|06 June 2005
|Lene among lions
|Source : ELLE (June 2005)
If you are a little girl among big men, you have to use a little cunning. This knows Lene Marlin (24).
- I was so afraid that he was going to be really mad.
Lene Marlin Pedersen had become twenty-four years old, had been living in Oslo for over four years, and sold more than three million records, but now it was like being an amateur again. She recognized the feeling. Uneasiness. Pride. Fear. Enthusiasm. She had rosen early, been drinking a large cup of coffee, and now she was on her way from her apartment at Frogner to EMI Music's offices at Stortorget. She walked quickly. She jogged along. She was about to meet record director Per Eirik Johansen, and Johansen didn't know anything about what was in store for him. He probably guessed that Lene was in the middle of a well-deserved year off. A well-deserved year off after the release of the difficult second album, and the subsequent tour. This was the impression of Lene. That Johansen was hoping that she would be starting to think about making a new record, sometime during 2005. Now it was January, and Lene Marlin had done significantly more than just been thinking about making a new record. In her bag, she had a CD. She had gone behind the back of EMI-manager Johansen. Normally, he would have heard songs underway. He would have given his feedback and suggestions for revisions. However, Lene had dropped the listening séances, strategy meetings, discussions about who was to be producing the album, who was to be making the video, who was to be shooting the cover images, and which countries the album was to be recorded in. She just called some old acquaintances of the production team Stargate in Trondheim, and there she went.
- I should have filmed everything, oh my God, you should have seen his face! I came up the stairs, went into his office, and put the CD into the player. Then there came one song, and then came another one, and another one. He got a longer and longer facial expression. I said nothing, he said nothing. He probably thought I was stopping by with some sketches, but here the songs came, one by one, totally finished, ready to be released, two years ahead of schedule, at least. 'Here you are!', I just said.
- And what did he say then?
- Yes, that is what's so strange, says Lene Marlin, and is smiling broadly.
- He wasn't sour at all. He just said 'Oh my God, Lene! This was the only right thing to do!' I had robbed the head of the record company of every possibility of influencing the result, but yet he was just pleased. Very, very pleased. I was too. Then he said that we had to celebrate with sea food and white wine. That was okay with me.
Lene Marlin is smiling thoughtfully. There have been four months since that moisty night at the fish restaurant Mares in Frognerveien, and we are located in an apartment on Grünerløkka in Oslo. Not in Lene's apartment, but the apartment of one of the EMI employees. Johansen and the record company have reconquered the control over Lene Marlin's career for a brief period of time, and now the EMI employee is sitting at a table a few meters away from us and is pottering with a computer. She has brought out fruit and freshly made coffee, and is telling Lene some now and then that on Friday, there is Skavlan, and on Monday the single goes out to radio, and over the summer the album will be out both here and there. Lene shrugs her shoulders, and says OK. She is unusually pleasent. She is playing songs from her new record. My Lucky Day the first is called. Hope You're Happy is the name of the second, and even though it sounds very much Lene Marlin, there is no doubt that there has been more of both happy and lucky since the last time. This is the first time somebody outside of the company and Lene's closer circle that is hearing this, and Lene does not manage to sit still. She raises up and gets seated again. She is beating the time carefully against the knee.
- There have been so many secrets and hush-hush, she says, and just now it's incredibly strange sitting here playing it for others. I have been looking forward to this, but...
Lene Marlin is twisting in the chair, and is smiling an awry and uncertain smile. She is actually not made for this kind of thing. Not for interviews and launches. Not for the hysteria of the audience. The producers who have been working with Lene Marlin is talking about a talent unlike anything else they have witnessed. Lene Marlin is writing pop songs with a kind of easiness and naturalness that it is almost scary. There is nothing textbook able about it. Not anything nevrotic or ingenious either. It's just a little girl from Tromsdalen who enters the studio with some songs that she has written at home, kind of. She comes, sings, writes some new songs, sings again, and leaves. It is in the meeting with the rest of the world that the complications rise. Those who to a lesser degree care about the music. Those who want to talk about the depression she had. Those who are wondering what her songs really are about. Those who are wondering whether she has a boyfriend. Those who are taking a picture of the house she lives in.
- Why did you record the album in all secrecy?
- It just happened. It wasn't planned, suddenly it became clear to me that this was the way it had to be.
- What happened?
Lene Marlin is waiting a few seconds with the answer. She fumbles a bit, looks down into her lap.
- This is actually a bit difficult to answer, she says.
- I was out travelling, and suddenly one day I got to know that a girl at EMI had died. She was one of those I had been working the closest with, and was a very good girl friend. Being an artist is actually very strange. You get so close to those you are working with. We are sharing the journeys up as well as down, and it is very chaotic, very unpredictable, very intense, and totally impossible to explain to those being on the outside. When she suddenly died, it got so clear to me what is important in life. I thought: Now I have to do what I should do. No phone calls to record directors, no demos, no testing of producers. Just music. What am I messing about with?
In the course of a few days, Lene had travelled to Trondheim with her songs. She started recording them at once, and during a few weeks, the album was finished. There was something virginal about the whole thing. If she got ten years older from the experiences with record number two, she got ten years younger from the experiences with record number three. Nobody knew anything. Not at any point in time did Lene think about what people would be saying, or how much the new songs would be selling. Not at any point in time was she afraid of disappointing somebody.
- It was so much fun! It was so spontanous! There were just a flood of songs. 'Here is another one', I shouted to the producers. 'And another one!' There were nothing of the industry hustle and bustle that was about to get the best of me the last time. No meetings. No phone calls. No show cases. It was almost like being at home in my room in Tromsø again, when everybody didn't give a damn, because nobody knew who I was, or what I was doing.
The collection of songs from the girl's room ended as known with MTV prizes, HitAwards, hysterical conditions among fans from all over the world, and two and a half million records sold. Already when she exceeded ten thousand, she knew that she was about to make problems for herself. When she exceeded a hundred thousand, she got panicky. Not more now, she thought. Not more now.
- Six hundred thousand records! says Lene Marlin.
- That was what I sold of record number two. Six hundred thousand. This was what is supposed to be a downtrip. Do you have any idea of how much that is, or what? Six hundred thousand people walking into the store and say that they want the new record of Lene Marlin. That is quite many, actually! And this I'm supposed to walk about having a guilty conscience for? I knew all along that the second album would be selling less. That it had to be heavier and gloomier. It was totally necessary. I had become older, I had been experiencing so incredibly much, and there were so much that just had to get out. It was my way of moving on, my therapy. However, still it came sometimes; the bad conscience.
- Why is that?
- Because there were so many expectations about me. There were nobody, and then I mean nobody, who was prepared that I was to sell two and a half million records when I made my debut. It was actually totally insane, and the atmosphere a bit ecstatic. We didn't understand what was happening, we were just driving on with all that straps and ropes could hold, and when I started to say stop, when I cancelled appointments because I had nothing to give anymore, then I got a guilty conscience.
Lene Marlin is pulling her breath and looks out the window.
- And if I was to mention two things that life has taught me, despite that I'm only 24 years old, she says - then it is: Do not have a guilty conscience if you are not able to live up to other's expectations. And: Don't say yes when you are meaning no.
Lene is playing a new song. Outside, young people are pattering down the sidewalks at Grünerløkka, unsuspecting about that it's Lene Marlin's new single they are hearing. That which will be this year's summer hit. The example of the new, pleasent, and re-vitalized Lene Marlin. The record company has stated that now Lene Marlin is optimistic, now she is energetic, now she is even glamorous. You probably won't believe this, but it is actually the case that Lene Marlin, on one or two of the new pictures that have been taken of her, is figuring in skirt!
Lene is laughing, and says that this is correct, indeed, they got her to put on a skirt. For the first time in the career, she is wearing a skirt. And there is not much to say about just that, besides that there were airy and cold there she stood in front of a photographer somewhere in Dublin, and that it may be a long time until next time.
- That I have become glamorous is taking it a bit too far, says Lene Marlin.
- EMI must say whatever they want. I can't manage to have a relation to such labels. I'm just being me.
Lene Marlin is effortlessly handing her arms out. It's like she is waving away all sorts of anxiety and depressions in a smaller gesture.
- Now everything is leisurely, she says.
- The record is finished, the pictures are shot, the video has been recorded. I have no clue of where I will be touring, I don't know whether I'll get any vacation this summer, but I don't mind. I'm calm and leisurely. Everyone can walk out the door and get run over by a bus, but I'm not thinking like that right now.
- Now I just have these insane butterflies in my tummy
Translated by Tef Johs
Lene.it and lene-marlin.no thank reporter Joachim Førsund of Elle Magazine for another wonderful interview with Lene - repeating his almost legendary 'Burnt Child' article from October 2003.