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

Track Of The Day: Maja Lena – ‘The Keeper’

Maja Lena is the latest moniker of Marianne Parish, formerly of Low Chimes. Following bewitching singles ‘Sacred Practice’ and ‘Birch’, she has now shared new offering ‘The Keeper’ – the title track from her debut solo album, set for release this summer. 

Maja Lena’s music is ethereal and beautiful, led by a haunting and unpredictable vocal melody. The song is meditative and introspective, as Parish explains: “…the song name ‘The Keeper’ to me resembles the keeper of the self…” She adds that it “… is about our relationship to ourselves and how we view ourselves. Whether we hold trust in ourselves and if the way in which we strive can ultimately lead to us feeling less satisfied in life.”

The instrumentation is folk-inspired, with nylon and acoustic guitars in conversation with an eerie double bass. Rachael Dadd’s backing vocals weave together with Parish’s lead, culminating in a psychedelic mantra-like chant. Rob Pemberton’s synth, warm and warbling, complements the classic folk sound alongside the haunting dissonance from the cymbals. Together, it creates a serene and natural ambiance oozing a spellbinding magic.

The video, with a witchy charm, was made together with Parish’s husband Luke Oakley-Smith and filmed on a ’90s VHS camcorder to reflect an eerie nostalgia. Abundant with pastoral imagery, beautiful animals and Kate Bush-like dancing, it captivates and reflects the introspection and curiosity inherent of the song.

The Keeper is out 23rd July via Chiverin Records. Save / pre-order the album here to find out what other magical realms it will take us to.

Jazmine Kelly

Photo Credit: Aloha Bonser-Shaw

WATCH: Maja Lena – ‘Sacred Practice’

Maja Lena (AKA Marianne Parrish) reveals her new single ‘Sacred Practice’, from forthcoming debut album The Keeper. Formerly of alt-folk band Low Chimes, her solo moniker is an affectionate nickname given to her by the Swedish half of her family. The single is accompanied by an exquisite rustic video created by frequent visual collaborator Aloha Bonser-Shaw. 

‘Sacred Practice’ begins on a gentle, ethereal note, with sweeping, soft vocals. We are then transported to a hazy dream world, where the “sun is high and mighty” and our tasks require “patient practice”. The harmonious vocal layering becomes a psychedelic mantra sung over majestically discordant instrumentation, delivering an alternate reality. It almost feels like Lena is singing in a different language, alongside the calming, meditative shimmering soundscape. “More hurry, less speed” seems to be the message one gets when listening to the song and watching the beautifully compelling video.

Maja Lena’s debut solo album is definitely something to look forward to. She collaborates with former Low Chimes bandmate Rob Pemberton, and their familiarity in recording and producing together holds the project together beautifully. Judging from the singles I’ve heard so far, the album will be a magical and otherworldly collection. An intriguing vocal and sonic exploration. 

Watch the video for ‘Sacred Practice’ now:

The Keeper, the debut album from Maja Lena, is set for release on 23rd July via Chiverin.

Fi Ni Aicead

Track Of The Day: Maja Lena – ‘Birch’

Formally of the band Low Chimes, Marianne Parrish – aka Maja Lena – has now announced her debut solo album, set for release this summer.

Taken from the album, new single ‘Birch’ offers a truly captivating alt-folk soundscape. Reflecting on new beginnings and oozing a pastoral elegance, it’s propelled by resplendent vocals and a luscious shimmering musicality, with shades of the likes of Rozi Plain. With a majestic, ethereal grace, sweeping soothing melodies are interwoven with exquisitely put-together layers of twinkling instrumentation, creating a bewitching sonic gem. Of the track, Maja Lena explains:

“‘Birch’ is a song about feeling vulnerable yet elated. About starting a new phase of life and love, yet also knowing that this elation could be snatched away at any given moment. The Birch tree here is a symbol for this feeling, and its branches moving in the wind resemble a feeling of freedom and excitement.”

‘Birch’ is accompanied by a beautifully made video, filmed entirely on Super 8 in the Lake District, with Martha Webb. Watch here:

Birch‘ is out now, and The Keeper – the upcoming album from Maja Lena – is set for release 23rd July via Chiverin Records.

Mari Lane