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03 September 1999
Lene Marlin at 18 - It just went that way...
Source : Puls.no
She probably thinks her life a little strange these days. But you should know that it's a little strange feeling to interview her also. She is 18 years old, and has aligned herself in the startpit for something that looks a lot like the most successful, Norwegian pop-carrier on the international arena ever. No, no, we haven't forgotten ‘a-ha', which certainly was the main attraction for a quarter of a million people at a stadium in Rio! - It's just that Lene Marlin... she has never taught herself anything within music. It just appears, sort of... And who knows if it will ever stop appearing? She is the songwriter-type that does not have to push on even a button. It just...materialize...

Recently she borrowed "Smuget" (top liveclub in center of Oslo: Ed.), to practice. She, two guitarists, keyboards, bass and drums.

- It is coincidental what songs we play; just now we did a brand new song where I only got the lyrics ready for one verse. The point is for me getting used to it, getting used to play in a band. I have never done that before.

18 is a nice number...

That's it. "Never done that before." Well short of a year ago nobody had heard the name Lene Marlin. She was a completely anonymous teenager that lived and went to school in Tromsø. Only her family knew that she a few years ago had acquired a guitar. Listen: 15th. August 1998 "Unforgivable Sinner" premiered on radio. Two days later she turned eighteen.

- 18 is a nice number, she says - and smiles below the quite trendy hood she wears over her head. You can safely say that 18, that's the year when most things happened in the short life I have lived so far.

From nothing to everything - overnight

We want to believe it... And then we ask, if life is a little "strange" these days...?

- Yes, they are. It feels almost like I recorded this demo yesterday in Oslo. It contained by the way a lot of songs that never made it onto the album.

But life, young Marlin, it was life we asked about - not the music just now.

- Life has changed completely. Just that people recognize me on the street, right? It took a long time to get used to. It happened overnight, and by that I mean literally. On Monday I was only Lene Marlin, Tuesday people recognized me. I hadn't even been a mini-celebrity in Tromsø.

So what's on your mind just now?

- I think that it's good to be finished with advanced school (3 years - partly above American high-school level: Ed). Take one day at a time; strictly speaking I need to do that. When I go to bed, I am seldom aware of what plans that is made for the day after. Except for that I am making a new record, that is. The songs are finished.

Hey, I bet you aren't allowed to make another record just now! "Playing my game" is going to sell a few million first!

She looks up under her fringe with a slight question on her face.

- Well, I guess it's like that. Of course I have to give back something to those that expects a visit from me. Over in Japan they have done such a good job that I got no option but to go.

Long time to her next album?

Well now, just in a few weeks she has adapted to the record-industry's need. Somebody should have tried to tell Paul McCartney and John Lennon something like: "You are not allowed to release a new record already." They made thirteen albums in six years!

- No, she says - and firmly rejects that this is some kind of "industry-thinking" - I want to please Japan. It's an incredible feeling, suddenly to have sold a lot of records - in Japan! Also I want to experience things. When we were there a few weeks ago, I demanded a whole day off. I said: "I just need it". And I got it.

Are you nervous?

- Not really...it's a little difficult to explain. I just feel the most wonderful sensation. My dream was to release a record, and I still set low goal for myself. That much I have understood, that you should not take anything for granted in the music industry.

Smart young woman. Smart enough not to make any other plans than those that have to do with music. Not yet, anyway. We remind you about Bruce Springsteen, that daily heard his father say: "Son, this guitar-thing..."

If this is traditional?

Lene Marlins debut-album, "Playing My Game", is a beautiful story - not just commercially. It is straight out a beautiful pop-album. Chemically free for weak songs, and those that are really good - they are of another world, pure revelations. It is very few pop-albums that you can play again and again, without getting tired of it. "Playing My Game" is one of them - even if she is not creating anything new in any sense. Lene Marlins music is very traditional, similar to her arrangements. Production is great, but it's not techno & house & triphop and such. We are talking traditional pop-songs.

- That might be, she says - but I can't answer whether it is "traditional" or not. I never followed a receipt. The songs just became what they are. I feel as if I tossed them together. That might sound a little "up there", but I really feel it like that, - that I tossed them together.

- I have never played in a band, never sung in a choir, and I'm completely blank on music-theory. I am not able to write down my music... I don't really know how to explain this. I record on a low-quality tape-recorder, my guitar strumming - or maybe a little bit piano. Nicely put I have to remember what I'm doing, or then use the tape-recorder.

In other words, there is no abundance of 9's, 13's, plus-accords, susfire, dim and...

- No, no, no!

Suddenly got tired of others songs

A representative of her record-company pops by now and then to ask if Lene could fancy some food, and disappears with a simple Margarita-order.

- It might happen that it changes, but so far I have never felt a need to learn more than the really simple stuff: E-moll, A-moll, F, C, G...

Did you listen especially much to one type of artists?

- No, I listened to everyone... "What kind of Margarita? A Norwegian one, without anything extra, we are going out to eat afterwards, aren't we...?" Where was I again...? Yes, I was always interested in all kinds of pop. I was fifteen when I got a guitar, then suddenly I got tired of playing others songs, and thought that then you might just write your own then...? I never decided, it just went that way.

A hit-formula?

There we go again. "It just went that way." Most teenagers carry a wish to be a pop star. Lene Marlin just became it. And again she thinks it is not easy to answer, when we ask if she thinks it was terrible easy - to become a pop star?

- I don't know. I got so many talented people around me - and so we have just succeeded, in a way. I can't for instance tell what is so special about "Unforgivable Sinner", can you?

No, I guess it's not that easy... Some just seem to have that on intuition, the magical hit-formula.

Do you have any favourite song on the album?

- Yes, number two. I wrote it when we recorded the record.

That's it. That was the way with Lars Lillo-Stenberg (Norwegian singer, popular in the 90's: Ed) too. The producer meant they "lacked a hit in D". the day after Lars came back with "Neste Sommer" ("Next summer" :Ed). Lene Marlin talks about the title track. If somebody asks us, her choice of favorite indicates a very sophisticated and well developed taste." Playing My Game" is a true pearl of a tune, and far from the album's most obvious. The history has parallels to "Brothers In Arms" (Dire Straits). "Money For Nothing" and "Unforgivable Sinner" became singles; the title tracks will prevail as the really grand songs.

Pretty good hourly salary...

Money? The topic is hard to pass by, even if she herself insists, "she hasn't seen even a bit of it yet". She anyhow admits that the money-carousel gives a wonderful feeling of safety. She writes all the songs and lyrics herself, and therefore belongs the level of pop musicians that earn the absolute most.. Know that when music is played on the radio, it falls crumbs onto the musicians - it is the composer and the lyricist that fills the accounts. Lene Marlin wins a small jackpot, almost every day.

- It took me an hour to write "Unforgivable Sinner". Nice to have kind of, I thought. When I think about it, that job was unbelievable well paid...

She emphatically says she still thinks "Oh, God, it's me!" when she sees herself on MTV, believes that she has been assured she has not changed by her friends, doesn't remember last time she went to the cinema, and answers like this to the questions of if she is the type to have read her Hamsun (famous writer first part of 1900's: Ed).

- Not at all! Nope! And I am not even a depressed girl, even if the songs maybe...


The first band she remembers the name of was titled ‘a-ha' ("I knew all, absolutely all the lyrics one song after the other!"), but has none - none at all - relation to Beatles and Stones. Maybe not so strange, she is born 20 years after The Beatles returned from the cellar in Hamburg... We wish her good luck on her journey, and have a feeling she might have been a truthsayer, when she chose to pick her debut with lines that at the same time is both lovely hopeful and realistic;

Heaven is a place nearby
So I won't be so far away

Translated by Staalorm


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