Interview | Marika Hackman

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Last week, East-London’s Marika Hackman returned with her new record, ‘I’m Not Your Man’ – a bold musical re-invention that sees her lay her folk-singer-songrwriter identity to rest. A slap around the face for her long-time folk fanbase, Hackman leaves behind metaphors of lakes and meadows and cuts straight to it in her first record away from previous label and management. Marika Hackman was kind enough to take some time out to chat us through the record ahead of its release.  

I’m Not Your Man is out really soon now- how have you found bringing it to a live setting so far? How has it gone down with audiences?
I think it’s gone down well, I hope so. I think as a record it’s a lot more fun than the last one, it’s a lot easier to listen to and hear played live – it’s not as intense. The crowds have been responding really well. I think I’ve only played it live now about six times so it will be interesting to see as things progress and I take it to different countries how it goes down. I certainly have fun playing it on stage.

The first few singles have already had a really warm response – and rightly so. How are you feeling about the whole release?
I’m really excited. The best response I’ve ever had to any releases. Hopefully the rest of the songs are going to connect in the same sort of way. I’m just itching for the record to come out now, I want people to hear it and I want to know what people think.

I was reading something you said in your presser, about being bolder and more direct, I guess, lyrically which has come with a bolder sound as well – what’s changed for you in the way that you write music that sparked this kind of reinvention and confidence to move in a different direction, I guess?
I think it’s down to the fact that I’ve been doing this now for quite a long time and I do feel more confident in a lot of my abilities and a musician and I feel more confident to be more open and frank. Also at the beginning of last year, I left my label and I left my management who I’d been working with for five years so for the majority of that year, I was a free agent. It was a terrifying decision to make and I think once I’d actually made it, it did give me a really big confidence boost. I felt quite empowered by my decision and I felt strong because it was quite a brave moment for me. That definitely continued into me writing much more bold music and being very open. Just getting stuff out, not trying to abstract the music too much, just going with what came out straight away because I had no one to answer to. I didn’t have a manager I needed to send it to, I didn’t have a label that would have told me I need to write in a certain way. I was just doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do and you can hear it all across the record. Now, working with The Big Moon who have such live energy and boldness, they’re punch and incredible musicians. I think it all kind of came together as a slap around the face, really.

I had a chat to Celia from The Big Moon last week – how did it come about that you have most of her band as your live band?
I went to one of their gigs about a year and a half ago and just got on with them really well. After that show, we ended up at The Dolphin in Hackney and you know a night’s going to be pretty wild if you end up there. We all shared numbers and we hung out loads and now they’re just friends really. It felt like a perfect fit to have this band who have an incredible live energy who are friends so I didn’t feel like I was the outsider. They’re really great to work with, I’ve always felt very included in everything. It’s just nice when you get to work with people that you’re really close to.

The album art is so great, how did you come to work with Tristan Pigott on it?
Yeah, I’ve been a really big fan of his work for a really long time now anyway, and I knew before I’d even finished the record that I wanted him to do the artwork for it because I could just tell the direction it was going in. All of the stuff in his art captured the themes I was going for. When I approached him to do the artwork, we discussed what we might do – I said I wanted a group portrait and decided on all of the technical bits. We had a lot of talks about the themes on the record, he had all of the songs, he had the lyrics, and we did a lot of back and forth chats about what different things meant to me and what we should highlight, what references we could put in there and what interested him and how he interpreted things so it was a really collaborative process. After all of those conversations, I left him alone to get on with it for a couple of months which was kind of scary. He doesn’t like to show his work when it’s half done which obviously makes sense, then there was the big reveal. I was terrified, even though I had complete faith in him, but if I didn’t like it, it would be the most awkward thing (laughs). But luckily, when I walked in, because he’s a complete genius, I was absolutely blown away. He did such an amazing job.

I was just playing on your interactive website as well, it’s so fun – where did the idea come from?
That was an idea that came about talking about the artwork which was such an important thing on this record. I’m a very visual person and because there was so much thought that went into it, there are so many reverences in there, it would be a shame if people didn’t have the opportunity to really delve in and have stuff explained as well as get excited about the record. The web designer came up with the game which is so fun and there’s been a few occasions when I couldn’t even complete it because there’s some really hidden references in there. I just really like the way people can explore the record before they’ve even listened to it as a whole. That’s really exciting to me because it means when people actually do sit down and listen to it, they’re going to really be able to understand what I was trying to say.

Once this album’s out, what’s the plan for you this year?
It’s kind of just touring and stuff. Obviously the record’s coming out in June, I’m going to be playing as many shows as possible, we have a few festivals as well. I also want to get out and take it around the world. So I’ll be touring the record for the next year and a half, and I’ve already started thinking about another three so I’m starting to get the ball rolling for that in a writing sense because, well, I might as well (laughs). I find it hard to write on the road so when I do have moments at home, between touring, it’s probably good to start focusing on getting that stuff done.

Do you think you might come to Australia sometime in the near future?
I think so, I hope so. I think it will probably be on the cards. It’s been a while since I’ve been there. I would very much like to come back.

Marika Hackman’s ‘I’m Not Your Man’ is out now, available for purchase here