Taking a quantum leap with her sophomore, ‘I’m Not Your Man’, Marika Hackman shines bolder and brighter than ever. Her savvy folk receives an influx of Britpop with grungy edges and a tangible sense of humour. Pushing through the boundaries of her debut album, ‘We Slept At Last’, Marika have found a place of creative innovation and empowerment.
The album reaches for the full emotional spectre, from shrieks and giggles to heartfelt loneliness, and yet there are cyclical themes running through the tracks. “It deals mainly with female relationships and female sexuality,” she tells Clash. “It holds a lot of female power, and it’s probably the most direct music I’ve written over the last six years”.
“It’s quite tongue in cheek, there’s a lot of humour on there, but it’s still quite dark. It’s certainly much more grungy and got more shades of pop than anything I’ve done before,” she admits.
The progression is steep from her debut single, ‘You Come Down’, through to her latest, ‘I’m Not Your Man', but it wasn’t only musical growth that coloured the creative process. “I was a lot more empowered. I’d made some really big decisions regarding my career at the beginning of the year; I left my label and I left my management. It’s a huge thing to go through, and I came out the other side of it feeling really empowered”.
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‘I’m Not Your Man’ is a vibrant title for a record. As flamboyant as it may come across, the title is a very honest reflection of the songs. “Straight away, it’s just a punchy bold statement,” she explains. “The record is a bold statement, and I think, in regards to female relationships it could be like; 'I’m like a man, but I’m gonna be a woman'. Or; 'I don’t want to be in a relationship with you', or' 'Oh you’re straight, but I’m not your man'. Like I keep saying, there’s kind of a female power on there.”
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Straight away, it’s just a punchy bold statement…
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Delving into the lyricism of ‘I’m Not Your Man’, the writing is strikingly real. Marika’s strident narrative pierces through every gloomy, sardonic, sad and joyous twist. Is it difficult to dig out something from such a personal place and open it up to people?
“It’s something that I would have struggled with a few years ago. I was younger and less confident, I was also trying to retain a certain privacy,” she ponders. “I still am a private person, but I think what I’ve realized is this idea that I can have Marika Hackman, the artist, and that there can be a split between me as a person, and the artist that I am when I’m making music. Weirdly, that resulted in me being more personal because it doesn’t feel so much like an exposing thing. I felt more bold to talk about personal experience without it actually coming straight back to me again.”
Moving our discussion over to how music is perceived, the songwriter is all for people projecting their own personal experience onto her work. “I think, with music, or any art, you can have a very clear idea of what you want to say, but the whole point of it is that it’s subjective and that people are gonna sit down and listen to it, and look at it, and take their own personal experience away from that.”
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Another key aspect of ‘I’m Not Your Man’ is the musical collaboration with The Big Moon, but how did this match made in music heaven came to be?
“I went to one of their gigs and thought they were fucking great,” she says simply. “After the show we like fangirled over them, then realized we got on really well straight away. We just became overnight friends, which was really cool. When I was getting together the idea for this record, and I had the songs written, I wanted that live sound, and they seemed like the perfect fit. So I asked them to come and play, and they said yes, thank God.”
The studio work was geared towards a live sounding record, and if you listen closely there are hidden little quirks like laughter, talking and even thunder, throughout the album for you to discover. “There’s a feel all over it, you know this is real,” Marika insists. “Everyone that listens feel like they’re there experiencing a moment in time, not just some polished product.”
Looking at the varied track list of ‘I’m Not Your Man’, it is hard to pinpoint one outstanding track. Lead single ‘Boyfriend’ shines with a sassy quality, whilst ‘I’d Rather Be With Them’ broods with melancholic solitude. Through the diversity of the album Hackman brings forth the best from her debut, yet there is little doubting the newfound confidence in her creative spectre. “There’s songs like ‘Blah Blah Blah’ or ‘Good Intentions’ where I kind of just say: “Oh I don’t want to be a part of this, I wanna be back on my own.”
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My whole writing process is still a mystery to me…
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While her first album bordered on self-absorbed in its own melancholy, and it’s clear that the table has turned. “It’s important to me that it’s fun,” she says. “For quite a bit I’ve been making quite weird, dark music. Now, I hope people have fun listening to it. You know when a track comes on, and you’re walking down the street and you feel really powerful. I want that empowerment.”
Her writing holds a particular eloquence, yet Marika’s output is still more intuitive than aware. “My whole writing process is still a mystery to me. I can sit down with a guitar and I can write something, but I can’t really work out how, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time.”
It might be a mystery, yet she is still rooted in the musicality. “A big priority of mine is that the syllables sits correctly in the rhythm of the music. That at the high notes you haven’t got strange vowels that sounds really horrible. It’s quite a musical way with the lyrics”.
As a beacon for LGBTQ people, “any song I write that has to do with relationships, for me that’s always with another woman,” Marika Hackman is defying stereotypes. “I’ve never been a girly girl, I’ve never felt comfortable being like that. I guess I’m in an industry where, if you’re a woman, you should be playing up that part, which I think is really weird.”
It’s important for young girls to have someone to relate to, regardless of gender roles, and – in part due to missing that when she was young – Marika is doing her part for girls seeking an entry point into music. “I didn’t know that was possible, and actually, now it’s possible!”
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'I'm Not Your Man' is out now.
Words: Aurora Henni Krogh