Growing up on a small island outside Stockholm, singer-songwriter Marlene Oak turned to music as her escape. After spending her teenage years busking on the streets of the Swedish capital’s Old Town, she first got discovered by someone who simply happened to pass by.
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to Marlene Oak? How long has the band been around?
I'm a singer-songwriter named Marlene Oak. I started to write my own songs when I was fourteen and played solo for a couple of years. Later on, I started playing with other musicians and now I've finally got a band together. The instruments are very varied depending on what kind of songs we’re playing; my previously released songs are more bluesy, so back then I had a keyboardist in the band. But the songs that I’ve just recorded now and that are soon to be released are more guitar-based, so we don't have any keys at the moment. Now we're three guitarists in the band - including me. I like to experiment and try new stuff in music, it's always a moving process.
My band consists of the drummer Guido Roos, the bassist Samuel Collmar, and the guitarists Jimmie Nilsson and Johan Nilsson.
What’s the origin of your name and have you changed the name before?
Marlene was actually my mother’s birth name, and Oak comes from my last name Eklund. I haven't reflected upon it that much to be honest. I was younger when I chose that name and I just wanted to have another name than Amanda, which is my real name.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
I write about everything; experiences, my surroundings, things that I find difficult to talk about, feelings and thoughts… life itself. It could be about anything, but it’s mostly just what I feel in the moment when writing. I sometimes co-write with other songwriters and work with producers, but that’s more when it comes to arranging songs and melodies and that kinda stuff.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
Currently, I would say War on Drugs, Jeff Buckley,Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Alabama Shakes.
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
For me, music is timeless. I love to listen to it when it's in a live setting where you connect with the artist in a deeper way.
Some great live albums that have inspired me are Sam Cooke’s “Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963”, Johnny Cash’ “Folsom Prison Blues”, Jeff Buckley’s “Live at Sine-é”, and the legendary Last Waltz.
I think it's amazing how songs can take different shapes and forms, and how they grow. I usually play them acoustically first and then they turn into a new shape when I play them with my band. I like it that way, how it can be so unlimited and where there is no right or wrong. The music I play is very live-based, so it feels great to have a band.
What do you do to prepare for a show? Any flexing, exercises, etc …
I don't prepare that much actually. I check that my guitar isn't out of tune and then I drink one or two beers, haha.
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
We've played a lot of gigs outside Stockholm this year and one of them were on a festival called Way Out West in Gothenburg. It was so much fun and it was the first time that I played on a scene like that. It would be like a dream come true to play on even bigger stages.
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
When it comes to past bands, I would have loved to tour with Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin and Jeff Buckley.
Johnny Cash has always been an inspiration to me. His life wasn't the easiest, but he kept on going and followed his path, the path that he believed in... But I think that it would be kinda messy to go on tour with him.
Janis Joplin is just a great rock legend and I think it would be a lot of fun to hang out with her and the band - Big Brother & the Holding Company. Experiencing the Woodstock festival would’ve be awesome. But that would probably be messy too.
Jeff Buckley is my biggest inspiration. When I heard his music for the first time it instantly caught my attention. I feel complete when I listen to him. His music is timeless, real and true and it would’ve been a huge honour for me to go on tour with him.
When it comes to present bands, I’d love to go on tour with Michael Kiwanuka, Alabama Shakes and Jake Bugg.
I've seen Michael Kiwanuka live one time and it was amazing. His band is incredible. I think it would be a lot of fun to tour with such great musicians, and it would be a very inspiring environment to be in.
Brittany in Alabama Shakes is really cool. Her voice is amazing and she doesn’t hold back. That's what I love about her. It would be really cool to go on tour with these guys, since I'm very inspired by their music.
Jake Bugg is a really great songwriter and artist. I think he stands out in the music world today, just like Michael Kiwanuka and Alabama Shakes.
Anything else you wanna add?
I am very happy to finally release some new music and to share it with people out there. If they like it, it would make me happy, if they don't that's fine to, cause that's not the reason why I'm writing songs. I do it because I love music and that's important to remind yourself of why you're doing it. For me, music is everything and I hope that people can share that feeling with me in my songs. They can pick out whatever they want from it.
What I'm looking forward to most of all in 2019 is to play the songs live, it's a whole different thing to stand there and to express emotions and at the same time connect with the audience. It's a very close moment and it means a lot to me when people show up on gigs.
Next year in January, my EP will be released and I'm hoping that 2019 will be a year filled with music and live gigs.