Swedish folk/blues/pop musician Marlene Oak discusses growing up around music, her growth as an artist over the years, her new EP Silver Moon and what’s next for her
Swedish folk/blues/pop musician Marlene Oak has been making her dreams of becoming a singer come true since she was a child in Sweden. Growing up on a small island outside of Stockholm, Oak used music as a means of escape, buying her first guitar at the age of 13 and writing her own songs at 14, drawing influences from Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin. She honed her skills as a teenager by busking in the streets of Sweden’s Old Town and was discovered by a passerby. She has since released music and built a following on pub and festival stages around Sweden, enchanting audiences with her folk-rock tunes and soothing voice. She has opened for artists such as Miss Li, Whitney Rose and Susto and has graced the stages of Way Out West, STHLM Americana and Irisfestivalen Festivals. Oak recently released her new EP Silver Moon and is hoping to perfume some shows outside of Sweden in support of the EP. With a sincere love for music and playing live and an open mind and desire to keep evolving her music and trying new sounds, Marlene Oak seems poised for a bright and successful future! You can follow Oak and stay up-to-date with all upcoming tour dates and music news, as well as stream and purchase her music via the following links. Check out “Silver Moon”, the title track from her new EP, below.
iTunes/Apple Music- https://itunes.apple.
You grew up on a small island outside of Stockholm and turned to music as an escape. Did you always have an interest in music? What was your childhood like in Sweden?
I grew up around music, so it has always been a big part of my life ever since I was a child. My grandfather could play many instruments, but mostly he played the piano and I think that inspired me a lot. One day when I was around 13 years old I asked my father if we could go and buy an acoustic guitar, so we went to a music store and bought one. I’m left-handed and we got an right-handed guitar but I didn’t notice that it would be easier for me if I learned to play left-handed guitar. I practiced for hours and struggled to play the chords right. Later on, I learned some songs that I liked with 3-4 chords in them. Bob Dylan’s knocking on heavens door was the first one haha.
You started writing your own songs at 14 years old. What inspired your songs at that age and have your inspirations changed since then? How do you feel you have grown as a songwriter?
I have always loved listening to American folk music, country, blues, soul- simply songs that make me feel something. I’ve been inspired by many great artists and singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jeff Buckley and more. These people have inspired me a lot to write my own songs and I want to give back what music has given me. Music for me is a way to express emotions, so I write. As a songwriter today I’ve learned to be more open-minded and to try new things.
You spent your teenage years busking on the streets of Sweden’s Old Town and were discovered by a passerby. What were those early days like and how do you feel that they helped to make you the musician you are today?
To be honest, I feel like it’s the same as it was back then. I just love to play music and that’s the only thing I want to do. My biggest dream is to make music into a career so I’ll work hard to get there. It has given me a lot to have played street music. I think it has made me more brave and it was a good way to practice in front of people and develop as a musician. I’ve met so many great musicians and writers, so I have learned a lot from them. I’m also very glad to play with my band. When playing with them, I want to get better everyday.
You have mentioned that you don’t feel like your music fits well in the Swedish music scene, where mostly DJ’s are popular at the moment. Have you found it challenging to find an audience for your music in Sweden? Do you feel that your music has found more of an audience outside of Sweden?
I think it’s just that I’m inspired by American folk music, blues and country and that kind of music does not have as much of an impact here.
You recently released your new EP ‘Silver Moon’. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the EP?
I write what comes to me in the moment. Sometimes I find it hard to talk about some things, so music is way for me to clear out my mind and express emotions.
You have said that with regards to having a career in music, that you learn something new every day. What kinds of things have you learned about yourself, being a musician and the industry since you started playing music?
I have had the opportunity to play with great musicians. My bandmates have taught me a lot in developing as a musician, as well as a writer. I want to get better everyday and never stop learning, so I try to be one step ahead, but it’s not always good. Sometimes I think it’s important to rest but I’m too restless for doing that. That’s one thing I’m never learning. I don’t want to see music as an industry. I think it’s important to see music and listen to it for what it is. That’s what it’s all about.
You started out playing solo but have since formed a band. What led you to want to form a band and how did you meet your band members? You’ve said that it always surprises you how songs can turn out when you play them with your band and build a whole different sound based on instruments. What is that process like for you, writing a song and then developing the song with your band?
I played at a charity concert and two musicians came up to me and asked if I had a band. I didn’t so I started to play with them. I got to know their friends and everyone played music, so now some of them are in the band.
From the beginning I often sit with my guitar and write the melody and lyrics and then later on I usually record a simple demo and send it to my band. Sometimes I co-write songs with other producers/writers so it depends. But It’s always one guitar from scratch- that’s why it’s so fascinating to hear how one acoustic song can develop into a totally different sound and it’s still the same song.
Along with playing with your band, you still play solo shows sometimes. What do you love about playing solo versus playing with a band?
I started to play solo at different places- local pubs, cafés, streets of old town and open mic’s, so I’m very used to it. When I’m playing my new songs solo I need to find ways to fill them out with my guitar because you can hear that all the songs are based on many instruments. But It’s good to challenge yourself. I feel very close to the people in the room in a different way when I’m playing solo. But I love to play with my band. It’s like hanging out with friends on stage.
Your previous songs had a bluesier sound, so you had a keyboardist in your band at that time. Your more recent songs are more guitar-driven, so your band right now has 2 additional guitarists besides yourself. What can you tell me about your growth in sound? Has it been a conscious decision on your part or just the natural progression of the band? Do you have other sounds you’d like to experiment with going forward?
For me it’s very important to always be open and try new things. I want to challenge myself as an musician and songwriter. I would feel uninspired if I did the same things over and over again. But I don’t know what will come next, as music just sort of forms during the writing progress. But I have some ideas of more up-tempo songs. I want to try everything.
What’s next for you? Do you have any tours or festivals coming up that you are especially looking forward to?
I want to come out and play gigs with my band, but the music scene here in Sweden is a bit tired, so I hope soon to come out and play gigs outside of Sweden. That would be a dream come true!