Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Marley Edwards. I go by the name of Aria Royal. I’m a vocalist, turning 21 this year. I’m from Pickering, which is right outside Toronto. I started singing in church, like a lot of singers (laughs). Ever since then I just knew I loved music and this is what I wanted to do with my life. Got involved with church choir, got involved with musicals in high school and stuff like that. And yeah, my passion just grew through that.
How did you come about your stage name?
So, when I was younger, I have three older brothers and they would always call me Queen. I don’t know why… technically they should call me Princess, since I’m the daughter. As I got older, I used my regular name as my stage name. But I felt that it took the value of my real name away when so many people would call me Marley. I decided I wanted something different. And when I went on stage, I was kind of a different personality, right?
So I sat down and I was like, “so what should I do?” I really like singing ballads, like that’s my thing. And so Aria is actually a slow song. People say, you know… Italian Arias or French Arias? I chose that as my first name, and a lot of people already have the stage name Queen something so I changed it to Royal. So, Aria Royal. And that’s how I got there.
Wow! A lot of thought went into that!
Definitely. I didn’t want to make it something that was just like, “I chose it because it sounded fun.” I wanted it to be deep and have meaning and to bring out the depth of my musician side.
Now, that’s what artistry is. It has to be meaningful. So, how do you find inspiration?
For writing, that’s kind of a self thing. I kind of just write what I’m feeling at the moment or with what’s going on around me. Performance-wise, I take after a lot of older R&B singers, I’m not too much of a Beyonce performer, like dancing and stuff. I’m kind of a feel it in the moment, gospel performer. So I take after Billie Holiday, or like Jennifer Holliday. That’s a huge one, she’s amazing. A lot of old singers that pour their heart and soul into their music.
You’ll never hear me come out with a sex song. Like not ever. You’ll never hear me cussing in my music ever.
What’s one book that impacted your journey to this point?
Honestly, I’m gonna give a real cliché. I’m gonna say the Bible to be honest. I do go to church, I’m a Christian. And just reading the Bible, going to church on a weekly basis… a lot of my inspiration comes from that as well. And having faith, knowing where I am in my life, knowing what I’ve gone through and that everything is going to be okay. That is a lot of my inspiration through life. Through what I go through, through my music as well.
In what ways do you see your (religious) faith impacting your work?
I think it definitely impacts my content a lot. Because I personally am pretty modest in how I dress and how I act. So I try to keep it nice and clean. Keep the topics appropriate. You’ll never hear me come out with a sex song. Like not ever. You’ll never hear me cussing in my music ever. So that has 90% impact on my music.
So, in a sense, it keeps you grounded.
Yeah, for sure.
You were in a girl group, right? Tell me all about it!
So, ever since I was younger, from watching Cheetah Girls…
(laughs) Cheetah Girls!?
I know that sounds so wack! Haha!
You would think it was Destiny’s Child!
No literally, it was Cheetah Girls. I mean, Destiny’s Child was awesome. They were a little bit on the sexual side for me. Obviously, I loved their music. But I wasn’t too into their image. Ever since I saw Cheetah Girls, they were so female empowerment and just so out there. So diverse and different from each other. I just wanted to always be in a girl group. Like, literally that was my dream. Like if there was one thing I could say I wanted to happen, I wanted to make it in a girl group. So, that was always my mindset.
I went to high school with this girl a little bit younger than me. I co-oped for her class and she came to me and said, “We should make a girl group.” It was kind of like a joke to me, but the Summer came and we were like, “We should actually make a girl group.” So then I called up this girl who actually went to our high school-
Like… our high school?
Yeah! We said, “Hey, you sing! You should be in our girl group”. She said okay… and it was like… Okay! Oh my goodness, this is happening! So we kind of just met up and I arranged most of the music, we all wrote together. The first girl that I started with was our stylist and choreographer. We just got together one day, it’s so funny. The group started with four girls, one of the girls just didn’t have time for it.
Doesn’t that always happen though?
Always! (laughs) Literally everything came together, it was so amazing. We got together three times a week, saw each other all the time constantly. Started writing, put out a vision for what we wanted for ourselves, what people wanted to see through us and through our music and we just did it. We got together and auditioned for the same program I’m doing this year… and we did not think we would get in because we literally started a month before the audition was… and we got into the showcase! It was awesome and we got so many opportunities from it so it was worth it!
And what was the name of the group again?
Well it would be ridiculous for me to stand here and tell you that I’m not a black female because I’m a black female. That’s just what I am.
What’s happened with Keys now?
(We both laugh) So, when you’re in a group — and everybody has been in a group at some point or another. When you’re in a group in school, there are some people who don’t want to put in as much work. Or maybe they don’t have the same amount of drive as you do to graduate the course… It’s kind of like that. Like, a lot of things were one-sided and people weren’t taking it as seriously. It just got to a point where there was a lot of arguing.
There wasn’t a bad vibe when we ended, it was just there wasn’t enough seriousness together. We weren’t on the same page at all times and that’s crucial as a group. Especially if you want to make it in the long run, you have to be on the same page. Everybody has to be driven to do it. It just didn’t work out. There always has to be a flow.
Do you think you lived out the girl group dream?
I think so. I think I did. And now, because I do vocal coaching too. I think it would be really cool if I could be a vocal coach for a girl group but I don’t necessarily think I wanna have that experience again for myself.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from that experience in a girl group?
The biggest lesson I took from that is that not everybody wants what you want. And honestly, it sounds really small and like you should already know that but you really don’t understand it until you’ve been a part of something where you have a vision and the other people don’t see that vision. It’s not that they don’t want it, it’s that they didn’t want what I wanted and it sounds kind of selfish but that’s real life.
You want something, that’s what you go for, right? And sometimes people don’t understand or get it, and they may see something bigger than your picture, but you won’t get what they’re seeing either. If you’re gonna work with people, have someone as part of your art, someone managing you, you need to make sure they’re on the same page as you at all times.
I feel like we all live in a personal bubble, doing what we want for ourselves. We kind of forget that other people are…
Yeah! We’re doing our own thing, we want our own stuff. And it’s really self-absorbed but we all get caught up in that self-absorbed bubble. I think that was a good lesson to learn! Final question on girl groups: You said you love Cheetah Girls. I feel a lot of people are very contrasting on their opinions of Raven recently. After all of the scandals recently, what is your opinion on Raven?
My opinion on Raven .. I think that she is definitely unique. I think that she is a little bit confused sometimes. Honestly, there was one comment… that she said and I was very confused by what she said. “I don’t see myself as a black person – I’m just a person.” Well it would be ridiculous for me to stand here and tell you that I’m not a black female because I’m a black female. That’s just what I am.
I think that there’s a difference between labelling yourself and kind of putting stereotypes on the name black female. And that’s a problem. I see where she’s going with not wanting to be labelled as the typical black girl but to say that you’re not a black female, I mean.. that’s ridiculous to me. So, yeah. I just think she’s a little bit confused. She probably doesn’t know how to react to the situation that was going on at the time, but yeah, other than that. She’s cool, fashionable. I like her hair. She’s cute!
I know that there’s going to be a breakthrough moment and I’m gonna find a song [of mine] that I’m absolutely obsessed with. And that is the song… I literally only want to release the best.
Where is your special place?
My special place is in my room. That’s always been my special place because I grew up in a really big family. As I’m the only girl out of four people, I’ve always had my own room, and they always had to share, which sucks! (laughs) It was awesome for me because every time I wanted to get away from people, that’s where I would go. Every time I wanted to write, not just music, but my thoughts. I like to journal a lot so if I’m feeling frustrated or if I’m super happy, I’ll just write it down. “Today was an awesome day! Here’s what happened…” It’s really corny.
No, I do the same thing!
I just go in my room and lock my door. Even if I’m just bored and have an hour or two off from life, I literally just go in my room, play guitar, and sing random songs. So that’s like my happy place.
What’s your latest fad? The one thing you’re addicted to at the moment?
That’s so hard to say, I don’t really get addicted to things. Like, I get bored of things so easily. My latest fad, okay.. It’s kind of like a fashion thing. But, I’m obsessed with white shoes right now. The last ten pairs of shoes I’ve gotten are all white. They go with everything! It’s so convenient!
What is your favourite performance memory as of yet?
This is so easy. I performed in a musical that was written by my favourite playwright. His name is Lin-Manuel Miranda, which you’ve probably heard all the time because his musical Hamilton is blowing up every award right now. But I got to perform in this musical called In The Heights which was his first musical. And that was by far my favourite performance I’ve ever had.
I know you do a lot of performing, but is there any word of an official release soon?
People ask me this 24/7. Honestly, it’s so hard for me to get in the studio and start recording stuff. I’m performing constantly so it takes away from a lot of the creative time I have. I’m trying to get music out and I’m trying to keep up with covers so people can listen online and stuff. So I am working towards getting a single out, and an EP. No idea on a release date but I’ll definitely let you know when I’ve figured it out!
I write at least three times a week, and I try to keep fresh ideas and I have verses here and there. Choruses here and there. And I need something to come together, but I’m not ready to release into the world yet. But I know that there’s going to be a breakthrough moment and I’m gonna find a song that I’m absolutely obsessed with. And that is the song… I literally only want to release the best
Music helped me express myself and to become who I am today.
What started all this?
It started with self expression. I’m gonna be really sobby right now, like honestly, growing up… my dad’s a pastor, growing up as a pastor’s kid. Being the last child, the only girl. You don’t really get to express yourself a lot. And that’s literally in any family. When you’re the youngest, you’re not really pushed around, but nobody wants to hear what you want to say. That was always me, I was always very quiet. Music helped me express myself and to become who I am today. Now I’m super social and talkative. I’m able to say what I want to say because I was able to deal with my music first. It all started with me wanting to be able to express myself.
Big news! I tried out for Honey Jam this year and I made it! So I’m going to be doing that showcase on August 11th. Also, I may or may not be singing backup for Vita Chambers. She’s really big in Europe, she’s a Toronto artist. So yeah, I may or may not be going on tour with her. It’s not 100%. Also, I’m going to be doing some stuff in New York this September!
Also, gotta put this out there: I’m in the process of finalizing my single. Not gonna give any names, we haven’t titled it yet. But, yes. Keep your ears open.
You never know an artist is from Toronto until they tell you. There are so many different looks and sounds. So many different cultures, it’s awesome.
If you could turn your artistry into a TV series, what would the title be?
It would be something along the lines of Out of Control. (laughs) Literally.
We both came out of West Hill. I was wondering if there was any specific life lesson you attribute to your time at that school or community?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. I grew up in Pickering. I mean, it’s weird to say that there was a little bit of a culture shock when I went to West Hill. The environments were so completely different. I was scared to show up to school in like Birkenstocks and shorts, because who wears that at West Hill? And everyone was wearing like Jordans and dressing like Scarborough. And I’m like… whatever! I’m gonna wear whatever I want because I bought these already.
I was scared that my bubbly personality would be turned down and everyone would perceive it the wrong way. I made a lot of really good friends and met a lot of awesome people because I was just myself. Yeah, I really did learn to accept my own personality. For the first month I didn’t even talk to anybody, but I’m glad I eventually came out of my shell.
What is your favourite aspect of being an artist in Toronto?
Everyone is really different. A lot of places you go, you can identify people and what music they listen to. Like, in the States, there’s the East Coast, West Coast, Nashville. But, here, you never know an artist is from Toronto until they tell you. There are so many different looks and sounds. So many different cultures, it’s awesome.
What advice would you give to upcoming artists?
Don’t be so focused on trying to get famous because that will really take away from your art. Focus on yourself and what you want to express and what you want to share with the world through the experiences you have in life. This is happening with people I know right now. People are being told to conform and fit into these labels of what their management wants, but you’re losing part of yourself in that process. If it doesn’t reflect you as a person, you shouldn’t let yourself be changed or framed into something you’re not. It’s better to be yourself.
How can our readers find you?
If it doesn’t reflect you as a person, you shouldn’t let yourself be changed or framed into something you’re not. It’s better to be yourself.