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STRAND Showcase Spotlight: In Conversation With Mara Liddle

Image courtesy of Mara Liddle

Welcome to our STRAND Showcase Spotlight series, where if you haven’t yet bought a ticket to the live music showcases we support, we show you why you should.

Up-and-coming pop princess Mara Liddle describes her own music as “spray-painted in pink and packaged for the TikTok generation”. After being named one of BBC Introducing’s ‘Big In 2023’ artists last year, Mara’s been on a meteoric rise since - and her next stop is none other than our upcoming FEMMESTIVAL X STRAND Magazine showcase in April.

Before the big day arrives, I decide to check in with her to hear more about her journey so far. We start at the very beginning. “In 2022, I released some acoustic songs on Bandcamp. I recorded them all on my phone; it was very DIY.

“Soon after I recorded the acoustic tracks, my dad got COVID. I had to self-isolate with him for a week, which meant I had a lot of time and nothing much to do, so I made electronic versions of some of the songs. I started aiming for a more hyperpop or upbeat pop sound. That kickstarted the creation of my EP, which I made with a producer called JB Thomas.”

Mara cites her musical inspirations as the likes of Pinkpantheress, Charli XCX, and Shygirl. “I wanted to make something that I could enjoy listening to myself, and enjoy dancing around to during live shows,” she tells me.

Speaking of performing live, it doesn’t escape me that like the other two artists on our lineup, Mara also isn’t originally from London. Hailing from Stoke-on-Trent, she actually hasn’t performed in the capital yet, which makes it feel extra-special that FEMMESTIVAL’s showcase stage will be the first she’s taking here. “With it being such a small city, everyone in the music scene knows each other, so it's quite a tight-knit community. It’s nice in a lot of ways, because it gives you some really good connections within the music scene, and you get lots of opportunities to perform locally, but it's also hard to break out of if you want to play elsewhere.

I've been trying for ages to get gigs out of Stoke, and I’m excited to finally have the chance.”

As for what we’ll be hearing her perform, her debut EP Stalemate, released just last November, is bound to be on the setlist. A feminine, hyperpoppy offering which features slippery vocals (‘Oversharing’), peppy garage drumbeats (‘Be Alone’), and dreamy sonic landscapes (‘All Over The Place’), it’s sure to be a set which will start our showcase off right.

Album cover for Mara's debut EP, 'Stalemate'

“It wasn't planned to be an EP at first,” Mara admits. “We made one single at a time, and they just ended up coming together really nicely.

“The lyrics are all about my own experiences,” she continues. “‘Oversharing’ is a song about when I had a year out of university and came back, and wanted to try and resocialise myself but wasn’t sure of my boundaries. ‘Hide and Seek’ is all about trying to maintain a relationship while being away from each other, and ‘Facebook Official’ is about how social media influences relationships these days. It all captures how it feels to navigate being in your early 20s, and I think it’s been a good outlet for my emotions.

"That’s also why my image, and the concept behind the album, is very pink. I think I’m particularly drawn to bright colours and patterns as a way of clinging onto a sense of childhood innocence and fun. It encapsulates my reluctance to ‘grow up’ in the same way my lyrics do.”

Nevertheless, Stalemate isn’t all we can expect from Mara’s performance. I ask her what else she’s got in the pipeline for 2024. “I recently made a bunch of new songs. I headlined a local festival last year, called Cable Festival, and we realised while preparing for the performance that I didn't have enough material for a headline set. So we made five songs in five days, all of which I think are really cool! They need a little bit more development, but hopefully they'll be released at some point soon, along with some other songs I’ve been working on.”

New music isn’t the only thing Mara’s been working on either - her live setup has recently been upgraded to feature more fun effects, including live autotune, I’m told. On top of that, “I also like to dance and get the audience involved if I can,” she says. “When the audience is having a good time, I always feel more empowered to add to my performance and dance around more! I hope it's gonna be a fun time for everyone.”

We’re sure it will be, with such a superstar lineup in store. Mara agrees. “It’ll be fun! I'm especially looking forward to seeing the other artists’ performances, since I think they’re very cool. I'm nervous too, of course, but overall very excited!”

Don't miss out on catching Mara's opening set at our 2 April showcase — tickets cost £9 and can be purchased via DICE.