Melodifestivalen breakout Ace Wilder playing guitar on her tour.
When the Melodifestivalen chance came, Mariette (despite being a debutant) was highly anticipated. After all the song was written by Miss Li, one of Sweden’s biggest names outside of Melodifestivalen’s ever-expanding bubble. The track, ’Don’t Stop Believing ’, wasn’t just a hopeful pop song, but came packaged with character and artistry. Mariette’s demonic backing dancers, wind-machine flickered cape and incredibly use of lighting all made it stood out from the pack.
’Don’t Stop Believing’ ended up in third place behind eventual Eurovision winner Måns Zelmerlöw. But the addiction had truly started. Mariette is now such a Melodifestivalen veteran that the question always comes up, ‘why are you back?’ And yes of course you need a song to believe in, but also Mariette admits that ’getting to experience all of this’ is part of the joy that began when Carola hopped around the stage to ’Fångad av en stormvind’. There’s the lure of Eurovision and the lure of competition, but it’s the entire buzz in the bubble and the opportunities it provides that keep Mariette coming back.
Pride And Prejudice
Mariette is now an established celebrity in Swedish society on the back of her Melodifestivalen career. Back in 2015 SVT chose Mariette to reveal the Swedish jury points (giving Australia’s first ever 12 points) and singing the official song for Stockholm Pride, ’My Revolution’.
Mariette was ’as proud as possible’ when that opportunity came up, hoping it would pep up people to listen to their gut instinct much more. Mariette is as synonmonous to Pride as she is with Melodifestivalen, as as well as performing the official song in 2015 she designed the dog tags in 2019. She is one of the most well known homosexual artists in Sweden, previously being awarded the annual ’Årets Homo/Bi’ award by former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
Not fitting into the heterosexual norm may be easier in Sweden to many other places, but that doesn’t mean it was easy for Mariette. For a while her family did not accept this, her mother asking Mariette ’what they had done wrong’ and she felt they did not accept her. Coming out was, Mariette explains, the first time she really put herself out there an a platform, and it took years before the damage had been repaired with her family.
I think the first big time in my life when I was on the stage was when I came out to my parents. That was like… I did hold it in for a little too long. And then I finally found the courage through friends, through myself, to share it. We had a pretty hard time together, they didn’t accept me.
That was the first time I really shared my inner thoughts.
The On Stage and Off Stage Mariette
There’s a huge misconception about Mariette as an artist and a character. She came out for the press conference to Melodifestivalen’s third heat with her customary dreadlocked hair, foil effect shirt and enormous sunglasses. It’s easy to interpret from that look that Mariette might think of herself a bit too-cool-for-school, or that she’s in a I-don’t-give-a mood with the press and can be as outspoken as she likes.
That’s so the opposite of the real Mariette. Mariette is one of the most considered acts on the circuit. The Mariette we see is very much a stage persona, the character crafted for those three minutes on stage when it is game time.
” I learnt to express myself on stage. I think a common misconception is that an artist is very extrovert.
It’s like on stage I know what to do and I feel comfortable. But in relationships, it’s hard.
I try sometimes in relations I have. They like say ’express yourself’. I express myself on stage in my music but as a private person I’m like…holding back.”
The root cause of this holding back, of Mariette’s caution and reflective inner personality, she explains to be ’the fear of being turned down’. Mariette grew up in the small town of Harplinge on Sweden’s weather-battered west coast, the kind of place I imagine it’s not easiest to stand out from the crowd.
In reflection Mariette feels in life sometimes even she hides too much away, and that’s the message of this year’s Melodifestivalen entry ’Shout It Out’. The song itself has a message in complete symbiosis with the Mariette I’m speaking to – who inside wishes that sometimes she dared to speak out more than she actually does.
”I want people to shout out their feelings and what they feel inside, whatever it is, whatever it might be. I want them to express themselves. I have a history in myself that can be hard sometimes, to express what I really want and to dare to follow your heart. This song just wants people to speak out. It’s like my version of Roxette, ’Listen To Your Heart’. ”
I love it. It’s to encourage myself and other people who sometimes overthink too much instead of telling people how you feel. You see it all the time.”
Most of all I want to say I think we can make this world a bit more brighter. I think it’s really easy to create a good environment and good vibe among us, it’s not that hard if you just see poeple and I think I do. That message, I want to spread that.”
The song isn’t an organic creation but a planned attempt to deliver Mariette’s next big hit. She had assembled three people who in her words were some of Sweden’s best songwriters; Thomas G:Son, Cassandra Ströberg, and Alex Shield.
The first of these will likely need little introduction to you, the 100-time Eurovision national final songwriter with three Melodifestivalen victories to his name. ’Shout It Out’ marks Cassandra Ströberg’s Melodifestivalen debut, a music teacher who took up a place at Musikmakarna’s Songwriting Academy and specialises in writing great melodies. Alex Shield has cemented a place in the music industry through his songwriting and production, including being signed to Per Gessle’s Space Station 12 label. Few would remember his only previous Melodifestivalen attempt back in 2008.
This was quite the team. All three had very different backgrounds, and Mariette describes the morning they met as a ’catastrophe’.
”No one liked the other ones ideas. I felt so bad gathering those people and nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.
I had a few songwriting sessions in my life before. This was the first time in my life I was like you know what guys, maybe we should call it off, go to your family. But I never said that, so we went to lunch, and when we came back we had more energy – like the song wrote itself, the melodies just came out. It was a very good falafel at lunch.”
In this case, Mariette’s reluctance to speak up led to producing what’s likely to be another Melodifestivalen hit for her.
Picking Up Her Guitar Once More
The sound they produced feels like an evolution to her previous entries. Mariette constantly provides to Melodifestivalen a secure pop song that’s able to appeal to everyone from 3 to 93 years old. However the twist is in the production, with this year’s song featuring a symphonic orchestra on the backing track. There is a ‘real’ feel to this compared to other tracks in this competition, and the fact Mariette picks up her guitar for the last minute of the performance echoes this. Guitar playing is how it all began, and Mariette is looking to head back to those early days in the upcoming music.
” I want it to be a bit more organic, with organic instruments and another feel. Both going forward and also going back because that’s how I started out.”
I want to be grounded and more about feelings. I want to be more honest.”
Mariette goes into this third heat as one of the most established names on the circuit and after those three qualifications in three, with an expectation amongst all present that we will see her in the competition beyond this show. Mariette knows that expectation, but still has reservations. She describes how Melodifestivalen ’should be about the song’ but that ’kids maybe vote for the artist more than the song’, turning it into a ’popularity competition’.
Despite Melodifestivalen being Mariette’s safe space, her natural environment, there’s still the same insecurity in her that’s always been there.
After our interivew I watched Mariette rehearse on the stage and didn’t see any of that fear, insecurity or self-doubt. And neither will you.
Once Mariette steps out into an arena all those demons are blown away.