If you’ve heard Benga‘s new single “Pour Your Love” doing the rounds of late, and wondered who that lovely lady singing was: then wonder no more. Enter Swedish-born singer/songwriter Marlene, a pint-sized songstress with a stunning set of vocals and a songwriting ability to match. While Miss. Strand may be a relative newcomer to most, she’s been hard at work, especially in recent years, getting a strong foothold in the industry and perfecting her craft. I caught up with Marlene to have a chat about her experiences touring with Benga, what she’s like off-stage and Marlene lets loose about being screwed over by Disney. Catch the interview below and be sure to grab “Pour Your Love” from iTunes HERE.
Hi Marlene! Why don’t you introduce yourself for those who aren’t familiar with your work…?
Hey all! I’m Marlene and I live in Stockholm, Sweden. I’m an artist and a songwriter.
A lot of people will recognise you from your recent collaboration with dubstep don Benga on his new single “Pour Your Love”… how did that link between you two come about? And what’s the reaction to the single been like?
We’re both signed to EMI Music Publishing UK so they just sent me one of his tracks that I wrote and sang to and sent back. He liked what I’d done so we started working on that song, and then we did 6 more tracks. One of them is Pour your love and you’ll also find ‘Unthinkable’ later on his album ‘Chapter 2’. From my perspective I’ve only got great reactions to ‘Pour your love’!
Since you two hooked up on that track, you’ve been touring as a part of Benga’s live show… how has that experience been?
WOW, amazing! I’ve been on stages performing since I was little, but never as an artist myself so it’s kind of a new experience which is exciting! His audience is always crazy and I love that energy! And Benga and Youngman are like my brothers so we always have a laugh even on stage. It feels very natural to me.
You’ve played an enormously diverse range of gigs in your time – from the Huddinge Jazz festival to, as mentioned before, crazily energetic gigs alongside Benga. Have you got a favourite out of all of them?
I actually went to perform in Kosovo and sing for the soldiers a couple of years ago, and the last night there we built a stage outside and invited the other camps to come and watch the show. And that night I sang ‘Halo’ by Beyonce under the starts and a pitch black sky. Felt magical. But I really enjoyed the last show I did with Benga at Lowlands Festival too. It was crazy hot in that tent but still the people jumped like crazy. And I loved that show.
You joked the other day that you might start referring to yourself as “Bengavoice” when you’re touring with him… but was there ever a point where you went considered going under a stage name or alias?
Haha, I’ve got my jokes… I was trying to find a cooler name than Marlene before, but it didn’t come natural. And I haven’t heard of anyone called Marlene… And it’s me. Simple. But Bengavoice would be my second choice. Haha.
One thing I’ve noticed from watching live performances of you is that you don’t seem to have any fear when on stage – is this something that transfers from on-stage to off-stage? Or are you a fairly shy person when you’re not performing?
My music is an extension of me, so you’ll probably get both bits of me, on and off stage. But the more you go into the music and exaggerate what you feel at that moment, the better it often is, I think. Why holding anything back on stage? Music is a kind of communication so make clear what you wanna say. I always follow my impulses and what I feel, so if I’m sad it’s not natural for me to pretend to be happy. But as I’m mostly happy I go all in if I feel like it and some might even think it’s a little too much sometimes. Haha
You’ve written a countless number of tracks in your time, but what’s been a personal favourite of yours?
Hmmm. There is one that not many have heard, it’s not released and I wrote it together with two other guys. We were about to pitch it to an other artist. But at that time I had just met someone, and this person made that song very special to me. None of the other writers knew about this, but all the time I referred to my new found love and I twisted the meaning of it into mine. Then I sent him the song at the end of the day saying it was about him. Haha. I will always cry to that song..
Following on with a similar point – you recently penned the hook for K Koke’s latest single ”Roc For Life”… does this mean you’re in with the Roc Nation crew?! Can we expect some sort of Watch The Throne-esque material from you in future?
I wrote that hook with Music Kidz over a year ago the first time we ever met. And I’ve recently made two other tracks with them waiting for someone to make them her own. They’re the only connection I’ve got to the Roc Nation folks atm, but hoping to get more involved with their produces and artists in the future. I’ve got a lot of those kind of hooks waiting for someone, but they won’t be for me.
The last original tune you put out – I think – was “Roll The Dice”, which was a part of the Shake it Up OST a few years ago… any idea when we’ll be hearing any new solo stuff from Marlene?
I’m SO glad you’re bringing this up and I will start with making one thing clear: I hate that song, it’s not my music and I wish you’d never found it. I was singing a demo of the song for a producer/songwriter team so that they could show this to Disney and sell it. Then without letting me know or even giving me money for it, they put it out – under my personal name. So it’s everywhere and I can’t take it away. So please, don’t listen to it, and if you do -pretend it’s not me. What I write is something totally different, and I hope to put something out for you to listen to this or the following year.
Obviously your previous stuff involves a lot of collaborations with a number of different artists… but if you could work with any other musician in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?
Imagine working with Michael Jackson. That would have been something! But I’d be happy to get a day with SBTRKT.
You also revealed the other day on Twitter that a few years ago you provided some beautiful backing vocals for the Azerbaijani entry in Eurovision… what was that experience like? They also had Beyonce’s choreographer that year, so did they allow you to do show off your moves at any point?
It was absolutely horrible. But crazy knowing there’s over 120 million people watching you. I wasn’t allowed to do anything, so no chance in life I got to dance the way I wanted to. Haha! I had nightmares of walking in those stairs in heels and fall. Would have been the highlight of my life and would easily have outshone the “Roll the dice” epidemic on Youtube. LOL
To finish, here’s some completely free advertising space, plug as many links as you want to!
Benga – Pour Your Love (feat. Marlene): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Fc-SWx0QQ
K Koke – Roc For Life (feat. Wale): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zoCEBLy4Pk