I first was introduced to Marie Dahlstrom on her track “One More Reason” produced by Tom Misch. On the initial listen, I was blown away by the vocal performance by Marie. The song felt tailor-made for her voice.
It was at that moment I needed to dive deeper into her music catalog in hopes of discovering more gems like “One More Reason”. After digging through her SoundCloud page, I experienced Marie’s incredibly comforting voice over a diverse set of sounds.
From Denmark, now living in the UK, Marie is not only pursuing a career in music but is also studying Cognitive Neuroscience. I recently had a conversation with her to understand her passion for music, creative process, her new podcast, and her plans to grow as an artist. Check out the full interview and sounds below.
Sonic Selects (SS): Let’s start from the beginning when you were just starting out, what aspect of music stood out to you?
Marie Dahlstrom (MD): I love harmonies. When I just started out singing I didn’t have a big range. I was very good at harmonies from the beginning. It was one of my strongest features. I made lots of vocal arrangements. I was in an acapella group and did lots of different things to challenge me a bit to understand harmonies more.
SS: How did you develop your musical craft?
MD: I went to a boarding school where in the morning, I went to all the normal classes (math, science, German, etc.) and the afternoon was dedicated to music, jazz, choir. You have your own piano and singing lessons. That year I said to myself, ‘I want to become much better at piano than I am right now.’ So I sat down and made myself a hard study plan and I would play piano for 3 hours a day. That made me feel like I had a really great foundation.
SS: Was there a person in your life that really influenced your passion for music?
MD: There were quite a few different teachers when I was young that made a big impression on me. When I started my first vocal lessons in Denmark, I had a really great vocal teacher. She was really into gospel and introduced me to Jill Scott and Dwele.
SS: A music career is not the only thing you are pursuing at the moment, what else are you working on?
MD: Right now I’m studying, Cognitive Neuroscience with a focus on music. I’m focusing on parental singing and what singing in groups does to people. For example, mothers who are postnatally depressed. I’m looking at what singing interventions can provide for them in terms of well-being.
I’m trying to figure out how to use singing in a clinical context because singing has been shown to be oxytocin releasing. It has a lot of non-stress effects on the body. There are so many health elements, both mentally and physically about singing that I find quite interesting.
SS: That’s really awesome how you find a balance between being an artist and exploring music further with your school.
MD: I feel like it’s really nice to share your “thing” in other aspects of your life. You can be an academic or do research and still be an artist. Why shouldn’t you be able to bridge the gap between these different professions? I feel like it’s something we should do more of. I’m trying to find different ways to explore the avenue of music.
SS: What brought you to the UK?
I wanted to study music. In Copenhagen, they have one music conservatory for contemporary music. They teach different things then they do in the UK. I wanted to do production and explore different genres. I’ve been to London many times on holiday. When I was in my third year of baccalaureate (College) I said to myself, ‘I need to apply to some of these music schools’. Just before I finished my final exams I went to London in the spring for 3 music school auditions. After that, I was selected. As soon as I graduated in September, I moved to London.
I wanted to study music and I didn’t want to do it in Denmark because I didn’t feel like they offered enough diversity. Over here, it would challenge me and I also wanted to get better at English. It was the perfect combination for me.
SS: For me, the music that’s coming out of the UK is incredibly diverse. There are so many incredible artists that blend genres effortlessly and you just started a podcast with Laura Misch, Carmody, Ruby Wood, and Emmavie called “Time of the Month”. How did you all come together?
Emmavie saw me at a local concert and we spoke afterward, then had a session. We just started naturally working more and more together.
She introduced me to Ruby Wood, who’s the lead singer in Submotion Orchestra and we started working more together.
I know Laura through working with Tom, and Carmody works with Laura and Tom – So the whole thing is all super connected.
SS: How did the idea to start a podcast come about?
MD: The podcast started because Laura and I were invited to speak at this event, Women in Music. And I think her and Carmody spoke about the podcast. That event was about sharing experiences in music and helping up and coming artists. We all felt like there was a lack information in this area and not enough honesty. It can be quite tough. I think it’s important to share your views. There’s so many topics, pay gaps between men and women, self-esteem, comparing yourself to other people, how to get a band together, working with other people versus being able to do everything yourself, there are so many areas to cover when you’re an artist and you have to in some kind of way make it work. It can be difficult.
I felt it was a combination of sharing what you’ve experienced so far and being able to learn from other people’s experiences. Hopefully, make someone else think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and what they want to achieve.
SS: It sounds like you want listeners to feel empowered after listening to the podcast.
MD: That’s exactly what it is! It’s about empowering and making people aware. Making people contemplate about their goals and expectations.
I wish I had someone who had told me when I first started out making music a few little tips here and there, “It would be good if you do this or that.” I could have needed that. I had no clue. I was all alone in London making music.
SS: I really like that each of you played songs that were important to you during the podcast. It really added another layer of depth to what you were talking about.
MD: From a personality perspective, when I listened to the other girl’s song it gave me a bit more insight into what they are about through what they listen to. Music can help establish your personality. It gives an insight into people’s thoughts and what they like.
SS: On the first episode, you talk about finding your sound don’t have a specific sound. Making a good song is really your sound. Listening to your tracks, you have a diverse collection of sounds. Do you still plan on experimenting with different sounds?
MD: I feel like it doesn’t go much further in the “dancy” direction than my Hans Island project. Moving forward, the track I did with Tom Misch is the direction I want to do. Contemporary production with elements of live music. Songs that aren’t super produced. Simple lyrics, strong melodies and harmonies.
All of a sudden when you try so much, you realize that there’s not really one right way but it’s more about what you feel like doing in this era of time.
SS: For you, what are the elements of a good song?
MD: I like having a nice simple beat, good vocal arrangements, and nice chord progressions. I like real sounds from real instruments.
SS: I first heard you on your track “One More Reason” produced by Tom Misch. After listening to that song over and over, it feels perfect for you. How did that song come together?
MD: It was perfect. It was just the right balance between having produced elements and real instruments. I feel like the beat gives a lot of space for the vocals. It was a really good process making that song. We were on the same page. The collaboration came together very naturally.
I did the chords, Tom did the drums and we put the rest together.
SS: What is your recording process like?
MD: I love recording vocals on my own to be completely honest. I know it’s not very sociable. I’ve never really grown comfortable enough to record in front of people. I like being completely quiet, in my room, on my computer, with my headphones on, just sitting being lost in time.
SS: Your lyrics come from a very personal place. Can you take me through your songwriting process and how it is to reflect on those personal experiences in your music?
MD: There are pros and cons of that. The pros are that it’s a very real feeling. You sound as genuine as you can and it doesn’t feel forced in any way. It’s a really emotional experience and that’s what makes it awesome.
The cons are that you tell stories about other people. Which is not always desirable for the other people that the songs are about. Whether it’s good or bad. There’s a fine line between sharing your personal life and having good songs. I feel like it’s the best to draw from personal experiences.
But I can also use a feeling, then make something up in my head that responds to that feeling if I don’t have a situation that I personally relate to. It’s become more of a mixture between the two.
SS: It’s been a little while since you’ve released a project. Is that something you are currently working on?
MD: Yes, it’s something I’m working on but I haven’t really figured out how exactly I want to do it. At first, I wanted to do a project, but then I just put out a song every so often and share good music. Then perhaps, at the end of the year put them all together as a project or even just have them be singles them just be singles. It really depends on the pace.
One of the reasons why I’ve done it the way that I have is because I’ve been studying. I’ve had to prioritize between the two. That’s why it’s been less frequent with the songs. It’s given me good time to write.
I have a song coming up on the Nang compilation project, Growing Pains II, a song with Laura Misch and a couple more of my own songs as well.
SS: Can you describe what it’s like performing a song live for the first time?
MD: That’s always the best when you add new songs to your set because it’s fresh. You still relate to the emotion of making it. Also, the band is excited because they haven’t played it that much. There’s something about fresh creativity.
It’s the same as when you create a song at home and you’ve recorded it. Then you hear it and there’s all these bits and pieces that you need to re-record or re-produce. It loses it’s spark along the way. I feel like that’s a huge thing about being creative which is annoying, it’s so feeling dependent. Sometimes even if you have the right song or right template maybe you can’t deliver vocally every time because you’re not in the feeling anymore. That’s something you really have to practice for your live sets.
SS: Do you always want to have a live band when you perform?
MD: I prefer that. In the future, I want to make them vocal focused, intimate, and a lot of space for the vocals. I feel like many people don’t have that in their live sets at the moment.
SS: I read that you are a big Musiq Soulchild fan. What do you like about his music? What are your favorite songs?
MD: Oh he’s one of my favorite, favorite, favorite artists! He’s like my king of music. One of my favorite voices. I’ve been so inspired by him in the past. His voice is so nice to listen to. I feel like he doesn’t really try so hard to sing the way he does.
I love his melodies as well. I really admire the way he can put so many words into a song and make people remember them.
SS: What are you listening to at the moment?
MD: I’m listening to a lot of my friends and people in the London scene. There are so many good artists around me. There’s a release that I really from like by NAO.
SS: It’s funny that you bring that up because NAO mentioned in an interview on Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio, that she really experimented with her sound on her two EPs. Is that an approach that you use?
MD: Definitely. I feel like experimenting with new sounds what makes you learn what you like and what you don’t. Even if you like it you can just have an era. With the Gloom EP, I wanted to do something a bit more live.
The good thing is that there are so many options but at the same time it’s hard because you have to choose. I think the NAO album (For All We Know) is a great example of something so cohesive but where she stands really strong in the middle with a very unique voice and catchy melodies. You can hear where she got her inspiration from in a really nice way. It draws relations to all these other things that you listen to. With all that inspiration, she managed to create her own sound out of it. Such a good album!
SS: Finally, do you have any plans on coming to the US?
MD: I would love to. My manager and I have been speaking about it. I had plans to go out to LA and work with some of the people I’ve worked with before including D.K. the Punisher who I did “Look the Other Way” with. I’d also love to go to Canada and work with John (Mahws). I’m sure it will happen just not sure when.
Be sure to check out the next episode of the Time of the Month Podcast, the first week in September where Marie will be premiering a new song with Laura Misch. Stream her Gloom EP below: