Through her career so far, British-Lebanese singer-songwriter Tatiana DeMaria has played with a variety of genres – from her punk-rock past as the leader of TAT to producing underground UK hip hop, to the latest spate of R&B-tinged siren songs she’s steadily released of late. Her versatility has made her especially successful at composing soundtracks, most recently contributing eight songs to American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rule, released via Netflix in October. As DeMaria branches out yet again, this time with her acoustic guitar, she’s revisited soundtrack cut “You Make Me,” premiering a video for its acoustic version today via Audiofemme.
Alongside stripped down versions of “Make Me Feel,” TAT single “Anxiety,” and the previously unreleased “Beirut Fire” (written for victims of the September 2020 tragedy, which included friends and family living in Lebanon) this new iteration of “You Make Me” is slated for an acoustic EP DeMaria hopes to release before the year is out, with a proper solo debut set for release in 2021. Her first foray into providing music for a film was Universal Studios’ Blue Crush 2 (also helmed by Girls’ Rule director Mike Elliott); contributing three tracks she performed with TAT – “Jump,” “Heaven on Earth,” and “Soulshine.”
DeMaria says the process of writing songs for movie soundtracks is similar to her “normal” songwriting routine, with one key difference. “I’m following the storyline that’s there and looking to bring equal truth and emotion to that. I’m inserting myself – embodying someone else’s storyline, but pulling from my own truth and emotional experience to translate the scene and moment into sound and enhance it,” she explains. “It’s still songwriting in the same way, but the approach is slightly different.”
Her goal for “You Make Me” was to capture the hyper-romanticized depiction of high school life seen in teen-centered movies, as well as the intensity of those formative first experiences with romantic love and relationships. “Overall, shit was a whole hell of a lot more carefree than being a grown arse adult and life was so new,” DeMaria says. “Inspiration and discovery were constantly walking towards us. After school they tend to lay more dormant waiting for us to seek them out. So it’s a beautiful time, even if you did suffer to a degree.”
With the repeated lyrical image “hands around my heart,” the song conveys the power of human emotion, and with it, the possibility of a darker element, one of suffocation or loss of control. The solemn acoustic version feels less starry-eyed than its synth-infused original, revealing its emotional core. Utilizing space within the sound, DeMaria’s crystal clear vocals act as a sonic salve for lyrics that cut deep. It’s the perfect metaphor for the lighthearted feeling of first love, with hints of perspective from someone who knows what’s on the other side of the coin.
Raised in both the UK and Paris, DeMaria first came to prominence when TAT’s 2004 single “Peace Sex & Tea” charted in the UK’s Top 50. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, creating a vast body of solo work that pulls its influences from a variety of genres. “My influences were The Clash, 2Pac and Nirvana among others,” she explains. “Making music was about the potency of the emotion I felt listening to something and capturing that high for myself sonically as well as hearing the words and relating.”
DeMaria’s creative process is also heavily influenced by her synaesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon in which senses that aren’t normally connected merge. She experiences it in several forms, from physical sensations to frequencies that possess colours that change throughout depending on the emotion, story and production style of a song. “Some parts feel like a face massage, arm tickles, shoulder hugs… When I feel those things I know the parts are working for me. It’s a pleasant feeling,” she says. “The parts and frequencies also have colours. So when it comes to the the mixing process I may want a track to be dark blue – if it’s sounding too yellow to me, I’ll pull down some frequencies to get that blue, warm, squishy feeling.”
It makes sense, then, that DeMaria would excel at composing for a visual narrative, particularly within a film genre that plays with teenage nostalgia. At the same time, sharing the acoustic version of “You Make Me” shows that it comes from an authentic place in her own soul. Simplicity is key to her performance, filmed using two iPhones and a hand-held camera. This also reflects the spontaneity with which the song was recorded. “I was messing with it on an acoustic in the studio in LA. I never really thought about making an acoustic version until someone suggested it… I took a half hour to lay it down and record it,” she says. “I love making acoustic versions of songs in general; it strips them back to the bare essence of the song itself and lets it stand alone, which brings the listener into a different experience.”
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