Marika HackmanMarika Hackman

Marika Hackman

'My debut album is a melting pot of my semi-anxious state...'

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 9 Apr 2015
  • min read
Ex-model Marika Hackman seemingly has it all: a crystalline voice, heart-breaking songs and bags of kudos from tastemakers like Tom Ravenscroft and Zane Lowe. So why is her music so sad?

The 22 year old London-based songwriter, who released her debut album We Slept at Last in February, excels at creating unfettered acoustica that’s both effortlessly enchanting and steeped in gentle melancholy.

Drawn to writing about the darker side of her emotional life, her cathartic songs deal with love, loss and loneliness.

Sparse constructs flirt round the poppier edges of folk, drawing comparisons to the emotional threads of Bon Iver and the sparkling vocal hooks of Warpaint.

As an avid music fan herself, Marika admits she most admires therapeutic songs that offer emotional release and consolation as much as a great melody.

We recently caught up with her on the first leg of her solo tour of the UK (remaining dates listed below) to learn more about her melancholic musings, her songwriting methods and her musical influences…

You’re on tour at the moment – how’s it going so far?
It’s exciting. It’s bizarre and fun and challenging playing solo again. I haven’t done that for a while and it presents a whole new set of challenges because I feel so much more exposed, particularly early on when I wasn’t into my groove yet. I was still a bit awkward with the chatting!

So do you get nervous before you perform or does it come quite naturally for you?
I don’t really get nervous. I’m not drinking at the moment but normally I’ll have a glass of wine before shows and any tiny nerves that might come through will disappear. I don’t usually get nervous but about five minutes before going on stage at the first date in Leicester, I did feel a little stressed!

How do you keep your pecker up on long tours?
I just get on with it. You need to focus on the task in hand, do it to the best of your abilities and enjoy the shows. It’s pretty chilled out. We usually have a nice breakfast and then I have some time to go and do the boring shit that I need to, and do crosswords, which I enjoy immensely. It’s really important to stay positive. I think you can get in a really negative head space and that’s not healthy. You need to realise how lucky you are to be actually doing it.

What do you get most out of playing live?
Witnessing the connection that your music creates. The studio is fun because it’s all about creative ideas and messing about. But then when you go out and play the songs to an audience you actually see how you can hold a room – which is really rewarding. You get to meet people after shows too, which is also really lovely.

What was the inspiration behind your debut LP We Slept at Last?
I was in a funny head space. I’d just come out of a very long relationship and it was the first time I’d been alone since I’d been education. At the same time I’d just moved up to London and had to get an album together. These things all came to a head at exactly the same time and so I can hear a lot of stuff about being alone on the album. It’s about accepting loss and growing into an adult, and all that stuff that 22 year olds go through. There is desire and rejection bubbling underneath that. It’s a melting pot of my semi-anxious state for three months. I don’t know why I had to put that out for everyone else to listen to though!

That makes sense. There’s a melancholic thread running through all your music… You’re tapping into the folk tradition almost – would you agree?
Yes definitely. That’s the kind of music that moves me and makes me want to write. Melancholy music touches something in me. It gives us the chance to release our own emotions without having to go through the trauma of identifying it first. You can listen to a sad song, go through the emotions and come out the other side feeling better. You can escape in your own sadness but it’s been created for you by someone else. It’s an incredible relief. It seems that the stuff I want to write about is usually quite sad. It’s a cathartic experience for me.

What are your influences? Who’s really moved you in that way?
The first time I really felt it was through Laura Veirs, who I got into when I was about 14. It got to the point where I almost couldn’t listen to her music because it made me feel a certain way. But then I learned to embrace that and realised I enjoyed it. She was a huge influence on me.

You augment your acoustic playing with electronic flourishes and depth – why?
Because it’s fun and it sounds good! I never wanted to be an acoustic folk singer. I just wanted to write songs. Then I was dubbed a singer songwriter, folk, acoustic act which I thought was unfair because I hadn’t had any studio experience or any time to explore other sounds or production techniques. When I got into a studio with loads of fun instruments I got really excited. I think it’s about whatever works really. It’s not a conscious thing. It’s very organic.

How do you write your songs? Do you go into the studio with fully formed ideas?
I write all songs start to finish before I enter the studio, and then we work on them as finished articles that we’re embellishing. Generally, when I have free time and I’m alone I start playing my guitar and that usually leads to writing. But for the last album, I set aside a few months with a routine of getting up early and staying in my room to write all day. It was a writing session – which I never thought I could do until I had to. Studio time was booked and I faced the challenge of writing 12 songs so I just got on and did it. I’m always playing, I’m always writing, but it’s very different when you have to sit down and do it.

Is there a difference in the output when you work consistently?
If I sit down and play my guitar for seven hours every day I’m a lot more prolific just because I’m offering myself more time to write. Intensive writing helps you advance quicker, which is really gratifying.

Is there anyone you’d really like to work with?
At the moment I think collaborating might dilute what I’m doing. But I’d absolutely love to open for Warpaint for instance. That’d be the dream. They’ve always been on my list and I’ve been lucky enough to work through it rapidly, but Warpaint are still unticked off!

Tour dates:


9: Thekla, Bristol
10: St John’s Church, Cardiff
11: West End Centre, Aldershot
12: Esquires, Bedford
14: Portland Arms, Cambridge
15: Joiners, Southampton