It is not always easy to stand by yourself, especially for people who do not feel that their own body belongs to them. They often feel that something is wrong with them and try to suppress their own feelings and thoughts while trying to act as normal as possible in front of others. Austrian artist Mavi Phoenix felt this way for most of his life – he always knew he was a man, although he was born a woman, and hid his true identity for many years. Now, for the first time ever he’s the person he was always meant to be and Marlon is a record that underlines that with determination and artistry.
“I always knew I was a man. My first memories of that go way back,” Marlon tells me. “When I was a little kid, I wished my mother would call the good Lord and tell him I’d rather be a boy and that he was wrong. But I never told anyone that, and there were a few moments in my youth when I was aware of it, but I repressed it. I felt like I had to suppress it, and I thought that I was sick.”
“You have to keep in mind that even though I make music and move in more modern and creative circle now, I come from Linz, a small town in Austria, and there I had no contact with trans people at all. I had no idea that such a thing existed, and I would never have dared to tell my parents when I was young: Hey, I’m a boy. I didn’t even dare to cut my hair or wear it short.”
It took Mavi Phoenix many more years to emancipate himself and became a person who is in control of his own fate. It was other people who helped him on this path. Trans people who uploaded their videos on YouTube and shared their experiences with a large audience. Mavi was able to see that it was possible to live this way, taking hormones and still be healthy. This was the inspiration the singer needed to finally decide to transform from a woman to a man. Since other trans men showed him the way, he decided to follow that path e and help other people struggling with the same problems by making his transformation public.
About two years ago, the musician released his debut solo album Boys Toys – a clear transgender statement that showed the world how Mavi really felt inside and that his decision to live as a man was already set in stone. The release was accompanied by his declaration to change his name from Marlene Nader to Marlon Nader. After the album was released in the early days of the pandemic, the artist went quiet. Because of Covid, he could not play concerts, but he also decided to withdraw from social media and the public to focus entirely on his personal transformation from a woman to a man.
“Honestly, I long for another break. It’s been really good for me and I’m realizing it now that I’ve been active on Instagram again for almost a year and posting stuff all the time. I’m looking forward to the new album now, but after the release I’ll definitely take a few weeks to leave social media aside. When I was offline, I often thought that I could share this moment now, but I actively chose to leave certain milestones personal. I wanted to make a statement that I was doing this for myself and not for anyone else.”
The sound of an analogue guitar
During his two-year hiatus from the public eye, Mavi Phoenix‘s new album Marlon has been written and recorded. It became an album that is very different from his debut record Boys Toys. While the former release was characterized by trap, cloudrap and poppy hip-hop beats, the new album is much more of an indie-pop piece, marked by the analog sound of a guitar that the artist has been exploring for the last few years.
“I have gone through these physical changes and have then used this to show another side of me, which has long been dormant in me. I wanted to do the analogue guitar thing for a long time. Only I have somehow never really dared. But that has long slumbered in me. The guitar with which I recorded the album, I have since I’m 15 years old, so very long and then the time was just right. I think that I just had to do this personal work once in order to make the music that I actually wanted to make.”
Not only Marlon‘s sound is different but also the lyrics. His new record is much more personal than his previous musical work – it’s like a little autobiography. “It’s exaggerated in parts, of course, but it’s really stories that have occupied me, which I then processed in the music.”
Now that Mavi Phoenix has arrived where he always wanted to be personally and musically, one might think that his new sound is THE new Mavi Phoenix sound that will characterize all his subsequent releases. But in fact, this is not the case:
“I have already given up the search for my signature sound. Because I can’t find it, it changes all the time. If you ask me now what the next album will sound like, I really have no idea. I just always drift and just like to make music and try to stay open.
With this album, it was just the guitar that opened a lot of doors for me and inspired me. It gave me a new drive and new creativity. With the next album, it probably won’t be the guitar because it’s too simple. I always need something new so that I also do something fresh and don’t repeat myself. I have no idea what Mavi will sound like in the future.”
The biggest secret
Marlon deals with the things the artist has experienced in recent years – the changes accompanied by personal ups and downs. Depression, sexuality and personal healing are just a few of them. By being honest with his own feelings and speaking directly about his transformation he hopes to help and inspire others. Although it has been difficult for him to talk about a personal issue that he had hidden for so many years.
“It’s better now, but it felt totally forbidden because I always forbade myself to think about it. And the first time I talked about it, I was kind of overwhelmed because it’s my biggest secret that I never said out loud and didn’t dare think about. And now I’m talking about it to random people in interviews, and it’s pretty sick.”
Mavi Phoenix is a great example of an artist who has managed to evolve throughout his own career – personally and musically. With Marlon and its personal story, he’s taken a huge step forward in inspiring and supporting others on their personal journey. And that’s the kind of artists we need these days: authentic creatives who don’t just make music because they can, but because they want to make a difference.
Marlon by Mavi Phoenix is out via Polydor.