‘I feel like I’ve finally arrived. Like I’m properly putting my stamp on stuff,’ says London-based songsmith Marika Hackman.
‘Before I wanted to create something beautiful but now I feel I have more of an artistic voice and vision, which is great. I’m very happy that I’ve reached this point,’ she continues.
Marika has just emerged with the killer track Boyfriend after a year of writing songs and recalibrating her career.
A harbinger of what’s to come on her new album, it’s a ballsy statement of intent and a far cry from her earlier work, 2015’s folk-infused debut album We Slept At Last.
Fast forward to 2017, and Marika has swapped her ethereal soundscapes and oblique musings for something much more direct. And, if that first taster track is anything to go by, it will be the sound of an artist in her stride.
With The Big Moon drafted in as her backing band, and all amps turned up to 11, the record promises to set out her stall as a brave new indie-pop force when it lands on 2 June.
She’s just been announced as one of BBC Radio 2, PRS for Music and PPL’s flagship artists at next month’s SXSW, when she plays their joint showcase on 15 March.
Ahead of her trip to Austin, Marika tells us how she’s ‘arrived’, what it was like drafting in her Big Moon mates for the new LP, and why it’s important to champion and support women in music…
What’s the thinking behind your new album I’m Not Your Man?
I knew I wanted to go in a new direction, so it was about seeing what, naturally, I’d evolve into. I didn’t want to force anything, but I did spend some time figuring things out. It’s certainly a lot more frank than anything I’ve ever written before, and I’m happy with that. It’s opened a new door for me lyrically.
How did The Big Moon come to be on it?
I’d written a bunch of songs that definitely lent themselves to a live band sound. I’d met The Big Moon girls before and had become friends with them, but I was too shy to ask. I was terrified because it’s such an awkward thing to ask your friends. What if they weren’t up for it? Luckily they really were, which I was completely blown away by! It was so much fun. As a band, they are incredible. They were the perfect fit for the songs, they brought loads of energy. We had a total hoot.
How do you feel about the record now it’s about to be released?
It’s a lot more open and stripped back than [debut LP] We Slept At Last. I’m using less metaphors and nature references to hide certain aspects of myself and my emotions. I think I’m speaking in plain English now. Musically, most of the tracks are upbeat and fun but with a few dark twists – because I can’t help myself!
Did you suffer from ‘the difficult second record’ syndrome?
Not at all. I left my management and label at the beginning of last year and, having to go through a complete overhaul of my team – and my safety net for five years – felt like the scary stuff. I used music as an escape and let it flow. I was too busy focusing on who was going to fight my corner to be worried about the second album cliché.
It sounds like 2016 was a watershed year for you?
Definitely, I felt quite empowered. I made a lot of bold decisions and I had to follow those up. You can hear it on the record – I feel like I’ve finally arrived. Like I’m properly putting my stamp on stuff. Before I wanted to create something beautiful but now I feel I have more of an artistic voice and vision, which is great. I’m very happy that I’ve reached this point.
How did your past music industry experiences feed into this change?
I came into the industry as an 18-year-old and I didn’t know what it was like to work in a recording studio or go on tour, and have my work picked apart in the public domain. Your confidence grows the more experience you have. I know more now about the industry and about myself as a musician, and what I want to do. I’m more secure and confident to say no to things.
You contributed to Laura Marling’s Reversal of the Muse podcast – why did you get involved?
I think it’s good for us to have conversations about women in music. It’s important to share ideas and experiences on a platform that people will engage with. It’s also nice to hear from a range of people who work across the music industry who have had different experiences. My experience has been incredibly positive. I’m not here to shame men. But I think it’s very important that we keep talking and those who have had bad experiences can share them and get support.
I know sometimes people say we talk about the issue too much now, but actually I think we need to push the pendulum all the way to the other side before it lands happily back in the middle.
You’ve talked before about how the industry turns an artist’s creativity into product. How does that effect the final output, do you think?
I think, as an artist, if you’re too aware of that, or are playing up to that fact, it can get dangerous. The point of being an artist is to make the best music you can and say what you have to say. Like all art, it’s about having a connection with the person viewing or listening to it. I don’t get too wrapped up in the fact that people are paying money for it.
Then, when it comes to the way you’re put out there, it’s about having the confidence to stand up and say, ‘No, fuck off, this isn’t me’ if they put you in a mini skirt and lipstick and shove you in front of a camera. In the past, I’ve definitely been uncomfortable with the clothes I’ve been given but I didn’t have the confidence to say anything. Now I’m annoyed those images appear in the world, but it’s just part of a big learning curve.
You’re off to SXSW very soon – is it your first time?
No, I went about four or five years ago, but only to dip my toe in. I was about 20.
What was it like?
It was loads of fun but I only had two little shows. I was there because The 1975 were there and I had the same label and management as them. So I got to ride on their coattails and hang out in Texas! This time round I’m really looking forward to getting out there and playing some actual shows and having a good time in that way.
What you looking to get out of your trip this time?
Hopefully it’ll be slightly different this time – it’s a showcase festival and I’d quite like to use that for my advantage!
Marika Hackman was funded via the PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music initiative, which announces it’s five year anniversary report today (Wednesday).