Between touring around the world and exploring new creative territories, Berlin-based singer-songwriter Magic Island has been working on her first new music since the launch of her immersive L.P “Like Water” (released 2017 on Mansions and Millions). We caught up with Magic to find out what we can expect from her upcoming live show this weekend at Heimathafen, the experience of digging deeper into her music than ever before, and the feeling of finally finding her voice.
KALTBLUT: Can you tell us a bit more about what you’ve been up to this year?
Magic Island: I’ve been travelling a lot the last couple of years and then I travelled a lot at the beginning of this year too. I did a tour in Russia, a tour in Japan, Europe I think once or twice and in North America. Then I came home for the summer and I thought perfect – I will take three months off and just work on the new album. And I did work on a new E.P! Plus I was also working on this theatre project where I did the sound and that was a lot more intensive than I thought it was going to be.
KALTBLUT: That sounds really interesting, in what way were you involved?
Magic Island: The group is called Virtuelles Theatre and they wanted to have some pop songs in the project. was quite a serious theme about climate change and globalization, so they wanted the music to be a bit lighter. Turns out theatre is a really interesting space. It’s all about working in groups and discussing everything and reading a lot of texts to theorize what your concept is going to be. And I was just like, what did I sign myself up for!? But that’s mainly because I’m used to working alone. I wrote a couple of pieces and then (spoiler alert) we also created a kind of a full performance of my song “Shepherd” where we made choreography and had like something like Lady Gaga style costumes, super epic. In the end, it was fun but it was really a challenge to work with such a big group.
KALTBLUT: What was your biggest learning from that experience? It must have been interesting to push yourself to step so far outside of your comfort zone?
Magic Island: Totally. I realized that for Magic Island and my approach to producing music is more of a therapy for myself than it is a big production. I also tried working in the summer with a couple of co-producers to try to produce properly like move a bit away from bedroom style production, you know? In professional studios and with some co-producers working with me. But it was also quite difficult. Some new ideas developed, beautiful creations, that I wouldn’t have come up with alone. But a lot of the time I realized that I don’t want to compromise when I’m writing my music because I don’t want to write a song if it’s just to write a song. I need to write a song that’s close to me and helps me, and hopefully helps other people because I think that’s the point. It’s like when I’m feeling the darkest and I’m like really feeling something so strongly that I have to find some way deal with it and the way that I can deal with it is through my music, I guess. I don’t know what else to do, or what else I would do. I couldn’t handle this world. It’s so fucked up.
KALTBLUT: Does that make you think that maybe you already found the right environment to create or produce your music in this personal or intimate DIY way?
Magic Island: To be honest, I’m left feeling kind of confused because I would love my productions to be a bit cleaner, and I’m finally starting to work towards this. Focusing on the details. I feel like I finally found my real voice in the new music. I’m singing more confidently than I’ve ever sung before, I’m not shy and covering my vocals in reverb. It’s really raw and feels good. I would like to keep working with other co-producers who can feel me and know what the songwriting process and therapeutic nature this is about for me. I’m also finishing up a new E.P. in collaboration with an amazing producer, Nasty King Kurl. Producing it’s like having sex with somebody. If you can’t find that connection and that chemistry then you should not work on music together! It takes months if not years to make a body of work. Which is why I still think the D.I.Y is kind of a good way to go if you want to create on your own terms.
KALTBLUT: Speaking of collaborations, how do you feel living in a place like Berlin with so many artistic people around you has contributed to your creative journey?
Magic Island: It’s really special. I think it’s kind of about the city as a bit of a transient space. There’s a lot of people that come here to get something that they want and then leave, but don’t commit to the city. They come here and find love or come here for work or to have a fun time and party a lot. And then they go home to the real world, to their real life. So I think if you stay in Berlin and you build something or you stay here long enough and you commit to the city you kind of get pulled to and become one with the other people who have decided to do that too. So that’s something that I really admire now, our crew here – the people who have been with me since the beginning, it’s so strong and I feel like we’re family and we built all of our careers and everything developed together.
KALTBLUT: So you mentioned that you’ve been writing, will we get to hear some new music when we come to the show?
Magic Island: Yeah I think probably three new songs. I’m really happy about this new E.P Warm Heaven, which features six tracks, where I finally found my voice. That’s a weird thing to think after having released some things already because now I can’t listen to the other stuff. I’m just thinking how I would have done it all differently or it sounds and feels a bit self-conscious or insecure to me and now the new stuff is really kind of powerful and self-confident. But because of this too, I don’t want to get sick of all the new things and when you perform live a lot of the time you can start to. That’s the weird thing also about creating and then performing because already these new songs are kind of old to me! So yeah. It’s like a balance of keeping yourself feeling like satisfied or fulfilled and then also you have to respect that the public is just discovering the music for the first time.
KALTBLUT: Do you already have a plan of when you’re going to release the new E.P.?
Magic Island: I think it will come out the first week of December, if not, then January. Oh, it’s soon. So soon. It’s still not mixed and mastered though so that’s my project for November and some of the songs are still not finished. So yeah, I think early next year there will be the new release and hopefully then some more touring. My next step is that I want to have full bands, especially for my new material. Something full to bring the intensity.
KALTBLUT: It feels as though some musicians are perpetually on tour these days. For music as personal and intimate as yours, it must also be important to take a break from time to time, and reflect, right?
Magic Island. Yes, touring can also be really exhausting and emotionally and physically intense. I don’t know how people do it all the time! I was thinking about this and I still think it’s important to have a break and like this kind of self-reflection periods where you don’t do anything and you maybe don’t even write music because you need to marinate in your life’s ebbs and flows, changes and developments.
KALTBLUT: Is there any particularly special song for you, that really transports you when you play it?
Magic Island: I’d have to say my most recent single “Easy Babe” sometimes I can barely sing that song without freaking out. I think it’s one of the best songs that I ever wrote. I was actually just in London to sing it at a funeral. This is a crazy story.hese two older men came to my concert at a small D.I.Y space called “Set” in London in May. At first, I thought, what are these two older guys doing in here? Do they know where they are? Then they came right up to me and said, “Magic island, we love you so much. The song ‘Easy Babe’ really is one of our favourites and it really hurts us and we cry when we listen to it. We’re so touched.” They then became really good friends of mine. They really understood this song, almost as intensely as I did it seemed. We spent some more time together when I was still in London and then kept in touch via e-mail. About a month ago, one of them died. His partner, Philip, wrote me an incredible email that was so full of answers and questions of life, it really touched me. He said they had been together, living, eating, sleeping, working together for 33 years. That’s older than I am. I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to be so connected to someone for longer than my life. He asked if I could sing “Easy Babe” at the funeral. And now that’s their song. This encounter with them and the way the song has grown in meaning to me through this experience has been really otherworldly.
KALTBLUT: How does that feel to take a song like that out into a public sphere? Like what’s the experience for you?
Magic Island: It’s always a bit intense. As I said, when you do it so often, sometimes you lose the feeling. Like I’ve had some bad shows when I feel kind of disconnected from the moment and I find that I’m thinking about what am I going to eat for dinner in the middle of a song. I’ll be singing these emotional songs and lyrics and then I’ll be like “pizza or pasta?” or “will that place still be open when I’m finished?” [laughs]. But then for some songs, I get transported right away back to the initial feeling I had when I made it. With a couple of songs, when I perform them I almost cry or I get really emotional and I cannot avoid that. And that’s super special to me and that’s what I meant. That it’s kind of a therapy, the whole project to me. I need this more than I need to do it. So I like that when I really drift away.
KALTBLUT: Speaking of singing your songs live. We’re really looking forward to the concert next week, and also to hearing Molly’s new work. It’ll be a kind of Berlin family affair for you all, right?
Magic Island: Yeah. I actually think her new album is one of her best bodies of work. That’s great. I’m really proud of her and think she’s feeling good about it. It’ll be a really fun night with our whole Neukölln crew. A family reunion sort of night. I never have a birthday party, But whenever I play a concert in Berlin all the friends and family come out – that’s kind of the vibe that it always has. I’ve been having very bad anxiety lately though, so I’m hoping I can handle all the intensity! The set will either cure me or kill me, we’ll find out.
October 21st – Berlin
Heimathafen w/ Molly Nilsson
November 24th – Nürnberg
December 8th – Berlin
Guest performance at Shameless/Limitless 10 Year Anniversary party
Feature photo by Elena Peters-Arnolds