Marika Hackman may be “freezing” as winter descends on her flat but she casts her mind back warmly over some of her highlights of 2015. She describes her one-off, sold-out autumn show at London’s Union Chapel as “probably my favourite headline show that I’ve ever done”. Resisting the temptation to peek at the venue beforehand, she heeded advice to save that moment until the day. “Just seeing that venue was incredible and so beautiful and then the fact that it was full of people…” she pauses. “Which is always a shock for me” she continues, laughing. “It was just a really rewarding, warm experience.”
The couple of weeks she spent touring the US over summer with Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn also stand out. “It’s just like being on the road with your friends, going to see a country that I’d never really explored very much and getting to be on a tour bus and things like that” she enthuses. “The shows were amazing and we were all sort of hopping around playing on each other’s songs and we did a cover at the end together.”
However, it was the long-awaited release of her extraordinary debut album ‘We Slept At Last’ back in February that was “the real peak”. “That was just incredibly exciting to finally get that out into the world properly” she reminisces. “People don’t seem to view EPs in the same way as a record so now I’ve got a peg in the ground to move on from.”
“There’s been this sort of strange obsession with calling me a ‘kooky folk girl’ - which is just so fucking annoying!”
And she has been moving on steadily from that strong foundation in the direction of the second album. The nature of touring - being away from home with less free time to write intensively - has led to a more sporadic and gradual writing process. “I’ve been writing since almost the end of last year actually” she explains. “I think when it comes to making the second record I’m actually gonna have quite a big batch of songs that I then whittle down, which isn’t something I’ve ever done before.”
Whereas the debut was written “very much all about one snapshot of time” over a two-month period, while she was “in a very specific sort of emotional state” following the break-up of a long relationship and a move to London, the follow-up is proving to be a very different affair. The title ‘We Slept At Last’ rings true as her struggles with insomnia that accompanied its writing have ceased to resurface this time around. “I think I’m very much in a different sort of place. I think I’m quite settled and quite happy and calm” she reflects.
The result? “I think the songs are going to be a little less introverted and I can just play with stuff a little bit more rather than being quite so head-to-fist, sort of kneeling over, thinking about all my woes!” she laughs.
“I think my new songs are going to be a little less introverted .”
As an artist who has shown no sign of playing it safe with her sound so far, she remains resolute in her determination to keep pushing herself creatively. “I’ve always said I don’t want to keep making records that all sound the same” she says with conviction. “There are certainly paths that make it easier for artists to go down and I don’t really give a shit about those.”
Early next year she plans to figure out how she is going to achieve “a very different sound” when she heads into the studio. “Things can always change but at the moment the way that I see this record going is that it’s going to be a much more raw, more live sound” she ventures. “Probably a little bit heavier, slightly more on the grungier side of things” she adds. “Thinking more ‘Cinnamon’ and ‘Open Wide’ kind of vibes rather than ‘Claude’s Girl’ or whatever!”
She hopes that the second album will finally free her from infuriating tags that have – “for about three years” - haunted her as an artist. “There’s always been, from the start, this sort of strange obsession with calling me a ‘kooky folk girl’ which is just so fucking annoying!” she exclaims, laughing. “That’s gonna hopefully be blasted out of the water with this next one.”
Photo: Mike Massaro / DIY Marika Hackman’s debut album ‘We Slept At Last’ is out now. She’s currently at work on the follow-up.