Sofia Marques or “mema.” is a Portuguese musician, who was born in Aveiro in 1991. She has always had a strong connection with music, and started to write songs at an early age. After living in Dublin and missing home, she started to explore traditional, Portuguese music, which resulted in her, finding her own musical style and eventually publishing her first single “O Devedor” in October 2019. In March 2020 she released “Perdi o Norte”, which became a national radio success and in the same year, she published her first EP called “Cidade de Sal”.
mema. will perform in Festival da Canção 2021 with the song “Claro Como Água”, which was written by Stereossauro and herself. We got the chance to interview her about her participation.
Olá mema. and thank you very much for taking your time for this interview. Your style of music is very unique and individual, so I’d like to know:
Who are your role models musically? First of all, thank you so much for having me. As for role models, I have so many. Björk is the top one. Then Madredeus, Lykke Li, FKA Twigs, and most recently I completely fell in love with Arca. There are more, but these are the ones that have influenced me the most musically in the last 5 years.
How did you feel when RTP invited you to be in this year’s Festival da Canção? It’s an incredible feeling. I had challenged Stereossauro to do this and I was surprised to hear that he got the invite from RTP, so he was bringing me along. I’m very excited about it, I can’t wait for the performance. And the love from Eurovision fans has already been so amazing. It’s surreal.
Why did you decide to enter the competition? It’s a challenge to myself. I never really thought about being part of the festival, at least not this early in my career. But after the year we had, and with all the hardships from not being able to perform due to the pandemic, I wanted to do something special, collaborate with other producers (in this case I was lucky and honoured that Stereossauro had approached me in early November for another song for his project), throw myself out of my comfort zone and be able to work with artists from other fields too, like fashion and dance. And I think Festival da Canção is the perfect stage for it and sets the perfect mood.
You have released several songs of your own already. How did your musical career start? It’s a very short story, and a recent one. I’ve been making music from a very early age, I’ve had different projects in different genres too. But it wasn’t until I tried to cut off my relationship with music, that I really understood I could not live without it and I had to pursue this career. This was in late 2018. I was living in Dublin, Ireland, and I was getting pretty weary of my life. Depressive moods were getting more recurrent and I was missing home badly. That’s when I began exploring Portuguese traditional sounds and instruments. I wanted to better understand and value where I came from and this rich musical heritage that exists beyond fado. Soon after, “O Devedor” and “Perdi o Norte”, my first two singles, started taking shape, and in January 2019 I moved back home to fully dedicate to the making of my EP “Cidade de Sal”. “O Devedor” got released in October that year with a music video signed by my director friend Thomas Zimmermann whose work I love so much. In March 2020, at the very start of the pandemic, just when Portugal was about to close schools and shut down, against everyone’s advice I released “Perdi o Norte”, and things started picking up slowly from there. People really related to the song, and the storytelling from the music video, this time directed by the very talented Gonçalo Loureiro and his team (Illicit Epiphany Films). I’m very grateful to where it’s taken me. In October “Cidade de Sal” came out, reviews have been very positive, and now I’m at Festival da Canção. I’d say that it’s going pretty well. 🙂
Could you explain, for those who don’t speak Portuguese, what your song “Claro Como Água” is about? Sure. Literally the title “Claro Como Água” means “as clear as water”. The song is mainly about purpose, self-acceptance and striving through hardship. It’s a very intimate and personal song. It took me a while to write it, but when I started it, it just flowed. The thing is, the past few years put everything into perspective for me, and I understood that what kept me moving forward was this dream, possibly the reason for being here. Or at least what keeps driving me forward, that purpose, that little light within that pulls you out of your own dark places (and my mind is full of those). So, this song is in a way a celebration, a turning point where you just know that you’ll pick yourself up after falling down, and that part of that is accepting yourself as you are, accepting your flaws, your ghosts (for me it’s depressive moods and anxiety) and be grateful for what you have. When things become as clear as water, you get a bit more peace. And I feel like we needed that after last year.
What does the Festival da Canção mean to you? It’s an expected event in my life, but a very fortunate one. It means a lot actually. It’s an opportunity to put my art in front of a wider audience and connect on a deeper level. It’s also something that I feel like it’s helping me develop as an artist. From a creative and collaboration point of view. It’s crazy how many people I’ve met and been able to work with already, just from these few weeks running up to the performance. Whatever happens with the voting, I’m incredibly happy to be part of this edition. I really admire the singers and authors participating, we have amazing songs, and anything can happen. Being part of Festival da Canção is being part of history. I’m humbled by it.
Have you watched the Eurovision Song Contest in the past? Do you consider yourself a fan of it? Yes! I’ve watched Eurovision for a long time. I am a fan, although maybe not a hardcore fan (I haven’t watched all editions. haha!). But it’s a show I usually watch with my mom, if I’m at her home. We love to comment on the performances and songs. I loved the edition where we had Conan Osíris representing us, and Eleni Foureira’s song “Fuego” is still on my mind (I’ve noticed it’s a common favorite amongst Eurovision fans!).
What is going to happen if you get the chance to represent Portugal in Rotterdam? I will go insane!!! And cry! Happy tears. And call my mom and say “Mom, I won??” Haha! It would be such an honour. I came to this show with no expectations. I just wanna give it my best and hope that people relate to the song and me, and feel something with it. I think that’s my goal here. If I go to Rotterdam, it’s the cherry on top of the cake. Let’s see what happens.
Have you listened to other songs from this year’s Festival da Canção already? What do you think of the other artists and who do you consider your biggest competitor? I have, yes. I think it’s a great mix of artists and genres, and a good representation of emerging artists too. I think that’s important in this kind of format. I’m very excited about seeing all the performances. I can’t tell at this point who my biggest competitor is, but I really liked these 2 songs: “Saudade” by Karetus and Romeu Barios, and “Volte-Face” by EU.CLIDES. Neev’s “Dancing in the stars” is also a runner-up, I’d say.
Can you give us a taste of what your performance is going to look like? Shhhh, it’s a secret. 😉 All I can say it’s that we’re working with the amazing fashion designer Alexandra Moura for our looks. As for the rest, you’ll have to see it on 20th February. But we’re aiming for something minimalistic, unique and heartfelt. We’re telling a story here.
What are your feelings, when you think of the upcoming days? I’m both excited and a bit nervous. It’s a huge responsibility to perform on TV. It’s my first time too, and I want to be the best I can. But overall, it’s more excitement than nervousness. I just can’t wait to show you what we’re preparing!
Thank you so much for your time, mema. I wish you all the best for the first semi-final on February 20th. Boa Sorte!
Listen to mema.’s song here:
If you want to support mema., you can vote for her in our poll for the first semi-final of Festival da Canção 2021 below: