Compared to how most Polish artists start out, she chose a completely different path. First, she firmly marked her presence abroad; only later did she begin to slowly build her position in Poland.
Artist, singer. Unlike most Polish artists, she developed her career abroad, and only later started to build her position in Poland.
Julia Marcell is more than just a phenomenon that successfully made the transition from the internet to the big leagues of alternative music, she was also the most awarded young artist of 2011.
Her second album June was a huge sensation: it was nominated for seven Fryderyk awards (most important Polish music prize). The record eventually won a single statue for best alternative album. In the meantime, Marcell also received the Passport prize granted by the weekly Polityka. This distinction may be considered even more valuable, as it is given to young artists in just a few broad cultural categories which aren’t divided into any additional sub-categories. As if this wasn’t enough, Marcell also received the Grzegorz Ciechowski Artistic Award of the City of Toruń.
Marcell, born Julia Górniewicz, is 30 years old. Today she lives in Berlin, but she often visits Olsztyn, where her parents live. For Marcell, Germany’s capital is a safe haven on the road to international success. Unlike most Polish artists, she developed her career abroad. She chose Berlin because that was where she recorded her first album, and it is also the home of her manager. She now releases her records both in the West (Haldern Pop) and in Poland (Mystic Production). However, she most often performs concerts in Germany.
While she skilfully refers to the aesthetics of such artists as Björk, Kate Bush, Regina Spektor, Lykke Li and Joanna Newsom, she is praised not only for her artistry. She is also known for having an eye for the right people to work with. She writes the lyrics for her songs, which she also composes herself. Polityka awarded her for “proving that one can make a career in pop music independently and according to one’s own rules. For a fully authorial and modern approach to creating music”.
At the beginning of her career, when she still resided in Olsztyn, she posted her own songs on her own self-made website. Marcell’s first record was made with money she collected through the site Sellaband.com. Internet users donated a total of 50 thousand dollars after listening to her demo, an unprecedented success for a Polish artist. The fund-raising site contacted her with a manager and chose an appropriate producer for her. Both of these men were from Berlin, so she travelled to Germany. Once she arrived there, she stayed longer than she planned. Her debut album It Might Like You was initially released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (in the summer of 2009) and later also appeared in Poland (in autumn).
Marcell and her piano are in the spotlight here, the accompanying string and percussion instruments are usually in the background. As a pianist she is very expressive and energetic, but when she describes the musical style of the record as “classical punk”, she might be exaggerating just a little. She more than likely has the arrangements in mind: punk songs transposed to the piano. Mystic has reissued these recordings, the creation of which the artist is happy to remember: “We captured the joy of playing music. The songs were recorded live, in takes, we experimented and used unusual instruments such as shoes or paper. The album turned out to be intimate and humane, even though it is crude and has a punk rock vibe to it”.
Moses Schneider produced It Might Like You and Marcell remained faithful to him when she made last year’s album June. Even though the same man sat behind the mixing table and the same woman stood behind the microphone, the final effect was much different to what was achieved during their first collaboration. June is a mature and diverse album, with tight, precise arrangements and a specific approach to accentuation. The piano is still the lead instrument but it’s accompanied by energetic bass and drum lines and by electronic instruments and rhythms.
Her concerts have also changed. Marcell had usually performed solo or alongside a viola played by Anna “Mandy” Prokopczuk. After June, she was joined by a German rhythm section composed of bassist Thomsen Slowey and percussionists Jakob Kiersch and Christian Vienne. Such a lineup is capable of recreating the modern sound of the second LP in live performances. Marcell truly loves to play concerts. Regardless of whether she appears solo with the piano or if she’s backed by her band, she always effortlessly connects with the audience. She is a natural, energetic leader, her songs are well-crafted, and as a performer she is outgoing, professional and graceful.
Jacek Świąder, July 2012
Translated by: Marek Kępa