“I know how to kill people, unfortunately,” YouTube sensation Marié Digby tells UrbanWire in cheerful tones, her rich Californian accent belying her Irish-Japanese features.

“I’ve had to learn to protect myself ‘cos of some scary incidents. I thought, ‘If I don’t have a guard, and if I don’t have police who can be there right away, I have to be able to protect myself.” So after stalkers turned up outside her home 2 years ago, she picked up Mixed Martial Arts from a Pakistani fighter.

Other fan encounters were amusing and less dangerous. “A couple came up to me in LA, and they did my entire album in cross-stitch, which was incredible! People do ask to have their arms signed, quite often… body parts-but nothing inappropriate! Yet,” she adds cheerily. “There was this one guy who made me 24 different flavours of homemade cookies, and I just sat there in my bus, like, eating every single one.” She demonstrates stuffing cookies into her mouth, setting off everyone in the room in laughter.

Digby gained fame in 2007 after she posted a cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” on YouTube. Shortly after, it was included in an episode of MTV show The Hills, and later on the radio in good ol’ LA, before eventually peaking at Top Ten on Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 charts. The song, popularised by her acoustic take on it, has attracted over 21 million views to date.

“It was crazy,” she tells UrbanWire of the first time she heard her song play on the radio. “I remember driving in my car to a band rehearsal at some crappy, garage-type place. And then I heard the announcer on the radio say, ‘Next up, we have Marié Digby’s cover of…’ I just heard ‘Marié Digby’s’ and I had to pull over, and I just sat there in my car and cried.”

We’re backstage at the Esplanade hours before her Oct 18 show. In Singapore on the Asian leg of her Your Love tour, the willowy 29-year-old wears three-inch heels to accentuate her 1.7m height.

She’s easy to talk to, despite having lived in Los Angeles all her life and having experienced the kind of success most young people can only fantasize about. No Hollywood lifestyle with all its high glamour, glitz and wild parties for her. In fact, when UrbanWire asks her if she has special requests she makes while on tour, she smoothly replies, “Well, I usually ask for 2 pet monkeys, some Moroccan lanterns, 200 white candles, all lit…” Okay, we geddit, and she laughs. “No, I just ask for tea! And if I feel really fancy, maybe some gum.”

So you believe her when she says she’s “kind of a grandma… I like to do anything that old people like to do,” she admits, with a twinkle in her eye. “I love nature, so I like hiking and just going outdoors. And I love baking cupcakes, brownies, cookies.”

Following a brief solo by local singer Natalie Hiong, Marié takes to the stage at 8.45pm in the Esplanade Concert Hall with “My Greatest Mistake” before making herself comfortable at the ebony grand piano at the centre of the stage.

At her show, the crowd of mainly 20-somethings and those in their mid-30s were treated to ballads including the soulful “Beauty In Walking Away” from her debut album, Unfold, and “Breathing Underwater”, the title track off her latest album of the same name.

She’s totally at ease tinkering on the Steinway as she leads the crowd through ballads like “Bring Me Love”, a yuletide song she penned. “Is it too early for a Christmas song?” she asks.

At one point, unable to withhold her excitement, she turns to her fans mid-song. “Oh, my gosh, I’m so surprised! Digbyholics in the house!” she declares, referring to a group of her fans, sparking off roars and whoops throughout the hall.

Between songs, she pauses to share her stories, usually on past relationships. “Spell” was written because of she’d been “in love with a guy who never paid attention to me, except for when I sat down to play him a song for three-and-a-half minutes. Why are my songs always about guys? I feel so stupid!”

We also learn about her fear of singing in front of anyone up until she was 18. In fact, she started learning the piano at 3, but only picked up the guitar at 17.

“I should be WAY better [at the piano] than I am because I’ve been playing it forever,” she admits easily. “But I’m only good at playing my own songs. I’ve forgotten all my Mozart and Bach pieces! I think it might be some Asian Mum thing, to put kids in some instrument class really early on. I remember my fingers being so small, I could barely even reach the different keys [on the piano].”

After inviting a fan on-stage and cajoling him to sing with her, she launches into “Voice On The Radio”, a song dedicated to one of her idols, a musician whose name she carefully chooses not to reveal. Her own voice, true to her videos but sweeter and stronger, shows more control than you’d presume based on watching them, and is enchanting. The ballads, performed to piano on a stage awash in warm tones of yellow and pink, meant many quiet and meaningful moments shared with fans.

The final song in her 14-track set list is reserved for her most popular original song, “Say It Again“. As the familiar notes play while she picks on her guitar, the crowd cheers the loudest they’ve done all night as they jump to their feet to sing along. Following an encore, a moving performance of “Spell”, everyone, Digbyholics or not, left the 2-hour-long show under her spell.


All photos courtesy of Asyraf Rasid at Klix Photography.