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Mae Muller talks Club NME and being “at peace” with Eurovision

Mae Muller has spoken to NME about leaving her record label to become an independent artist, feeling “at peace” with Eurovision and headlining this week’s Club NME event.

The 26-year-old singer-songwriter will take to the stage at London’s Scala on Friday (April 12) for a live headline set. She’ll be joined on the night by Self Esteem and special guest Raven Mandella – both of whom will be hitting the decks to DJ into the early hours.

The legendary Club NME series returned last September with Courteeners playing in London before Blossoms delivered a special show in Manchester earlier this year. Ahead of Club NME’s latest edition on Friday, Muller revealed that her set will include songs from her debut album, 2023’s ‘Sorry I’m Late‘, that she’s never performed live before.

Muller also said she’s feeling “really excited” to sing her hit Eurovision bop ‘I Wrote A Song’ with a live band. “I actually way prefer performing it with a band because it just opens everything up,” she said.

Muller promised to cherry-pick “anything kind of upbeat” from her discography to match the floor-filling energy of Self Esteem and Raven Mandella’s DJ sets. “I know Raven knows how to get the party started so the audience is going to be super-warmed up when I come on,” she said. “And that definitely gives me big shoes to fill.”

Club NME. CREDIT: NME

Of appearing on the Club NME bill alongside Self Esteem, whose 2021 album ‘Prioritise Pleasure‘ was nominated for the Mercury Prize, Muller said: “She’s so cool and such an inspiration – I love women that are amazing storytellers. So I’m really looking forward to seeing her again.”

Muller represented the UK at last May’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, where she finished 25th in the grand final. She and many pop fans were bitterly disappointed with this result, particularly because ‘I Wrote A Song’ went on to become a UK Top 10 hit. “I feel like I’m only just now processing what happened,” Muller told NME. “I had a bit of a moment the other day where I was like, ‘This time last year, I was really in the thick of it.’”

At next month’s Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden, the UK will be represented by Olly Alexander with his dance-pop banger ‘Dizzy’. “I won’t lie, I’m not deep into Eurovision this year just for my own mental [health], but obviously I’ve listened to Olly’s song,” Muller said. “I would have listened to it anyway because I love him. And I love it. I think it’s exactly what a lot of the competition is about: it’s fun, it’s joyous and the video’s amazing. I think he’ll smash it. He’s such an amazing performer and I’m super-excited for him.”

Last September, four months after her own Eurovision journey came to an end, Muller released her debut album ‘Sorry I’m Late’. Since then, she’s taken time away from the spotlight to regroup and reflect on her career goals. “I went on holiday, I did some driving lessons – I just took time to do, like, human things because my soul needed it,” she said.

In January, Muller revealed in a TikTok video that she had decided to leave Capitol Records UK, the major label she signed to more than five years earlier. She also announced that she had parted ways with her longtime management team.

“When I posted that, I didn’t think anyone would care because I was just in that kind of space,” Muller told NME. “It was more that I just wanted to get it all off my chest. But it got this amazing reaction from my peers and people I look up to that have gone independent. And I think that reassured me that I’ve made the right decision.”

Here, Muller talks candidly about the highs and lows of her Eurovision experience and entering her next chapter as an independent artist.

Mae Muller live in London, 2023 (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images for Smirnoff)
Mae Muller live in London, 2023 (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images for Smirnoff)

NME: Hi Mae. What made you make those big career decisions at the start of the year?

Mae Muller: “You know, I had been with the same team – major label, major management company – for five years and they did some amazing things. But I just wasn’t enjoying it any more. The music I was releasing didn’t feel like me and I was starting to release more music that I didn’t even write. Don’t get me wrong, it was only a few songs, but that’s a few songs too many for me because at the beginning of my career I said: ‘I will never release a song that I didn’t write’.

“So that’s when I had to be really honest with myself and everyone around me. It was scary and a big, big change because when you’re in that machine for so long, you kind of lose sight of whether you can do it on your own. But it ended up being really good and thankfully everything was super-cordial. And now I’m going back into the studio and doing gigs like Club NME. I’m getting out there again.”

In your TikTok post you used the hashtag #rayehelpme. It sounds as though there were clear parallels between RAYE’s major label experience and your own – in particular, you were both told to do dance collaborations to boost your streaming numbers.

“It just feels super-lazy at the moment. I don’t even think it’s major labels’ fault. I just think the music industry is in such a funny place. Even when I first started, developing an artist from scratch and investing in their talent was such a huge thing. But it’s not a thing any more. From what I’ve seen, it’s more like: ‘How can we make this happen quickly?’ And because everything is moving so quickly, people feel like they don’t have time to work on their craft.

“I think RAYE is such an amazing example of what can come out of someone that has fucking worked tirelessly at their craft and and not given into certain pressures – like, ‘Do this [music] because that’s what’s getting radio success at the moment.’ Nobody deserves it more than her and I think her success story gives people hope.”

What is the plan for you now you have more creative freedom?

“It’s all about getting back into writing. I’ve been doing one thing for so long because I was kind of told that’s what I had to do. Now I’m free to write without that pressure of having to impress execs and be like, ‘This will get on the radio.’ I can do what I want, but there is a bit of me that’s like, ‘Well, what is that? What is it you actually want to say?’ At the beginning of my career, I knew exactly what that was. And now I’m kind of figuring it out again. It’s about going back to back to basics as a songwriter and seeing what comes out. And so far, it’s been really good. It just feels really exciting, you know?”

How do you feel about Eurovision now?

“I am at peace with it. I think I’m only just kind of allowing myself to process how difficult it was. And I’m not just talking about, like, the result. I honestly found the whole process like a pressure cooker. It was really hard, but there were so many positives that came from it. I gained so many amazing fans and I don’t even know if I would have been able to release my album if it wasn’t for Eurovision.

“I want to look back and be like: ‘Oh, that was a positive. That was a fun time’. But I think I’m still having to get through the nitty-gritty and [say to myself]: ‘Some of it wasn’t so fun and it did kind of affect me. And that’s OK.’ I’m kind of in that mode now. But it’s good; it’s healing.”

Which parts of it weren’t fun for you?

“It was just the pressure and the sleep deprivation of it all – and it’s weird, because I feel like I’m quite good with pressure. But I think it didn’t feel like my thing. When it’s your own project, you can be like, ‘Well, this is my art so I can deal with all the pressure because this is what I’m so passionate about’. But with [Eurovision], so much of it is not in your control. There are so many voices, so many teams, that it kind of becomes about something else.

“Also, I’d never had that kind of media scrutiny before – that was completely new for me and I was like, ‘What is going on?’ But now I’m focusing on the fact that ‘I Wrote A Song’ brought so much joy. I love that song so much and I knew it was special when I wrote it. You know, it’s a year on [from Eurovision] and it’s still getting played in the clubs. So I can really say to myself that this song has done something good.”

A limited amount of free tickets for this week’s Club NME are still available – you can get yours here or above (limited to two per customer).

This week’s Club NME night is the latest event that NME will host in collaboration with new interactive platform Ladbrokes LIVE. By joining forces with the new entertainment Ladbrokes LIVE hub, all tickets are being kept free, allowing music lovers the opportunity to connect with their favourite artists in intimate, local spaces.

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