There are a few times where you hear a song and something just clicks. You just get it, and somehow, and in some strange way, it seems to gets you too. This is exactly what happened to me when I first heard Marika Hackman’s track “Boyfriend,” something that has been all over our airwaves as of late. A stoic voice and a solid sound, bound by an all too familiar yet intriguing lyrical scenario. Although some of us may be hearing her stylings for the first time, Marika is no stranger to the music industry, and with her second album I’m Not Your Man set to be released on the 2nd of June, I caught up with Marika to chat about catharsis, empowerment and instrumental exploration.
What is it that really drew you to songwriting in the first place, and what is it that you love about it so much?
It’s just kind of a weird one. Like, I remember when I was learning the piano when I was four or five, my instinct was to start trying to write songs on it. I don’t know whether that was born out of frustration because I couldn’t read music that well and I felt like I wasn’t progressing as fast as I wanted to. It was just kind of easier to write your own music to play, rather then try and learn someone else’s. I just started doing it, and then it felt like every instrument I picked up form then on, I tried to write a song on it. I don’t think there was anything in particular that really drew me to it, it was much more a natural instinct for me than anything else.
What instruments are you really focusing on at the moment?
I’m obviously playing a lot of guitar, but I’m also playing a lot more bass, and I’m trying to write a lot more on the bass. I think it gives a very different feeling to the song and there are a few tracks on the album that I did write on the bass, they are actually some of my favourites. I’ll play anything that comes my way really. I might add in a violin or something like that next. (Laughs)
I love how lyrically intricate all of your songs are, but before I kind of get into the context, what do you think it is about songwriting that allows people to tell stories, or say something that they really wouldn’t be able to in ‘real life’?
I guess it’s a confidence thing. If you’re hiding behind the fact that you’re kind of creating something, musically, it’s a bit different. It’s hard to kind of sit down and talk to someone and say an opinion, it can be really difficult depending on what situation you’re in. I think people will just take a song for what it is, instead of necessarily thinking that you’re being really bold and brave for saying that. I also think that people use it as an opportunity as well, you’re connecting through music. You might as well be telling a story, or saying something, or giving an opinion whilst you’re doing that; the door is open when you’re listening to a song.
Do you find that whole process cathartic then as well?
Yeah I think so, I mean most of the catharsis comes from when I’ve written a song and I like it. It’s sort of just the process of ‘Oh ok, I’ve done another one, I can still do it’. (Laughs) But I think it is cathartic too, especially with the more melancholic songs that I’ve written, and there’s a few on this latest record. The only trouble is, is that you have to go back and play them a lot. That can be really… intense, shall we say.
That’s it, having to relive everything that you really got out of you when you were trying to write that song as well.
Exactly, it’s kind of amazing and annoying. It’s about going back to a place again and again and again, that fades over time though. For the first few plays though of a song like that, it’s always quite… actually I wouldn’t say it’s hard, it’s just a bit masochistic really. (Laughs)
What was the last thing that inspired you to write something?
It’s usually when I get a new instrument. I always find that incredibly inspiring. I don’t ever really look at the world or my life and draw specific inspiration from that. When I sit down and play on a new instrument however, a song will sometimes just come out, I have no idea why. It’s probably because I spend a lot more time playing around with it because I’m excited about having a new instrument.
How long had I’m Not Your Man, been in the works for, before things started coming together?
Where are we now, 2017… In 2015 it all kind of started, and I’d written a few songs. Not all of them made it onto the record though, but I kind of started to get the ball rolling. I was sitting down and working really hard that year, but I was also being quite lazy at the same time. I was always stressed out, and felt like I needed to write, but I also wasn’t being very good and sitting down and actually writing. In early 2016 I just started writing songs that were more appropriate for the record. We got into the studio with The Big Moon, about a year ago, and then we had like a few months where I wrote some more songs. It’s a long time but I think my confidence grew over that time, and my songwriting confidence grew over that time as well.
Tell me a little bit more about the lead single “Boyfriend”. I love that it’s that really different take on relationships, especially on infidelity.
That song kind of jumped out of nowhere and I love it when that happens. There’s the songs that you slave over and kind of work into, and work into, and they take a really long time. Sometimes that can be incredibly rewarding, but sometimes you just know in your gut, that they just aren’t going to make the cut. There are songs as well that just hit and you just ask yourself ‘where the fuck did that come from’ and “Boyfriend” was one of those. Although, I did have the instrumental parts for it, for a really long time, but I was missing verses and I didn’t really have any melodies or anything.
One day I just sat down and it kind of flew out of me, those lyrics came out of nowhere. I felt in that moment, that maybe I was ready to be a bit more bold and have my sexuality out there in the open. Not that I was trying to hide it, but to use that in your art I felt like I was mixing my personal life and my public life. Now I feel like it was a really great thing to do. (That song), it’s about dealing with a problem but it’s really tongue in cheek. It’s like I’m taking my own personal experiences and kind of twisting them. I mean, I’ve never actually taken somebodies girlfriend but I took that and kind of made it into a story and had a bit of fun with it. But I also think I’m telling something that’s really quite important too.
You’re about to tour the UK and North America, are you coming to Australia any time soon?
There’s nothing I can confirm right now, but I imagine that I will be coming back to Australia. it’s been probably three maybe four years since I’ve been out there playing. It’s definitely on the cards but I can’t really confirm anything like that at the moment. It’s definitely in the pipeline though, and I’m really really really happy about that, I love coming to Australia.
I was going to ask if you’d been here before.
Yeah I was supporting Laura Marling it was a very different vibe, I was playing a lot of solo shows at the time. It was amazing I had such a great great time! This time though it will be the full band, you know, the guitar and the shredding, all the fun, absolutely all the fun. (Laughs)
I guess finally, what would you hope that fans will take away from I’m Not Your Man?
I think, for some people, maybe a sense of empowerment. I feel like it’s a very empowered record. It’s got this really strong energy to it. But I also want people to be walking down the street listening to it and smiling. Unlike perhaps with the last record where they would probably be curled up in bed crying. (Laughs) Fun and kind of empowerment is what I’m going for, I guess.