so I finally got around to finish translating this interview that Maria did with the Norwegian magazine Stella. it's 5 pages long in my Word document. the bolded lines in the interview are the journalist's questions. mostly, when there are parentheses, they consist of my own explanations. there are pictures from the photoshoot (behind the scenes, that is) that Maria did for Stella here: http://stellamagasinet.no/article/77093 ... ery/461319FINALLY HOME
It started to look dark for Maria Mena (25). Until she decided to change her personality.
- I have taught myself that love is something I deserve. It is not something that only selected people get, she says.- Wow.
- Yes. It took some time.
She looks up from the table.
- You can get to hear the new single now? Do you want that? Then I can tweet some while you listen.
The nails, painted green, disappear in the Chanel purse. Up come an iPhone and a couple of headphones, which have a couple of twenty knots on the cords.
- He – he. Welcome to my life.
My ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Maria Mena. More correctly: Maria Viktoria Mena. We seem to be facing a new and improved version of the pop star. Viktoria, the middle name that so far has not been used, is both her alter ego and the title of the album that will be out September 23rd. She does not remember where she wrote the new single “Homeless”.
- But I remember wanting to write a song about feeling rootless. That you steer away from what makes you feel safe. The song is about losing touch with those things that are familiar. - Do you feel rootless?
- Yes. I am not stuck with my background. Other people build the foundation for who they are as children but I had to make my own some years ago. First now I can say that I am in touch with something that is me. Until then I floated around not entirely knowing who I was.
Maria Mena was born February 19th 1986 in Oslo. The musician father Charles Mena, from Nicaragua, worked as a drummer and a taxi driver in New York when he met her Norwegian mother. It is no secret that Maria’s family history is turbulent. All in all her whole musical portfolio gives the impression of a complicated 25 years young life.
Long before she got to write pop songs and travel around the world, when she was nine years old to be exact, her parents divorced. It was the first big down in Maria’s time line. She and the brother Tony moved 19 times in the Oslo area. All the time she had lyrics and melodies in her head, and she thought that this was a normal thing for everyone. First in junior high school her father discovered her daughter’s songs and made her record “My Lullaby”, which turned out to be her breakout song. Since then she has made four albums. All with a raw, often uncomfortable honesty as trade mark.
- It hurt so much to release that record. But it was a conscious choice. I’m not angry anymore. What she is talking about is “Cause and Effect” from 2008. A 37 minutes upsetting confrontation with the closest family, eating disorder, with herself. This new one is about forgiveness. - In our society we talk about how we are so intent on forgiving, but not about how we have to allow ourselves to react at first. I spent a long time trying to forgive, but I had never been angry. I felt that I had to keep the people responsible, and myself responsible, in order to make space for this new version of me.
How quiet it was. People had stepped on their toes under the church bells for days. Outside the Oslo Dome the streets were bathing in flowers, and inside, in front of full rows and several 100 000 TV-viewers, Maria stood waiting for the music.
One man had knocked the breath out of Norway. In the persistent darkness that was capturing the country after July 22nd, it was Maria’s version of “Mitt lille land” (“My Little Country”) that we held on to. This day she had been cycling to the city and bought a bag as the 30 years present for her fiancé. She had changed to the white dress and fastened the hair band. As if everything still was as before. But standing there, having the honour of opening the memorial concert, Maria had to think of food, of dinner, “what am I going to have for dinner?”. That helps her when the point in her throat - that one where the crying breaks free – must not let go.
- Sometimes I am so stupid. That I did not understand that this would be very powerful, and that I should have been nerving myself more for it beforehand. It is the most powerful experience I have ever had as an artist. Actually I do like crying. From a purely physical perspective it feels so good. Only in that setting I felt that I had to keep holding on to the mask.
- I ran home. Drank white wine and cried.
The Christmas hit “Home for Christmas”. A Spellemannsprisen-nomination. Warm reception of the first single from “Viktoria” – “This Too Shall Pass”. Then “Mitt lille land”. Is it first now that Maria Mena has truly been embraced by the Norwegian people?
- It kind of feels that way, even though I still do not fully know exactly where in the landscape Norwegians are (Please note: This is my attempt to rephrase in English a Norwegian expression which is about not knowing exactly how much you can count on someone and not knowing how they feel). Creatively speaking I think it is a good thing that I do not feel completely confident here. I was very scared, and still am scared, that people were going to think that I was contributing with “Mitt lille land” because I am releasing a record. I put it out for free because someone asked me to, and then it became a song that was important for many.
The music has not only been therapy for the audience. Maria has been singing about how she feels for selfish reasons.
- This is not about you. This here is about me. These records would have been made whether people bought them or not. - Could you actually just have written a diary?
- Yes. When I say I have a need to communicate, it is not about how many people who are listening, but about my way of writing. I do not use a lot of metaphors, but go at it in a pretty direct way. It is about the fact that I shall become a human being that I have wanted to become for a long time, who did not initially lie behind the mask. If I have a need to release it? Now I have a record deal, therefore I release it. But I have a need to be singing. I like to sing. - Are you self-absorbed?
- If we had become friends I do not think that you had felt that I was self-absorbed. But I guess I am. Who is not? That being said, I do not think that I have become more selfish because of my job. It is surprising, because the job is indeed me. At home I have to learn to let go a little, I work a lot on doing that when it comes to Eivind. I want a marriage that is about two persons.
- Wow! Now I came to think of something! A good intro to my wedding speech. It is still a year to go, but – Oh my God!
She quickly takes notes on the phone.
Eivind Sæther is the man who sits at home in their newly renovated apartment nearby. Back in 2005, the Dagbladet-journalist were about to do an interview with the 19 year old Maria Mena. He liked her a lot. She thought he seemed full of himself.
- I am not going to have a boyfriend now, she said in the interview.
That is just how wrong you can be.
A Tuesday night last November (please note: it’s November 2010 that the journalist means to write about here), after five years of being a couple, he proposed, and made that day into “the nicest day she has ever had”. The only thing Maria wanted was to run home to call all of their friends. But Eivind had planned everything. The mates and girlfriends were already there, waiting in the apartment. Maria howled, then she cried, then they started celebrating.
- Iii-hi-hi! Now I have the beginning part of my wedding speech! she says and puts her phone away. This eagerness is seeping out because she actually has great problems putting positive feelings into words. A fact that is highly visible in her music.
- If I am supposed to try to explain how I feel, in the happy way… it is not a quality that is latent within me. I cannot do it! All I manage to utter are clichés.
But next summer she will be standing there to hold a speech to Eivind. As a white bride. - I have found my dress, and it is completely different, not a princess dress at all. It is white, but very relaxed.
Wedding preparations are not among Maria’s specialities. What she knows, is that it will be a relaxed wedding, filled with music. They will not cut the wedding cake and feed each other after they have cut it. - There are so many awkward wedding traditions. I have never felt the need to marry. Marriage represents everything that I think is scary. To be loved and to love someone for the rest of your life in a healthy way, that is not what I have grown up with. But it has been quite easy to love him for six years. I feel a need to marry him. - What is it about him?
- He is the most confident person I know. At the same time he is weak, and I get to be strong when it is needed. It is a fine balance. A relationship is in an everlasting motion. He has his dreams and I have mine. But I will cling to the relationship, and I am confident that I have what it takes to get through crises. I will be with him for the rest of my life. Just wait and see! - He had to put effort in to get you?
- Yes, yes. That is why I am so proud of my relationship. It has always been love, but there have been downs too. I think it is difficult to be together with someone who does not believe in love. He has had to convince me. - Is the song “This Too Shall Pass” about the two of you?
- Yes. It is very sweet, though. The song is maybe a little happy? Or what? - Optimistic, at least?
- Ha-ha. I can see that.
- I will not say that I am a happy person. That is an incredibly strange word. It is still everyday. - What is different from before?
- It is a little like what “This Too Shall Pass” conveys. After a while you learn that things do pass. Not every down is final. Eivind was the one that was needed in order to make me understand what I did. Through him I learned to love myself. I took one small step after another. I practiced on becoming the person I wanted to become. - How are you as a lover (i. e. the “Freundin” / Vriendtje / Verloofd” way, not the mistress way)?
- I would never have been my lover.
- No, but I would not want to be that person. I am quite unstable when it comes to moods. Plus I always have to talk about things. If we have not talked during one day, I nearly feel like we do not know each other anymore.
Some of the finest qualities of his that she knows is how he listens. That no matter how important the football match on TV is, he turns it off to listen to her talk if she wants to. - I am pretty funny. If nothing else, I make him laugh all the time. Today I am the girlfriend I want to be. I do still practice my understanding of how important football is. Plus, I nag some about cleaning: about folding towels correctly. The way he folds them… I have never seen anything like it. You see, we are messy people but I would love for us not to be. It happens that I come into the bedroom in the morning and wake him by saying: “Eivind! The towels!” Ha-ha.
- Apart from that I am pretty alright.
She knows what frightens her most of all. More than getting married.
- To become a mother. I do not think it will happen for a while. But I cannot imagine having more than one child. I have a friend who will soon give birth to her third child now. She is crazy. First of all there is a record release, reviews, concerts and travelling. Maria has garnered a faithful audience further down in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands. It has meant everything to her development as a live artist.
- I have been meeting one who has helped me warm up my voice properly. Now I feel a little like Superman on stage. I have never been able to lean on my voice like I do now. It is no longer coming from my throat, but from my stomach. There is indeed enough stomach for me, she says and laughs. - Do you practice in front of the mirror?
- Hah, no. I only look into the mirror once a day. The occasion is when I am about to put my makeup on, then I have to look in the mirror. Otherwise I try to avoid it.
The reflection in the mirror has not always been trustworthy. After the first record Maria went into a long period where she felt that she had no control over her own life. One example being that the only thing she could control was the amount of food she ate and how thin she could become. The eating disorder was as a claw in her stomach for many years. - Of course I have had setbacks. It is a long time since I have been starving myself, I don’t even understand how I managed that, but the way of thinking has been returning. What I have had to do, and still work on, is to change my idea of what beauty is. - How do you work on that?
- To start caring about someone was a big event in my life. I thought that the eating disorder was only about me and that nobody else could be damaged by it. But the fact was that it was completely the opposite. When I came out of that bubble I realised how I hurt everyone else. My wellbeing and health became much more important when I saw how it affected the one I love. I saw that he becomes sad when I am sad.
The solution was to start running from the problem. If you do not include the fact that she puked on her first jog, she loved it. She ran daily. If she were going to continue, she would have to start eating again. - The body I got then was so incredibly different from the unhealthily thin body I actually wanted. The more muscles, bigger butt and thighs I got, the prettier I thought it was. It was strange. But my anorexia was about digging deeply enough to find what actually caused it. When I understood it, it was not so scary to eat anymore. But that process took me many, many years. I am so proud that I am done with it.
All the time she had it in herself. The life with the old Maria seems to go towards the end. Now new music, tour, but also marriage and everyday life are waiting. Things will still be happening in waves, there will still be coming dark lyrics. But perhaps there will be happy songs too. Who knows what she is made of.
From now on it is Viktoria. - What is the biggest difference between Maria and Viktoria?
- The old Maria was terrified that people would see who she really was. Terrified to be left, for not being good enough. She left people before they had the chance to leave her, she says, almost surprised by her own description.
- Viktoria is the exact opposite. She is one who fights, who invests time and energy in her relationships. She is a lot stronger. - What would you have said if you met Maria on her darkest today?
- “This Too Shall Pass”? Ha-ha. No, during my darkest there was nothing anyone could have said. I would have let her be, actually. Maria is a human being who figures things out herself.