Wednesday, January 22

French UCLA Extension student pursues pop career after moving to LA

Marie Monti moved to Los Angeles from France to pursue a solo career in music. The music business student in a UCLA Extension program released her first single "Lazy" on Sunday. (Eileen Lising/Daily Bruin)

Marie Monti calls herself a girl on a mission.

Monti moved to California from France in October to pursue a music career while studying music business in a UCLA Extension program. She released her first pop single “Lazy” on Sunday. After moving from around the world to pursue a solo career in Los Angeles, Monti said she sprinkled her French background into her work.

“’Lazy’ itself, and the fact of enjoying life, is very French,” Monti said.

Monti writes her songs in English, which she learned through both her education and personal travels.

The 23-year-old grew up in Dijon, a small town in France, where music was an integral part of her identity, she said. She began playing piano at the age of 5 and cello at age 7. She then attended a music conservatory in Dijon.

“I found with music I didn’t want to do anything else, ever,” she said. “This is my passion.”

Monti started writing songs three years ago while attending a Parisian drama school, Cours Florent. She first realized her passion for singing and writing when she went home for a day from Cours Florent and decided to compose a melody.

“I just wanted to do something nice for my best friend, and I wrote a song for him,” Monti said. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh I love your voice,’ and that was encouraging for me to start focusing (on singing).”

Monti said she dreamed of living in America and knew that Los Angeles was vital to her career because of the concentration of music and artistic people in the city.

In France, Monti said she didn’t think she would be signed because French artists who sing in English are rarely played – they take air time away from commercially big stars like Rihanna.

“They’re not going to get any money out of you,” Monti said. “It was a bit blocking.”

UCLA Extension professor Dina LaPolt teaches a music business class and said there is a bigger market for music in the U.S. compared to other parts of the world.

“The American music business makes 33 percent of the global music business,” she said. “A hit in America is like the Holy Grail.”

When Monti moved to Los Angeles six months ago, she wanted to build a team for her career, including producers and managers. It was difficult as a debuting artist to convince people to collaborate with her, she said.

Still, she considers her move to Los Angeles the right choice because of the people she met. Her manager, Thomas Leijgraaff, met Monti when they were both lost on UCLA’s campus.

After being friends for a couple weeks, Monti said Leijgraaff asked to hear her songs, and she played him “Lazy.” She said he then realized he could support her career, so they became colleagues as well as friends.

Leijgraaff said in France, singers establish their careers at a slower rate than in the United States. Singers continue working on an album after it’s released until the artists reach success, compared to Los Angeles-based artists who only get one chance to make a hit.

Despite the competition in the pop genre, Leijgraaff said it’s beneficial for Monti to be in Los Angeles to propel her career.

“America is still the biggest export country of music, especially for pop music,” Leijgraaff said. “So for (Monti), coming here was the right move to meet people and network.”

Whitney Perkins, the Los Angeles-based director of Monti’s “Lazy” music video, stumbled on her first solo directing project after meeting one of Monti’s producers at a festival called “Night on Broadway.” Perkins didn’t know much about the French industry until meeting Monti.

“She was very open to collaboration, she was really respectful of what I had to bring to the project,” Perkins said. “It was really refreshing, after being in the tough streets of LA.”

The music video for “Lazy” is colorful and upbeat – a pastel aesthetic and a 1960s French twist, letting Monti show off her roots. It’s almost cartoon-like with settings featuring candy and panda costumes, she said.

Monti is currently working on her first EP, titled “BB Blonde.” She said the name comes from her love of the 1960s – the title serves as a nod to the iconic French starlet, Brigitte Bardot.

The EP will also describe the shift from child to accomplished woman, so the title’s “BB” sounds similar to “baby.”

With her new project in the works, Monti feels grateful to have the courage to pursue her dream in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t know anybody in Los Angeles, but I feel like all the artists and the whole industry is concentrated here,” Monti said. “All the people I need are here in order for me to be on my artistic journey.”

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