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September 02, 2007

Marie’ Digby at Hotel Café in Hollywood, CA. August 31, 2007

“Can I squeeze by?” a mysterious voice kindly asked me as it weaved through the crowd inside The Hotel Café on Friday night. Moments later, I realized that this voice belonged to Marie’ Digby, the “YouTube Phenom” (thanks, Carson Daly) whose popularity has exploded since her cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” has been played on the radio and on the MTV’s Season 3 Premiere of “The Hills” (coincidentally, my favorite TV show). In today’s world of user-generated videos and downloadable tunes that flood an already crowded music scene, it is rare to discover an artist who has separated herself from the crowd through these mediums. Digby, whose videos are approaching 2.5 million views combined on YouTube (and is currently the #26 “Most Subscribed Artist (All Time)”), proved through performances of her original material on Friday night that she is much more than a “cover artist.” Now signed to Hollywood Records, Marie’ packed The Hotel Café to capacity and performed in front of an appreciative audience that collectively appreciated being a part of her continued ascent in the music industry.


Marie’s (pronounced “Mar-ee-ay”) warm personality and desire to interact with each and every one of her fans showed a refreshing, humble attitude that has not been changed by her recent success. Beyond Digby’s stunning good looks and hair model-quality locks (I think that’s a real job) lies a fresh-sounding artist who is quickly establishing not only her fan base, but her identity as well. Marie’ Digby is an artist to look out for, not only in future “50 Most Beautiful People” lists, but in the music industry, as her music easily stands up to the best in pop music today.


Greeted with enormous applause from the anxious crowd inside the unusually stuffy venue, courtesy of this week’s heat wave, Marie’ (who somehow managed not to be sweaty) took the stage. After taking a seat at her keyboard, Marie’ opened up with “Mistaken (Better Off Alone),” a catchy, upbeat pop song that was the perfect song to open up her set. While I was familiar with the covers that Marie’ posted on YouTube (and yes, she does post them and no, they are not completely mandated by a record-label driven viral marketing campaign, or “LonelyGirl15”-like mockumentary despite recently popular beliefs), which range from Linkin Park to James Morrison, this night was going to be about Digby’s original music, all of which was by far more engaging than her popular YouTube covers (no small feat).


Even in playful tracks like “Stupid for You,” Marie’ proved to be a hypnotizing presence throughout the night – compelling many of those in attendance to quickly hush anyone who dared steal a note from their anxiously awaiting ears. Normally, I really appreciate a very active on-stage performance when taking in live music, but Marie’s warm personality and strong performances allowed her to “just sing” and have that be more than enough for the audience. A group of three women standing next to me couldn’t help but admit, “I definitely have a huge crush on Marie’!” By the sounds of the applause Marie’ received after every song, I think we all did.

One of my favorite performances on the night was “Beauty Walking Away,” a simple ballad where Marie’s voice and melodic keyboard combined to create one of the more listenable tracks out today. While Marie’s vocals won’t necessarily blow you away with dramatic, mind-blowing runs like a Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, or a Mariah Carey, she never does too much or too little with her vocals and it works! Thankfully, Marie’ varies her sound and avoids the all-too-common risk of having her songs sound the same. As someone who has listened to many a singer/songwriter acoustic type, that’s something that is often much easier said than done and well appreciated when it is done as well as Marie’ did on Friday night.


Before her acoustic performance of Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Marie’ performed “Traffic” for the first time in front of a live audience. The song is a pop-ballad with a rhythmic guitar that utilizes more of Marie’s upper register than many of Digby’s fans would be used to hearing, and it was a good example of how Marie’ varied her sound throughout her set.

Of course, “Umbrella” was a huge crowd pleaser. The acoustic cover of one of this summer’s biggest hits has not only found popularity on YouTube, but iTunes as well. As a proud member of “Team LC” and a not-so-closeted “The Hills” fanatic, I would be lying if I said that the track is not in my “Most Played” list on my iTunes, which is quite the feat considering I am one of those people who listens to the same song on a loop for months on end (Carrie Underwood’s “So Small” currently shares this honor, which must drive my neighbors crazy).


Digby’s rendition of the song brought smiles to the faces of those in attendance and everyone was happy to hang out and sing along under Marie’s “Umbrella…ella…ella… ey…ey…ey…” to the song that thrust Marie’ into “teh intarweb” spotlight. Despite the fact that Marie’ is carving out her own identity, it was good to see that she was still happy to pay homage to the song that has brought her this far. Many times, artists don’t perform their most popular tracks to the disappointment of those in the audience because they are trying to pursue a new image or promote a new album. Luckily, this wasn’t the case on Friday night and you get the feeling that Marie’ won’t ever feel like she’s too good to appreciate where that song has taken her.

Marie’ saved two of her best performances for the conclusion of her set in “Voice on the Radio” and “Unfold.”


Before performing “Radio,” Marie’ revealed that the song was about her falling in love with a singer and wanting to meet him after a concert, only to be discouraged by a mob of girls “with their boobs out” who had similar desires. A few years later, Marie’ was now performing a song that managed to convey the feelings of at least half of her male audience who would jump at the opportunity to be Marie’s 2nd or 3rd boyfriend in a Hugh Hefner “Girls Next Door”-like arrangement (I’d probably clean her toilets, floss her teeth, or provide free mani’s and pedi’s just to hang out). “Radio” is a beautiful ballad that shows a more vulnerable side to Digby’s voice and honestly, it got me a little “emo” listening to it – especially during the chorus where Marie’ reached for some higher notes that were a joy to hear live.

In “Unfold,” Marie’ utilized her rarely heard falsetto on the chorus, which is something that seems to separate Marie’ from many acoustic singer/songwriter types out there who tend to love performing “vocal gymnastics” over all of their songs. “Unfold” is an extremely personal track from Marie’ with introspective lyrics that also really managed to get to me, which is impressive considering that I generally possess the emotional capacity of a children’s department-sized mannequin. It was clear that Marie’ poured out her heart into the lyrics of this song, but it was her performance of the song that set it apart to close out the set.


Overall, Marie’s melodies generally keep it pretty simple, but the sound of her voice is just so pure that I was left beyond impressed with the well-arranged simplicity of her songs. In terms of style, many of her songs are reminiscent of the very best that Michelle Branch ever released. I realize that this might not mean the same thing to everyone, but coming from a guy who had Michelle Branch posters in his room during his freshman year of college and took a lot of crap for it and yet still refused to take them down, it is supposed to mean a lot.

After a well-deserved ovation, Marie’ announced that she would be giving away free CDs outside. Immediately, the capacity filled audience cleared out and the “Marie’ mob” waited in the alley to get autographs and take pictures with the up and coming star.


I was immediately impressed at how Marie’ remembered names of those who she had met and at how genuine Marie’ was with all her fans as she signed CDs and took multiple pictures with fans, who would inevitably be uploading them to MySpace and Facebook immediately upon returning home that night (I cannot say that I have not since done the same).



With a sound that’s easy on the ears and a look that’s more than easy on the eyes, meeting Marie’ on Friday was one of the biggest thrills of my concert-filled summer. I told Marie’ that not since meeting Carrie Underwood earlier this summer had I been so star struck upon meeting an artist (and it’s really hard for me to get so giddy for something unless it involves me getting designer sunglasses) and that was the truth. It is exciting to see an artist like Marie’ at the beginnings of her career and it will be interesting to see what the coming year brings to Marie’ as she continues winning over new fans every day via 425x350 video screens.


Marie’ Digby’s current rise in popularity makes for one of the most interesting stories in music today. While Marie’ is best known for her covers, it is her original music that gives Marie’ the opportunity to impress not only vocally, but as a songwriter as well. Not only is her recent meteoric rise impressive, her story is an interesting narrative as to the different roads that musicians are taking to find success in the music industry today. With a full album currently being slated for an early 2008 release, Marie’ has the sound and talent to make her album one of the most anticipated debuts of the coming year. After her performance Friday night, I’ll not only be back to see her perform, but I’ll be one of the first in line to purchase her upcoming album.

I had the chance to do a brief Q&A with Marie’ after the show and the transcript of our brief interview is included below.

DC: We’re here with Marie’ Digby after her show here at Hotel Café, where you’ll be playing all this month. How did that end up coming about?
MD: Hotel Café is probably the best venue in the area for singer-songwriters. I’ve been playing here for years, but I was accustomed to smaller audiences than have been coming to my shows lately. I played a show in July and it was packed out! That’s when they offered me a residency, which is a great opportunity to create a fan base and get some buzz that way. The first show starts on September 11th and I’ll be here every Tuesday after that.

DC: Your EP is coming out on September 11th as well. What can we expect from that compared to what we’ve seen on YouTube
MD: It’s going to be pretty similar. We kept the recordings very simple. On every one of the recordings, I played and sang at the same time and we recorded the songs in a single take. There’s no cutting of takes, so it’s really raw. The only difference is that there’s a couple of instruments, not just me on the tracks. We added organs to some of the songs, but overall it’s going to be a lot like what people have seen on YouTube and have seen live.

DC: Do you know how many tracks are going to be on the EP?
MD: Yeah, there’ll be four on the EP.

DC: You recently came back from overseas to some surprises, with some radio play and you were also featured on “The Hills,” what was that like to come back and have all this going on?
MD: I think my YouTube was already just starting to take off before I left for-Japan. One of my friends joked with me, “You’re going to come back  and you’re going to be a different person from when you left LA.” I thought that they were just joking, but it ended up kind of coming true! While I was in , I got a phone call from a friend of mine that I was getting played on Star 98.7 [LA Radio station]. I basically flipped out. I was in my hotel room and my whole family came into my room because I was screaming and we were jumping on the beds. Our next door neighbors came by and they wanted to know what was wrong [laughs]. It was so exciting!

DC: Your song being on “The Hills” was a big way that a lot more people started to hear about you. How did that come about and as a fan, do you watch the show?
MD: I can definitely say that I know who Heidi and Lauren are. The music supervisor for the show wrote me an email on MySpace and wanted to see if anyone had contacted me about putting my version of “Umbrella” on “The Hills.” I didn’t believe that he was actually the music supervisor, so I forwarded it to my manager. And there we go, it was on the show! I just had no idea how big it was going to be. I think it was in the closing of the episode, so it had a really good spot.

DC: 3 to 4 million people hearing your song isn’t so bad.
MD: Yeah, it was crazy!

DC: Whose idea was it to do the YouTube videos in the first place? Was it just something you wanted to do?
MD: I didn’t know how to reach as many people as I could in a short amount of time. Playing venues and getting residencies can definitely help, but I knew that it was no where near as big of an audience as YouTube could potentially provide for me. I started doing covers because I knew that I would have a better chance of people randomly finding me, instead of just putting out my originals. The whole point of it was to find an audience and see if there was an audience of people who would respond to my songs and my voice. I never imagined that it would be this successful, especially this fast!

DC: Are you starting to get recognized in public? Can you still walk around like a normal person?
MD: Oh yeah, I totally can. But for example, I went to Disneyland the other day and when I came back, I had a few messages on MySpace from people saying that they saw me, but they were too embarrassed to come up to me. I love it when people come up to me! Life hasn’t changed yet, but little by little, it seems like people are starting to recognize me.

DC: I really enjoyed your original material tonight. I think that many might misinterpret you and think that you’re more of a cover artist from YouTube. When you’re playing these live shows, do you want to play your original material or the crowd-pleasers, the “Umbrellas” and things people have heard?
MD: I think “Umbrella” will be the only cover I really ever play. I never really imagined that I would introduce my music to the world through a cover. It took off on its own and I’m just along for the ride. I would never say “Please don’t play that on your radio station” or “Please don’t like me for that song.” I feel really lucky because artists have to do anything they can to get a chance and if this is my chance or opportunity, I’m totally grateful.

DC: You’ve been in the music industry for a while, even though I think a lot of people think you just busted out on the scene. What were you doing before music? Any odd jobs?
MD: Just a regular, regular life. I went to college for a year at UC Berkeley. I had the time of my life. I started pursuing music seriously when I was 19, when I was interning at Island/Def Jam during the day and I would go to open mics at night. Basically, I was a coffee maker. I delivered toilet paper to Method Man one time. I just did odds and ends, but that’s when I realized that I didn’t want to be on the business side and just wanted to be an artist. I think that was my oddest job.

DC: Let’s talk upcoming plans. You have a full length CD coming out sometime in the near future?
MD: We’re hoping to get something out by the beginning of 2008. I am going to be opening up for Matchbox 20 in October, which is really exciting. Everyday, a new station seems to be adding “Umbrella,” and my hope is that eventually the song will run its course, and stations will start wondering, “Hey, so where are your songs?” That’s a moment that I’m really looking forward to.

DC: You have so many fans who want to come out here to meet you and I think half the guys out here are in love with you. What would you say to all your fans and everyone who looks like they’re here for the beginnings of your career?
MD: I just hope that they’re all as excited as I am for this whole journey. There’s a long way to go and it’s so exciting that they get to see every single step, from making a YouTube video, to being on the radio, to packing shows. I am just so grateful and I think I have the most polite fans in the whole world. They’re so attentive and I hope they stick with me! I hope to be around for a long time as an artist, so I hope they grow with me!

DC: No doubt your fans hope you’ll be around for a while too. Thank you so much for your time, Marie’!
MD: Thank you!

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awesome! she is so hot!


African killers bees black watch (black watch)On your radio, blowin out yo' watts [ZZZH]From Park Hill, the house on haunted hillEvery time you walk by your back get a chill [BLBLBH!]

i would do ANYTHING to deliver toliet paper to method man!!!
Dave i dont know how you keep your ear to the groud on this music sceen so well. truly amazing how you follow all these people and their careers, ups and downs...


DA! Does she need someone to deliver toilet paper to her??? I liked the interview, you are such a mac with these famous ladies!! Lets see....she is 1/2 Asian 1/2 White and she went to Cal, interesting...hahaha. Sounds like it was a great time!


looks like this was a great concert!


I think she looks like a whore, but her version of Umbrella isn't as sucky as that other whore that made it


Oh please....he name is Marie

Nati G.

free mani and pedi JUST to hang out?? sheesh how come I never get that type of treatment? jk...she seems like a cool artist.. eventhough she's a CAL Bear...I think I'll give more than "ella ella ella" a listening!!


Very cool! I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I love Mandy Moore's version of the song, too. Who knew Umbrella would be the most covered song!? It kind of got on my nerves when I first heard it.


when I was in LA one month ago, I came to one of her shows and had a really great time. i think Marie' is amazing, as an artist and as a person.
Great article,
good job! :)


someone just sent her a link for her umbrella cover. it was pretty impressive. it's neat that you got to see her perform live!


Great article on Marie! Is it okay if I post it on http://www.marie-digby.com?


great interview! she sounds very down to earth. would have loved to see her show!


I played the acoustic version of Umbrella and my friends thought i was stupid.. then i heard u one the radio a week later....
u got it girl!! im happy for you!... and i hope u do well in your career.. check my music out!!

Cold Hard Truth

See the Sep 7 Wall Street Journal article. She's been with Hollywood Records for years, and they dreamed up the YouTube viral marketing campaign to drum up fake "phenom" publicity for her debut album. LonelyGirl15 is dead; long live LonelyGirl15!

Colder Truth

If you're going to completely write-off a good artist entirely based on a marketing campaign they had no direct control over, you are incredibly shallow.

Cold Hard Truth

"[She] had no direct control over" the marketing ploy? Hmmm ... yeh, I'm sure the record executive was standing off camera with a shotgun to Ms. Digby's head when she recorded her videos. Or, hey, it's Disney, right? It was probably an animatronic, not even Digby herself, in those videos. Face it, Digby wanted to increase potential sales of her album (or make her record company happy ... however you want to spin it). She decided that, if all it took was possibly risking her integrity, it was worth it. Fine. She's perfectly free to make that choice; nobody got hurt. Only now she's just a wee bit pissed at the WSJ for figuring it out. She even rants on her blog about how the WSJ isn't telling the whole truth. Ummm, Marie, dear, "not telling the whole truth?" Methinks you doth protest too much. (Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to reading "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed.")


The WSJ got the story wrong. I am one the fans who Marie' supposedly tricked, and I can tell you there was NO BIG SECRET. Her signing with Hollywood Records was well known among a lot of her fans on YouTube and MySpace. You could have found out by doing a simple Google search. Also, you could have read it in the comments to her videos. If her fans bought her version of Umbrella on iTunes, they would have seen Hollywood Records as the releasing label. If they got one of her demo CDs at one of her shows, they would have seen Hollywood Records written on it.

Marie' also did a radio interview on STAR 98.7 in Los Angeles on August 2 (over a month before the WSJ article) in which she tells the 12 million or so people in the greater Los Angeles area that she is signed with Hollywood Records. She even told her MySpace friends to listen in ahead of time! You can listen to the interview on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga57t6aTYrc


Thanks for the post, Ed. But doesn't it actually confirm the point made in the WSJ article: namely, that Marie kept playing along with the ruse that she was "discovered" only after her songs were heard on YouTube. "So now, after we discovered you on YouTube and the internet" says the interviewer, "is there an album coming out?" "Yeh," replies Digby, "I'm working on my album now." (Actually, according to Marie's own blog, she already had completed the album in back in 2006. That's an inconvenient fact, so instead she plays up the "ingenue" angle by making it sound as if she has only just recently started working on the album.) "So, you signed a record deal," says the interviewer, sounding a bit surprised. "Yes," responds Digby, again passing on the opportunity to point out that she signed the deal back in 2005. The WSJ wasn't accusing the Marie of lying -- at least not all the time -- but rather of using half-truths and ommissions to try to keep her "amateur" myth alive. Anyway, so what? Everyone in show business lies to some extent; its called public relaions spin! Marie will do fine; she fits right in!


if you like her music, keep listening. if you don't, then move on. why keep harping on when she was signed? your wasting your time!


JaredP, actually it does not confirm the WSJ's point at all. This interview was done over a month BEFORE the WSJ article was published! How could she be running a "ruse" if she told all of LA that she was signed with Hollywood Records? One of the central points of the WSJ's story was that her connection to Hollywood Records was a big secret, and that she deceived her fans by pretending to be an amateur. The interview shows that the connection was not a secret, and she was not pretending to be an amateur.

WSJ's evidence that her signing to Hollywood Records was a secret, boiled down to the fact that she didn't list her record label on MySpace or YouTube. But given that the information is so easily obtainable in other ways (as I described above), the WSJ's argument does not hold water.

I think it's reasonable for her to say that she's working on her album. That album is probably undergoing changes right now. For instance, Umbrella will probably be on it, and it probably wasn't on her original album. And why would she state how long she's been signed? She wasn't asked. How many artists do you know go on Leno or Letterman, and state how many months they've been signed?

Have you thought about why Hollywood Records has not released her album if it were completed back in 2006? Record labels sign thousands of artists every year, but only release albums for a small number them. Most artists are later quietly dropped. According to Marie', the label wasn't planning to release her album, and she feared what would happen next. She started posting videos on YouTube (to generate interest) in order to change her label's mind; it was not a secret marketing effort with Hollywood Records pulling all the strings.


Ed, I'm afraid you're mistaken. The WSJ did not say that it was a secret that Digby was signed to Hollywood Records. Rather, the WSJ said she attempted to keep secret that she'd already had the record deal and an album recorded before posting her YouTube videos. (Writing "None" next to "Record Label" on her MySpace profile was merely her most straightforward attempt.) But, I agree with Jason ... time for me to move on to a different time killer. Enjoy Digby's music; her voice certainly is pretty.


I just have a few last words on this subject. First off, the WSJ did say the signing was a secret. The story title was "Download This: YouTube Phenom Has a Big Secret."

Second, in her MySpace blog, Marie' denies ever listing herself as 'Unsigned' on any of her web pages. Personally, I have never seen her list herself as 'Unsigned,' so I think she's telling the truth there.

For the WSJ to say she attempted to keep her signing a secret, is not supported by the evidence. She's made no secret of her signing as evidenced by the radio interview and the other things I pointed out earlier. You should read her side of the story in her MySpace blog in you have any doubts.

Bill Hallahan

The Wall Street Journal got this story wrong.

The Wall Street Journal article contained factual errors. The post they cited as typical was not representative of what the vast majority of people in the topic wrote. Most were thrilled for Marie. That in itself shows an agenda. The posts are still there, and while it might take some time to find the post they cited, it's very clear the WSJ reporters misrepresented the actual situation.

Marie Digby never lied. There is no comparison to the lonelygirl case, and by the way, she didn't lie either, at least not as far as I have seen.

It always struck me that there is a special term in journalism, i.e. "Investigative journalism."

Here's the other, more accurate side of the story in Marie Digby's own words.


Bill Hallahan

The Wall Street Journal got this story wrong.

The Wall Street Journal article contained factual errors. The post they cited as typical was not representative of what the vast majority of people in the topic wrote. Most were thrilled for Marie. That in itself shows an agenda. The posts are still there, and while it might take some time to find the post they cited, it's very clear the WSJ reporters misrepresented the actual situation.

Marie Digby never lied. There is no comparison to the lonelygirl case, and by the way, she didn't lie either, at least not as far as I have seen.

It always struck me that there is a special term in journalism, i.e. "Investigative journalism."

Here's the other, more accurate side of the story in Marie Digby's own words.


Bill Hallahan

First, I apologize for the multiple posts.

I have more information to discredit the Wall Street Journal article, that should clear up a few things.

Also, just to add one additional point, work continues on albums long after the recording session. Typically, more songs are recorded than can be used, and choices have to be made. There is editing, artwork, photo shoots, writing that little booklet that goes in the CD, etc. The artist can be involved right up to before the CD is released.

So, Marie Digby could be working on her album during the specified time, and, more significantly, since it was not released at that time, and there was no evidence it was to be released, Marie Digby probably considered all public promotion, including youtube, to be "working on her album." And, she would be right.

People take innocuous comments, interpret them incorrectly, and manufacture a conspiracy. It seems very clear to me that's what the Wall Street Journal reporters did.

Here's what I have written that discredits the Wall Street Journal article. I did research.


The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article was wrong about Marié Digby, and there is evidence to show that Marié Digby never lied. To anyone who followed her videos, it's obvious that Marié Digby has always been herself.

The article stated:
"Ms. Digby's MySpace and YouTube pages don't mention Hollywood Records. Until last week, a box marked "Type of Label" on her MySpace Music page said, "None."
However, she had joined MySpace in 2004, roughly 2 years before she was signed, and she merely didn't bother to update a setting, and she'd probably forgotten that setting even existed. I signed up for a MySpace music page, and it could even be missed when first signing up. And, since months after she recorded her CD, there was no indication it was ever going to be released, I wouldn't expect that it would even cross her mind to change her status to signed, even if she was still aware of that setting. Note, her CD didn't come out until approximately 2 years after she was signed, and approximately 4 years after she joined MySpace.
The article went on to state:
"After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal, the entry was changed to "Major," though the label still is not named."
Makes sense to me. There is no point in naming a record label when there is no indication they are going to release your CD. And, given that, who she was signed with has just as little relevance as that she was signed. (Note, the CD, titled "Unfold" finally came out on April 8, 2008. Buy it, it's wonderful).

The Wall Street Journal article also contained:
'Most of Ms. Digby's new fans seem pleased to believe that they discovered an underground sensation.
In fact, the vast majority of the posts were about her music, and not about "discovering" her. For most of us viewers, a huge number of people had already seen her videos when we found her, which were posted long before the WSJ article, so we could hardly claim to have 'discovered her.'

The term "feigning amateur status", used in the WSJ article is completely ridiculous. Marié Digby posted music videos, and expressed enthusiasm, and hope. She was largely unknown outside of Los Angeles.

Marié Digby has posted that a Wall Street reporter talked to Marié Digby for about an hour, but they never asked the questions that would have cleared this up. Instead, they took one response, which merely meant that her signed status wasn't relevant to her goals (and frankly, would have seemed ridiculous in the videos), as meaning she was hiding it.

There were radio station interviews, before the WSJ article, where she mentioned being signed. If she were hiding it, she would have hid it there too.

I gather Marié Digby's family is rather well off. She never mentioned that in her videos either. I wouldn’t say she was, "feigning middle class status," but I'm sure some people would! Sad!

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