Berlin-based singer-songwriter Marlena Dae recently dropped her debut EP, A Delicate Storm, which V13 featured in our Now Hear This feature.

Together, the songs convey a palette of assorted emotions, depicting a journey into the transformational realm of self-discovery. And although the milieus of the songs are different, in each, Dae finds herself hemmed in by her emotional state.

For each song on the EP, Dae has created mixed media animations that take her to various locations. The vintage wedding dress, for example, becomes the backdrop for very experimental uses of mixed media, which in turn complement the tonal landscape of the music.

Each 20-second visualizer video is a time-consuming creation, but the effort has deep rewards: “This has been an incredibly satisfying project for me,” says Dae.

V13 spoke with Marlena Dae about the EP, her frame of mind in the studio, why she directs her own videos, and her pursuit of authenticity in her music.

What inspired your new EP, A Delicate Storm?

Marlena Dae: “I was inspired by multiple events that happened in my personal life. My teens turned out to be a time when everything kept changing; falling in and out of love, finishing high school and of course the COVID pandemic. As hard as some of these experiences were, I ended up gaining different perspectives. So the tracks were written to mark these different moments, each with its own unique headspace.

“I had been collecting songs over the years and picked the ones I felt still resonated with me. You can hear these different moods in the music.”

Walk us through your mindset as you entered the studio to record the EP. 

“My mindset was fully focused on making the best versions of these songs that I could. I was a bit of a perfectionist for the recordings, although in hindsight I don’t think perfection exists in music and I would approach it differently now.

“I knew I wanted to work with the same producers so that everything blended together.”

You direct and edit your own music videos. Why not delegate that to another individual?

“Film is something I’ve been interested in for a very long time. I started making films when I was 12 and fell in love with the editing process. Directing and editing my music videos is just another creative outlet for me that is equally satisfying as the music-making process.”

How did you get started in music?

“My mom says she sang while she was pregnant with me — and she’s not a singer, so it was my spirit that was coming through even before I was born.

“As a child, I was always singing and sitting at the piano. And then I started recording my songs in the studio when I was 15 years old. A few years later, a friend in Germany introduced me to his manager who ultimately introduced me to different producers. I’m very grateful for this as it has given me so much hands-on experience in the industry.”

Marlena Dae ‘A Delicate Storm’ [EP] album artwork
Marlena Dae ‘A Delicate Storm’ [EP] album artwork
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction? 

“My sound has changed a lot in the last few years, but it feels very organic. I’m always listening to different types of music, and this influences the music I make as well.

“I’m at the point now where I’m going back to my roots. Writing songs on the piano, where I started making music – this feels the most natural to me. It’s also the most vulnerable and the most honest. At this point, I’m looking for authenticity in my music and in myself as an artist.”

How do you keep your sound fresh, and avoid falling into the trap of imitating either yourself or others?

“I feel like whatever music you make you can find traces of other artists’ sounds. It’s only natural that one is inspired by others. This is the beauty of art. The only way to keep things sounding fresh is to keep experimenting and working with new people.”

Are there any special recording techniques you use in the studio?

“Nothing special, but I love improvising with melodies before I write any lyrics. This way the most natural melodies come up.”

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?

“Oh yes. I’ve often found inspiration from movies and poems. Neruda has to be one of my favourites. There’s something beautiful about writing in metaphor because this way anyone listening can interpret the meaning in their own way.”

What can you share about your writing process?

“I usually start with chords on the piano. From there, I can usually feel where the song and melody is leading me. I love to let the lyrics come out as they wish, without me overthinking them. This often has the most honest outcome. I always keep my phone nearby to record ideas as voice memos. This way I can hold on to the very first ideas I get; oftentimes those are the best ones.”

Which artists, in your opinion, are killing it right now?

“I’m a big fan of Oklou and Ethel Cain. They’ve both combined beautiful music and lyricism with a specific visual world. I love it when artists blend visuals into the music. It elevates the listening experience for me.”

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?

“In the next six months, I’ll be writing music and playing little gigs in Berlin. The next steps for me are just finding a community of people to share and collaborate with. Looking forward to this time…it’s only the beginning.”