Introducing Interview: Maja Lena

Following last year’s captivating debut album The Keeper, and previous projects Hot Feet and Low Chimes, alt-folk artist Maja Lena has now released her second solo album, Pluto. Delving into an ethereal alternate world, Pluto immerses the listener in its glistening sweeping soundscapes, all flowing with Maja Lena’s trademark majestic grace and resplendent vocals.

We caught up with Maja Lena to find out more about the album, her inspirations and touring essentials… Have a read and watch the beautiful video for recent single ‘The Stone‘ below!

Hi Maja Lena Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 
Hello! I was born and brought up in Stroud in England but my Mum is Swedish so I spend a lot of time there. My family and some friends call me Maja and my middle name is Lena, but I also go by Marianne. I started out in a band called Hot Feet in my teens, we then went on to become Low Chimes till the end of 2017, and then I began this project a year or so later and began working and releasing with independent label Chiverin. I’ve also been working on a Natural Horsemanship Therapy yard for the last 14 years and I help my husband Luke part-time on his no-dig market garden.

Are you able to tell us a bit about how and why you initially started creating music? 
Singing, playing and listening to music was always a big part of our household growing up, and most of my friends were musical too. I think it just happened naturally and had become a very familiar form of expression to me by the time I started writing my own songs. I think I was also lucky in that my parents were very supportive of me doing that.

We love your beautifully twinkling folk-strewn sounds , but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Thank you! The Incredible String Band, Mike Oldfield, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Leonard Cohen, Joe Hisaishi, PJ Harvey, Nick Drake, The Velvet Underground, Kate Bush, Sandy Denny, Radiohead, Beck, Domenique Dumont..

You’ve just released your new album Pluto, which is very exciting! Are you able to tell us a bit about what inspired it and the themes running throughout it?
Reality vs imagination and believing stories we’ve created in our heads – I was spending quite a lot of time on my own when I wrote it, so had plenty of time and space to get stuck into my own imagination. Eventually a whole made up landscape/ alternate world formed where most of the songs are set, with Pluto in the distance instead of the sun or moon, as there are Plutonic themes such as destruction and creation, transformation and renewal throughout the record.

How would you say it differs from last year’s debut, The Keeper
The Keeper was set more in the real world and was overall more stripped back. We delved deeper sonically making this one, trying to bring the landscape to life with more synth and electronic explorations. I also wrote Pluto in a much more condensed period of time (a couple of the songs whilst we were recording), and I personally feel they were more of a natural fit together than those on the first, which I’d written over a much wider timescale.

We had the pleasure of seeing your beautiful set at Deershed Festival this year, but is there a live show you’ve played that stands out as a highlight?
Oh thank you! Probably the next show after that at Smugglers Festival, which was our 2nd band show of the year and we had a few extra friends play with us on stage. It was late in the afternoon on a beautiful sunny day in a beautiful place, and it was possibly the most relaxed I’ve ever felt on stage. I was able to fully enjoy playing the music with my lovely band and had a really fun time!

And, when out on tour, are there any particular essentials that you need with you and keep you going when away from home? 
I am type 1 diabetic so firstly all my associated testers and insulin/sugar. A good scarf, book, health tinctures – oregano oil’s my current fave! Rescue remedy, swimsuit & running clothes, notebook, pillow, hot water bottle, more recently my Grandma’s glamorous bright yellow handbag for keeping spirits up! And last but not least, waterproofs and walking boots! I always like to try and fit in walking and nature time wherever possible – I think fresh air and some hills and trees to stomp about amongst are my biggest tour essential!

How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? And do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and queer/LGBTQ+  artists? 
Without speaking to many people in person on these questions, I find it hard to answer them with much certainty, but from what I’ve seen online (which is obviously only a small part of the picture), I imagine it must be very difficult for new artists as well as any artist for that matter – as in many areas of profession, so much has changed and is full of uncertainty, there are so many extra things to do and try to balance behind the scenes, so many of us trying to do several jobs at once to make ends meet which can be difficult to juggle.
And in terms of the second question, again I feel I’d need to actually speak to a lot more people to get a truer picture than the one I do mainly just online and feel I can only really speak from my own personal experience. For better and normally for worse, I’m a bit of a recluse! 

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
Holyseuss Fly is awesome! 

Finally, what does 2023 have in store for Maja Lena? 
I’ve just finished the album release tour, then hopefully lots of writing, lots of hiking, and deeper synth and guitar explorations! And lots more working outdoors with animal friends and vegetables.

Massive thanks to Maja Lena for answering our questions!

Maja Lena’s latest album, Pluto, is out now via Chiverin Records.

Photo Credit: Martha Webb

ALBUM: Lost Chimes – ‘Lost Chimes’

Lost Chimes is Gemma and Nicky Kirk, an indie-folk duo from north London. The husband and wife team have now joined musical forces after ten years of playing in separate DIY, folk, punk-rock and post-hardcore bands.

Their new captivating self-titled album blends traditional folk with a contemporary twist. The storytelling lyrics, delicate finger-picked guitar and memorable melodies keep your ears enticed from the first track to the last. 

Opening track, and first single, ‘Island’ is a soothing track about a mystery island. Gemma’s smooth, crystal clear vocals gently bob over lush and jangly guitar lines like a boat upon the waves, with the second verse painting a beautifully nostalgic picture: “You’ll do a lot of talking and I’ll do a lot of listening and one day the records will come out of their sleeves / the one that has my name on the back and the one that has the secret track, and everything between the backdoor and the sea wall…” The accompanying video of overlaid singing, sea, and birds perfectly complements the musical content, which evokes thoughts of nature and water.

My personal album highlight, ‘Voices’, offers a traditional folk-inspired melody, encompassing a fiddle which weaves around the vocal lines with a waltz-like rhythm. The sparse yet present drum beat gets your foot tapping and gives it a sea shanty feel. Gemma’s vocals may be delicate, yet they emit a strength bringing to mind Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee.

‘Stone Steps’ offers Nicky’s most interesting guitar riff on the album, a melancholic yet hopeful refrain. Gemma’s lullaby vocals in the verses erupt into something more powerful and reminiscent of Delores O’Riordan’s vocal in the chorus. Later on in the song, a spoken word section is introduced, giving your ears a new element to enjoy.

The duo’s cover of Joy Division’s iconic song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is both atmospheric and haunting. The finger-style of the guitar combined with the cinematic vocal arrangement does this tricky-to-cover song justice, retaining its sadness and depth whilst adding Lost Chimes’ own spin.

Ella Patenall

WATCH: Ali Comerford – ‘Knots’

Kilkenny-based Ali Comerford has recently shared ‘Knots’, a beautifully understated meditation on anxiety. It’s the title track of her upcoming folk-based and classically inspired debut album.

‘Knots’ is poignant in its simplicity, with stunning raw vocals accompanied by tender piano arpeggios. Such barebones instrumentation creates space and allows us really to focus on the vocals and what Ali has to say; there are no distractions. The music is intimate, as though Ali were sat in the room playing just for you, providing comfort and reassurance that you are not alone. Of the track, Ali explains:

“‘Knots’ is a song I wrote about anxiety, something we all struggle with at one time or another. At the time, I was going through a stage of intense anxiety. I worried about the fact that I hadn’t released any music, about whether people would enjoy my songs or not and also over-analyzed every little thing I had ever done wrong. I wasn’t sleeping properly and found I was lying awake at night replaying old conversations and feeling ashamed and embarrassed.”

In the chorus, she sings: “Because I worry like no other / It’s always one thing or another”. It paints a bold picture of how we can all feel when our minds are full of anxious thoughts, whirring like an overworked machine. “It keeps me awake and it makes me wonder / If I am alone in this” – these final lines show how lonely it can feel in times of anxiety, but with Ali’s generous self-expression and relatable content, we can feel it together.

Ali Comerford has impressive musical credits, having toured the world, performing classical viola on stages such as the New York Carnegie Hall, the London Royal Albert Hall and Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Her years of experience in the classical music world have evidently been extremely valuable, teaching her to make every note count, as is showcased in this poignant latest solo offering.

Watch the lyric video for ‘Knots’ here:

Knots, the debut album from Ali Comerford, is set for release on 29th July.

Jazmine Kelly

Photo Credit: Shane Hatton Photography

LISTEN: In Earnest – ‘Put Me Under’

A tentative, gentle “stock take” of the mind; alt-indie trio In Earnest have shared their latest single, ‘Put Me Under’. The track is inspired by the struggles vocalist Sarah has experienced with her mental health, and acts as an encouraging nod for others to open up about their own issues.

Based in Southend-On-Sea, In Earnest formed in early 2019 after band members Sarah and Thomas left their previous outfit, Carousel. Together with new addition Toby, the trio began to focus on writing poignant tracks based on personal experiences, and recorded in an “organic” setting – captured live without click tracks or autotune. ‘Put Me Under’ is the first example of this, and is lifted from their upcoming EP.

Sarah extrapolates on the context of the new single, which is written from her perspective: “I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression, to the point where I can’t hold down jobs or be left alone for too long. In my loneliness I am awash with negative thoughts. The song is about feeling overcome by an invisible illness, but knowing it’s a lot easier to cope in the company of a dog.”

Sarah’s soft voice and confessional lyrics are paired beautifully with Thomas & Toby’s acoustic and electric guitar parts, allowing the trio to gently explore an intimate, and difficult issue. Listen to ‘Put Me Under’ below, and follow In Earnest on Spotify and Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington