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10 January 2013
The Unwilling Star
Source : Stella
Translated by Tef Johs (www.lene-marlin.info)

Becoming a superstar as a teenager taught Lene Marlin (32) that she could not be responsible for the expectations of others. Her loyal fans suffer from this knowledge to this very day.

THEY ARE STRUGGLING with maintaining the continuity on their website, the driving forces on Lene Marlin's Italian fan club. There is so little to write much about. They are not giving up, they are putting out "previously unknown pictures" from MTV Music Awards 2009, reporting obediently when she once in a while is updating her Facebook page, translating the little there is from Norwegian newspaper articles, and are waiting, hoping that there soon will be another record, or at least a long awaited live performance. But once in a while there is a hearty sigh: "Someone, help me understand, why no live concerts?", an impatient soul is writing. Two thousand kilometers away, in the basement of a wine bar at Bygdøy Allé, Lene Marlin underscores that she has the world's best fans, in all parts of the globe.

- However, the majority of them have probably understood many years ago that I'm not making records just for the sake of doing it, she says.

- Don't you get a bad conscience about these eternally loyal people?

She is smilingly shaking her head.

- I have to do things when it feels right for me, not because others believe I should do it. It has to feel right in the heart and in the stomach.

THE GUT FEELING OF Lene Marlin is well known in her circle of friends. She is not doing anything without her stomach saying yes. The latter ten years it has as a rule said no - to TV-shows, radio-shows, newspaper interviews, guest appearances, premiere partys, awards ceremonies, shows and pranks. Since she in 1998 became a superstar over night and disappeared from the limelight two years later, she has held such a low profile that at times one could almost forget that she exists. Therefore, even her closest friends became surprised when it became known that Lene Marlin was one of the participants in the second season of TV2's success concept "Hver gang vi møtes" ("Each time we meet"), where a handful of Norwegian artists and songwriters are living together for ten days to make cover versions of eachother songs. Following having said no to both the first and the second season her gut feeling suddenly changed.

- I thought I was to feel regret, but it turned out to be an incredible experience. A school camp for adults. Speed-dating! There was little sleep and long days, but I remember that in the midst of it all I was thinking that I was happy that I had joined in. "Hver gang vi møtes" contains a good portion of reminiscing over the artists' careers. Over red wine and bountiful food baskets at Kjærnes farm outside of Moss Lene was drawn back to the not-so-humble beginning.

- I was reminded about many things I had forgotten, and I have forgotten a whole lot, she says.

- It happened so fast and it became so much in the first years that I didn't quite manage to handle it. It was totally extreme.

"OY, OY, I WAS NERVOUS, was fully shaken and had a lump in my stomach", she said. The 160 centimeter tall 18-year-old from Tromsø had just performed the title melody for the new Norwegian movie "Schpaa" during the Amanda award ceremony in Haugesund. The song she had written herself. It was entitled "Unforgivable Sinner". The presale of the first single was the highest the record company Virgin had experienced ever, and when the single finally was released in the fall of 1998 it was the first time a beginner went straight to the top of the VG-chart. This debutant had begun playing the guitar only three years earlier and had performed in public for the first time at Tromsdalen high school's revue earlier the same year. She had been allowed to record a few songs at the studio of NRK Troms after she had asked a girl friend to call for her, and later a journalist asked for her permission to show the demo to Virgin-head Per Eirik Johansen. He understood it at once. That this was something that stood out dramatically from Spice Girls and Aqua, in a good way. The record contract was signed with a clause that Lene should be allowed to finish school, and from that moment the young girl's life was alternating between the recording of the album "Playing My Game" in Oslo and memorizing religion home work in Tromsø.

- I would have been happy only by recording songs in a studio. It was enough for me. I had no ambitions, Lene says.

- I remember so well when I was holding the first copy of my record in my hand. And then, suddenly, it was everywhere.

IT STARTED WITH JAPAN, continued with Sweden and Italy, before several countries both in Europe and Asia caught interest. Lene Marlin became a megastar before she was done with high school education, and the day after her graduation she left the home town for good.

- I didn't really move, there was never any van showing up to pick up my things, but one day I called home and said that I had to buy an apartment in Oslo. I was living at Grand Hotel and got a desparate need for my own place. So I moved into my first apartment with two suitcases, and then I headed for Ikea and bought a bed, duvet, pillow, pot and a plate. It was totally absurd, Lene says.

She was admittedly not that much home in any case, because the constantly growing international success triggered a fierce traveling.

- When you are visiting three countries a day you just don't remember where you have been. One time we returned home, the passport officer asked my guitar player where we had been. We were not able to answer. It all went snowballed, and everything just went completely wrap, she says.

- In the beginning I was very grateful for everything that happened, but when things began to roll faster I remember thinking: It could very well stop now. I don't need more. When the sales rounded half a million I was thinking it was enough. I really wished for it to stop.

It was not just the traveling, not that a planned week off constantly was called off, that she could not be relaxing on the couch or go to a party like her girl friends were doing. There were also the fan letters becoming so intense that the record company denied her reading them. That on an ordinary day three cars with tinted windows and photographers could be standing outside her apartment. She was still only 19 years old. And she was becoming tired.

- If you're pushing yourself too hard and are not allowed time to digest things, it will affect your sleep and nutrition and everything. And when I slowly but surely noticed that my joy disappeared it became much harder, Lene says.

- But you do really want to please people as well. Not to disappoint anyone, not to say no. This was a mistake. I let it go too far. I didn't dare saying no, it was too difficult. So it became what it became.

lene_stella_03e_borderThe Spellemann awards in 2000 turned out to be her last public performance in three years. She doesn't remember standing on the stage in Oslo Spektrum, does not remember that she asked for some quiet concerning her brother's wedding when she was giving her thanks for the fourth prize of the evening. The press reported that her celebrity boyfriend Stian Barsnes Simonsen had been stroking her back several times, but that the couple had only been kissing once. Everybody wrote that Lene Marlin had been touched. In reality, she had been totally out of it. And afterwards it was full stop. While her record was being launched in England, Lene remained at her apartment in Oslo.

- Everything I did or did not do was analyzed. I felt I was in a glass bowl, and everyone was standing on the outside looking at me. It went very well in England, I got nominated for a Brit Award, but I hardly noticed. I was totally indifferent.

- Did you at any time become afraid for your own health?

- I remember thinking I had to take one day at a time. But the pressure made me at times feel like as I returned to a kneeling position, there were somebody there to knock me down again. I had to go that round damned many times to get back on my feet again. I got shy and in periods I didn't leave the apartment for two-three weeks. I didn't want to handle people, not be asked any questions, I just wanted to be by myself. Becoming invisible.

ON THE FLOOR ABOVE people are drinking wine and is having a chat. Here down in the basement - she is a regular guest and have arranged for a quiet place for the interview - Lene is ordering a pizza and a Pepsi max. It all feels so very long time ago now, so long since she in 2003, following three years of silence, totally spontanously brought her guitar on stage at the Frognerveien 6 club, not far from where we're sitting, and said "Hi, my name's Lene". She has released three albums since then, but she has never fully returned to the limelight. Still she is sometimes calling the psychologist who helped her in the difficult time.

- There were many who reacted, it became a huge thing that I was seeing a psychologist. I said it back then and I say it now: It's like going to the dentist. If your tooth hurts you go and get help where you can. There is nothing to be afraid of. I'm not going regularly to the psychologist anymore, but I think it's very pleasant to have the opportunity to speak to her. This is totally natural for me also today.

She is nimble and alert, and all of her being does not quite match the impression created by the press that she is "quiet and shy". She is more confident about herself now, prefering to be a "Woman in her 30-ies" instead of "young girl in her 20-ies". Her friends are also saying that she is an old soul in a young body.

- I've learned a lot from what happened back then. I have become very concerned about that you cannot be responsible for the expectations of others. I have to do the things that make me satisfied - not in a selfish way, but I have to do them for myself.

- Is the anonymous existence you have chosen a result from this?

- Åjaja, Lene says immediately.

- Everything I've done since the first record is based on what happened then. I like that people don't know everything about me, and I have become more careful with new acquaintances. However, when I do get to know someone, I'm opening the doors at once.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED when Lene Marlin met Kåre Conradi in 2007. The wish of keeping a low profile was mildly spoken challenged when she fell in love with one of Norway's most well-known actors, whom in addition was the best man of Ari Behn and part of a relatively celebrity-filled circle of friends.

- This says a bit about how little you can plan. Tactically this was not super clever, but you can't control this, she says and smiles.

- What did you fall for about Kåre?

- I believe I realized I needed somebody who knows what he wants in life. Somebody who is confident and is where he's supposed to be. It was probably a bit challenging preparing to be with me. I needed somebody who had experienced a little, so that I wasn't the only one who had lived a life filled with so many things. It was important that we were on somewhat equal footing.

Friends of the cohabitors says Kåre and Lene is "very romantically involved", of the type that leaves behind sweet regards to eachother on a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

- That is because we rarely see eachother, ha-ha! That is how we communicate. There can be periods of time where we almost don't see eachother despite us living in the same house. When you are in the same industry you understand how the work can be. We are very understanding about eachother. "Now I'm off to New York for a month", I might say. I'm very dependent on this, I like having freedom even though I'm in a relationship. We are very good at giving eachother space. There is no drama.

THAT LENE MARLIN "may be off to New York for a month" when she wants it, is one of the fruits she can harvest from taking full control of her own economy from the very beginning. Today, she has a fortune of 18 million NOK, but she still does not see the point of buying a new car when you may buy a used one. Already before she became a graduate she was earning according to the media's calculations 92 000 NOK daily, but it took a long time before Lene Marlin managed to spend money. Now she has learned that it is okay to indulge in nice things. Just ask the employees at the Chanel-store in New York. There, Lene and her girl friends were able to remain drinking champagne with the store manager long after the doors were closed and the guard had gone home.

- This was a bit peculiar I know, Lene says laughing out loud.

- But then, we had been very good customers that day. I believe they felt we had earned a bit of champagne.

An economic conscience and smart investments have today given Lene the freedom to make decisions based on what she wants the most. And now she is back where she wants to be, where she started out in her girl's room as a 14-year-old: As a songwriter. She is working in London and New York, together with well-known and unknown songwriters and artists. Recently she spent two hours writing a song together with a delegation from the country capital of Nashville.

- Getting to write without performing the songs myself is exciting. If I think that this is for me I'm quickly stuck, because I'm thinking I can't be singing this, not be doing it this way. If it is for others I feel much more free.

She would probably not have written "Good Girl Gone Bad" should she have been singing it herself. Instead, Rihanna came to her after the concert in Oslo in November last year thanking her for the title track of her success album. Lene was more than happy by just having her name in the cover.

- R&B is not exactly your genre?

- No...But this is exactly how it is, writing for others, you can do almost everything. What I find most amusing is to stroll a bit outside what you are most used to. I'm writing a lot of things now that I could never do myself, she says.

- I can't picture myself standing there dancing around, you know.

IT IS A GOOD THING you can sign up for a subscription on TV2 Sumo abroad, because as long as Lene Marlin is enjoying her life as a songwriter the Italian fan club must find comfort in watching Lene Marlin on Norwegian TV. She won't reject the idea of suddenly sitting down and be writing a full album for herself again, but she takes one day at a time, does not have any more dreams she feels the need to fulfill. The one she had was realized in the studio of NRK Troms one day in 1998.

- People ask me if I would have done it all over again. Of course I would have. My whole life today is the result of what happened back then. I would just have done things a bit different, Lene says.

- Don't you miss being up on stage?

- Yes, I do sometimes. But I'm often sitting at home playing at night.

- You are a nachspiel queen?

- Ha-ha. It often turns out that people will ask me to play a song. So there I am with my wine and...okay, then. I'm not the first one to go to bed anyway, Lene says and makes a grin.

- On such evenings I would rather see the morning stay away.


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