Marie Digby, YouTubing to Pop Stardom Unsure of what was happening with her record-label relationship, the singer generated her own publicity by posting acoustic covers of pop hits on YouTube. Now, she's finally released her debut album of original songs.
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Marie Digby, YouTubing to Pop Stardom

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Marie Digby, YouTubing to Pop Stardom

Marie Digby, YouTubing to Pop Stardom

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Marie Digby has been called the girl next door with a guitar. Her debut album, Unfold, hit the shelves last month and it's filled with pop songs that are built around her guitar riffs like this track, "Girlfriend."

(Soundbite of song)

SIMON: Marie Digby broke into the main stage in 2007 using YouTube. She posted videos of herself covering major pop hits by Britney Spears, Rihanna, even Linkin Park. To date, her YouTube videos have had more than 16 million views. Marie Digby joins us now from the studios of NPR West in Culver City, California. Ms. Digby, thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. MARIE DIGBY (Singer): Hi. Thank you for having me.

SIMON: So how did you - how did you do it? How did you go from recording cover videos in, I'm told your parent's living room to a hit record?

Ms. DIGBY: Yeah, and sometimes they were in my bathroom.

SIMON: Oh, I hadn't been - I hadn't been told that. Thanks for volunteering.

Ms. DIGBY: I chose different parts of my house and I'm coming - kind of running out of new backgrounds. But, let's see, I started posting videos last summer in May and I did it because my record was already finished. I wasn't really sure what was going to happen with the album and I wanted to speed things along, so I think, you know, why not post some videos and see if people react.

SIMON: How do you get to 16 million views?

Ms. DIGBY: You know what, not to brag, but I think it's closer to 22 million now.

SIMON: Hold on, let me count.

Ms. DIGBY: Yeah.

SIMON: Yep, you're right.

Ms. DIGBY: How did it happen? I think it was just choosing the right songs. For instance, with Umbrella, I did that cover as soon as I heard it for the first time on the radio, so I feel like I caught this...

SIMON: This - this is Rihanna's song.

Ms. DIGBY: Rihanna's song "Umbrella."

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. DIGBY: I heard it on the radio last summer and I did the cover that first day that I heard the song on the radio and so in a lot of ways I felt like I caught the song as it was starting to climb up the charts and it was good timing.

(Soundbite of song)

SIMON: Now, it's not up to your - there are some people who found it to be upsetting when the Wall Street Journal reported that in fact, you already had a label and a CD, that you weren't just a girl next door with a guitar.

Ms. DIGBY: Right.

SIMON: Well, was it your own perfect relations to kind of present yourself as the girl next door with the guitar and not disclose the fact that you were already beginning to kind of climb a set of golden stairs.

Ms. DIGBY: Well, I don't - I don't see how it was secretive that I was assigned to a label when I was handing out free CDs at every one of my shows at Hollywood Records. Well goes on in and the only place that I hadn't really, you know, stamped my record label's name was my websites because I had started those all by myself and I was writing them and I didn't feel like my label really defined, you know, who I was as an artist, and you know, to tell you the truth, I wasn't sure what my future was the label at that point, so I didn't really feel like it was necessary to brag about being on a label when there wasn't a whole lot going on and it was just me sitting in my house doing these songs.

SIMON: Well, what appeals to you about a song?

Ms. DIGBY: It just has to have a great melody. It doesn't matter what genre it is, it could be opera, it could be rap, it could be country, whatever it is, as long as it has a beautiful melody I can break it down on the guitar and make it sound good. So it's all about the melody.

(Soundbite of guitar)

SIMON: I'd like to listen to another track if we could.

Ms. DIGBY: Yeah, I'd like to. Which one?

SIMON: Fool, anything you want to tell us about this song before we hear it?

Ms. DIGBY: Fool, you know I hardly ever tell the story behind this song. It's actually not about me, it's about my roommate in college, Julie. She's my very good friend and she fell in love with a bad boy down the hall and we all told her that he was - he was no good and that she should look for someone better.

SIMON: They never listen, do they?

Ms. DIGBY: Nope, they never listen.

(Soundbite of song)

SIMON: I'm intrigued by you using the internet as a portal to success because of course there was time - and still is a time in the music industry when people trying to get their music out and to reach the public would, you know, go into clubs and play it. You're going into your parent's bathroom and playing it and you able to reach millions of people.

Ms. DIGBY: I think it depends on what type of artist you are. For me, I recognized that I'm a pop artist and I'm a female and I feel like, you know, as much as we want to think it's a different world, being a girl I do feel like it's more important for me to be young and there's a little bit more pressure on me to have my music out there without five years of being out on the road and trying to create a fan base by traveling in my van and playing for people in coffee shops. I wanted to have the same result, but more quickly. So that's why I started to use the internet.

SIMON: Let's listen to the title track from your album. This is "Unfold."

(Soundbite of song)

SIMON: Now this is your own song, right?

Ms. DIGBY: Yes.

SIMON: And why did you write this?

Ms. DIGBY: Oh man, this song, it's funny when I started writing songs as a 15, 16 year-old, I never did it with the intention of playing it for people, because I didn't think I was a very good singer and it was just - songwriting for me was my journal writing. And to this day, I write songs and sometimes just deem them too personal to play it for an audience and I'll just put them away, and Unfold was one of those songs that I never meant to play for people. But I think what happened was as we were in the studio recording the album, I played a little bit of it for the - for my producers and he - he listened very quietly and it was about three-quarters of the way done and he said, Marie, this is probably the most important song you've written. You must complete this and it has to go on the album. So, you know, I said, shoot. What did I get myself into?

SIMON: Since - you identify yourself as a pop singer.

Ms. DIGBY: Yes.

SIMON: So, would you mind if I try a little pop psychology on you?

Ms. DIGBY: Sure.

SIMON: There are people who say that someone who's a writer never really writes a letter that they don't expect or even hope someday other people will read. Do you ever really write a song with the intention of putting it away and nobody ever hearing it?

Ms. DIGBY: Well, I'm learning that even if I initially don't write a song hoping to play it for people, those are the ones that are the most important because I write them without any kind of filter. I'm not thinking about how people are going to judge me when they listen to the words, so what I have to do is to - to be able to write that honestly without, you know, putting these songs away and not playing them for people for years and years.

SIMON: Ms. Digby, pleasure to talk to you.

Ms. DIGBY: Thank you so much for having me today.

SIMON: Marie Digby speaking to us from NPR West in Culver City, California. Her debut album is "Unfold."

(Soundbite of song)

SIMON: You can hear Marie Digby play acoustic versions of her hits exclusively for NPR on our music website,

(Soundbite of song)

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