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02 August 2003
When did you crack, Lene?
Source : VG
- I feel like a 14-year-old on a first-time date, stuttering and not able to say what I want to say.

THE ROAD BACK: This week Lene Marlin came out of her shell. Nervous, but relieved. Three years and 185 days after she went underground. The success became larger than she could handle.

She was smiling slantingly. Looked down into the floor. It was late Wednesday night, this week. Almost midnight. She had been sitting by the table and had a couple of beers.

- I'm going to do it. Damned, I'm doing it, she said.

She was about to come out of herself that night. She had been avoiding the stage, avoiding the city, the people, herself. In three years and 185 days. Now it had to stop. She got up and left the table, strolled towards the bar-keeper, the old friend from Tromsø, before she said:

- Is it okay if I do some songs? It's possible my record company won't appreciate it, it's beside any plan. But I really want to...

She took her glasses off. Went to the toilet to put make-up on around her eyes. We could study how Lene Marlin built herself up to meet the world again. She came now, with determined steps, towards the stage. Like a gentle bomb.

- Hi, my name is Lene, I haven't played for anyone in three years. I was sitting here in this bar, and I thought...

She drew her breath.

- I don't dare looking at you. I'm so mindlessly nervous. So bear with me. Would you?

She sang. Lene Marlin sang out.

- I'm Sorry, she sang. After three years and 185 days.

Where did she crack? Where did she lose track?

Lene Marlin sits in a room, smiling, she drinks coffee from a cup which has Quiet Is The New Loud printed on it.

- Where I lost track? To be honest, there is a lot that's gone. Just totally gone. I know I was both here and there. But I don't remember. It's all black to me. Whether I was conscious or not, I can't say. In any case, it was very serious. Serious enough that it has taken all this time. Things just came and went without me knowing. And there I hit that concrete wall.

- Is it an illness? An anxiety?

- An illness? I don't know what they call it. I was just thinking: "Now I'm not able to anymore. I can't do it anymore. Stop now!" It came to me, these painful thoughts.

- When were you more afraid?

- There are, as I've said, lots of black holes here. I can't make year one from year two. When you feel you're losing control, that is dangerous, it's a feeling that is not good to have inside of you. My God, I was so worried. It was totally out of my control. If I could have said, "yes, I want to be a pop star". But I didn't want that. I had no clue. Nor did anyone around me. I think we didn't have any clue whatsoever.

- Were you well enough protected?

- Well, you can be as prepared as you want. It will never be the same as when you're in the middle of it. But in the last period of my traveling activities...

Lene Marlin speaks her mind now.

- I feel I should have stopped earlier. I should have stopped earlier.

- When?

- No, but it's noone's fault. Noone to blame. You can cross a line or two in yourself. But when you at some point crosses the last one, the path of return is bound to be horribly long. I could probably have released another record two years ago. That could really have been tragic for me. And for many others.

It was the week when she reached and exceeded one million albums sold that she began to crack. Oslo Spektrum, February 26, 2000. She had an exhausted expression about her. She had tears in her eyes. Despite that she sat there with four Spellemann awards in her lap.

- I pray for peace, for myself and mine. I'm so incredibly, incredibly tired now.

The day after she went home. It had only happened once before in the history of Tromsø Airport that a person had been allowed to be picked up by a car out by the airplane. Lene couldn't stand to walk through arrivals. The thought of the masses, the commotion. She was secretly arranged a passageway into the home city through a rear entrance, she just wanted to celebrate her brother's wedding in peace at home.

- The fact that I'm always hunted, scares me very much, she said. She was to take a month on vacation. It lasted for three years. - I had a dream in life, to get a record deal. Now I just dream of a day where I can forget it all. I was looking forward to releasing the next album, but now I'm not sure if I dare to, she said.

She was captured. There were no exits anymore. It all ended in the psychologist's office.

- It was me alone that seeked out help. If you have a broken foot, you don't walk around limping on that foot. But if you have a bit of buzzing inside your head...you're not supposed to seek help? I'm so glad I did just that. It became completely natural. Without problems. No big deal. It's so silly it's so taboo, this matter. It sure works fine with me, and it's something I want to keep on doing. Because I benefit from it. It's such a great valve to have.

- What kind of help is it? Is it conversation therapy?

- Well, what seeking professional help involves, people will have to figure it out for themselves. I don't need to fill in or give any clear-cut answers on this.

Lene Marlin says she has been hurt a few times. By rumours. By words.

- I remember a debate on the radio. It was about me. It was an editor in a newspaper that said "we demand to know why Lene Marlin is not here, why she's gone". I was thinking "my dear, you're a grown man, you have got to realize that you can't claim something like that". What a sad man. I felt sorry, it was hurting me. I'm not embarrassed by a single thing. Really.

A storm was rising in Lene Marlin's life.

- Do you have a paracet? I have a headache, Lene Marlin said. One day in 1999. She pulled her hat down on her head. They stood on the rooftops and was screaming from the balconies. Lene had gotten a police escort to an italian town she didn't know the name of. She caught her breath, said "damned it" twice, and went on.

Lene Marlin was forced into a new life. Picked up straight from the girl's room in Tromsø.

She was only 18 years old. "She fights desperately for the control over her own life", a newspaper reported even the week before the debut album "Playing my Game" was released in Mars 1999.

- I'm prepared for everything. But I'm an eternal pessimist, said the girl. One day a lawyer came with a comprehensive contract to her in the large break at school. Journalists came unannounced into the classroom.

- Do you feel feel that you have control over your life now, she was asked.

- Do we ever have?, Marlin answered. February, that same school-year: "Tromsø-girl Lene Marlin about to save the record-year 1999 - for the whole of Europe", Music&Media writes, the Billboard of Europe, with capital letters. Lene Marlin, the girl who had never ever stood on a stage. Who did not know a single note. It was like the weigth of the expectations pushed the air out of her small body.

- I have problems seeing myself in a company like this.

Inside the schoold boundaries, her main teacher Hugo Markussen was interviewed.

- "She ran faster than the boys in her class. And when the amount of teaching became too much, she would play some songs for us, like a therapy for the class".

It was one late evening after the summer holidays in 1996 that Lene Marlin was discovered. She was on the bus from the Tromsø centre because her father couldn't find the time to pick her up. She had been allowed to record some songs in NRK's studio. A man approached her on the bus. NRK journalist Egil Pettersen.

- I have listened to you. And I have fallen totally for you, he said. Could he please be allowed to send the demo cassette to a friend in a record company?

Per Eirik Johansen, Virgin Records, just needed half a minute to recognize a jewel.

One year later Lene Marlin rang on the door at the NRK journalist Pettersen's home. She stood on the stairs with a bouquet of yellow tulips. To say thanks.

- I hope you'd want to thank me in a few years as well. I hope I haven't been part of putting restraints on something you won't be as happy about in the future, he said.

He didn't know what a point he had just made.

- I became insecure. If I smiled at people, I feared they would think I was so happy with myself. If I didn't smile, I was afraid they'd think of me as haughty, she explains.

"Little me", she called herself. 160 centimeters. - I'm a small girl at 18 years concerned with things similar to any other 18-year old. Become a graduate, complete school and watch "Mandagsklubben" (The Monday Club) on TV. The only thing I want is to have fun. And I don't want to discuss lyrics, politics, religion and...love.

She wanted to have a grip on life, over the creation of music, about what was being said by her and about her. In her surroundings they said she could be as hard as rock. That she was a control freak. At that time, Lene Marlin could walk gently into the hotel room in Oslo, turn on all lights, check the closets, look under the bed, into the bathroom, it's a bad habit she has, she said, fearing that somebody might be there.

- It all seems so distant, she said. Lene Marlin repeated it like a mantra. She was sitting on the gigantic The Point in Dublin. She sat and held firmly the MTV Award statuette she had recieved as Best Nordic Act. There, outside in the corridors, Bono was winking at her. They circled her, the journalists.

- Are you more happy now than before?, an italian asked.

- Well, when you're sitting alone in a hotel room in Spain, and have worked for 32 hours in two days, then you just wish you were home. Or sitting in a room in Zurich on a Saturday evening, talking to my friends back home before they're going out on town, while I have to go to bed because we're bound for another country at 5 AM the morning after...

At Christmas that year, in 1999, Lene Marlin had earned almost 21 million nkr. The year before she was registered with an income of 22 900 nkr.

- I have taken decisions that I didn't think I'd have to take until I became 30 or 40.

It was about to become even bigger. Lene Marlin made her first appearance at no. 6 in the UK charts.

- Oh, my God. Now we are in Champion's League, cried record director Johansen.

- I don't dare foresee anything about the future, but in many ways I think things speak for themselves right now. We could've sent her around the globe for a year. They are totally desperate for her, he commented.

Even the editorials in the newspapers were about Lene Marlin now.

"We can only wait in excitement for the next boundary she will exceed. There are no limitations for her anymore".

However, that was exactly what it was.

Because it was everyone fighting for her now.

"Lene Marlin has a supporting team which is not concerned with anything other to milk the cow they've been set to watch over", cried the local newspaper Nordlys in an editorial, after having recieved a "no" on a request. "Her supporting team has become a rejection team. It would seem they've put her in an aquarium, where she is to be held distant from the real world". For NRK Troms it also cracked, after her managers had said no to letting her make an appearance in "Sommeråpent" TV show.

- Poor excuse. We discovered her, NRK complained.

Lene was no longer a swan, but a sparrow among vultures. Hans Olav Grøttheim, Lene's right hand and musical daddy at Virgin, could relieve some pressure this week.

- There are not that many editors I haven't told to go to hell during these years. I have plenty of bad things to say about the way media has treated Lene Marlin.

- Be happy, and don't care about what others might say about you, the falling Spice-Girls star Mel C had tried to reassure some months earlier. At that time Lene Marlin hardly knew where she was living.

- I could often sit on a plane without knowing where I was going, she told us.

She could visit 29 cities in 14 days.

- I don't think it's people who disappoint me, I think it's me that disappoints me. Somebody came up with these relations to home. To show how absurd everything was. She grew up in the basement apartment of a blue house far into the narrow Ullsfjord, by Stordalstrand, where there are six houses and no mobile phones can get through.

In the backseat of a car racing through the streets of Tokyo, May 1999, she mumbled:

- I don't think I'd ever get used to this kind of life.

She was making about 92 000 nkr a day now. While Marlin was sitting in the hotel room reading law, the royalty fare meter was rolling.

She was just Lene M. Pedersen. A simple suburban girl that played a little soccer and practising tae-kwon-do, and who liked rough games on Playstation and movies with Nicholas Cage, and who collected teddy-bears. A sensitive soul, a gentle kid in the pop world. The young girl had been like a pressurized boiler, bubbling with undelivered music. She has gotten it all out again now.

Lene Marlin is sitting there, talking fast, can't seem to fix her eyes on anything, it wanders, before it hits. And it is then she makes this little speech:

- Yes, I'm not a politician, I'm not a royalty, I have not come back to rule the country. I'm just going to make some music. No more mumbo-jumbo. I'm not going to distribute tax money or build roads, I'm not going to take any responsibility. That's why I have problems sometimes. People tell me I have to accept some prying into my life. But no, I won't accept that. Am I naive now, by the way?

- No...

- Good.

Lene Marlin laughs out loud, and then she says Thank You.

Special thanks to Tef Johs for having so good translated one of the most interesting and wide articles about Lene


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