magic island #BERLIN
Berlin is a city of contrasts, a place that does not hide its dirty and rough conditions of life, but can boast a thriving music and creative scene. It’s also where Canadian singer, Magic Island, calls home. Emma, the talented voice of Magic Island, was inspired by an older German pub near her apartment that was called Zauberinsel, which translates to Magic Island in English.
And in Berlin, Emma has grown and matured as a musician, developing from a dreamier sound to a work that is more in tune with how she views the reality around her today. She once described her music as ‘slow love-making with an alien while you're high on ketamine, sounds from the radio in the faint distance. You fall asleep in each others arms thinking you've found the love of your life, but when you wake up they're gone.’
In our fourth episode, we caught up with Magic Island and dig deep into what makes Berlin a special place, what it means to be your authentic self and what she has in store for the upcoming year.
We really love your name - we’re curious, where did that come from?
I don’t know, a couple of different influences. When I moved into this new apartment, the front of the house has this old kneipe inside of it called Zauberinsel, which means Magic Island, so that was kind of one of the inspirations. And at the time, when I moved into this house, it was the first place in Berlin and I just had a mattress on the floor in the middle of my room, so I kind of called this “the island” and I would invite friends over, and we would have nowhere to sit and nowhere to hang out or eat, so I would just be like “hey, come to the island, this is the magic island” and we would have talks and time together there. That was kind of the birth of Magic Island.
And why Berlin? Did you know people when you moved here or was it for musical purposes?
No, when I first moved here, we only knew a couple of people. I was living at the time in Wrocław, which is a town in Poland a few hours away, where my boyfriend’s family was from. We were there together and we came to just visit Berlin for a weekend because there wasn’t so much going on in Wrocław and we loved it. He actually went back to Poland and I was like “I’m not going back there.” I had one little suitcase and thought “I’m staying here now, this is my new home!”
So how has it been living in Berlin, in terms of making your music? Obviously it’s such a creative city with so many artistic people. Has that inspired you or made you look at music in a different way? Has it changed your approach to music?
Yeah, there’s a lot going on here creatively. Especially with music, there’s a lot of different scenes. It’s kind of where I first discovered techno music, which is what Berlin’s influence on me is and it’s where I find some channels to make music, especially electronic music. I was always working on music when I was younger but more in like a classical or folk sense. I did a lot of musical theater and played guitar when I was young, but coming to Berlin opened up my creativity. I like this city a lot - it’s a contrast of a lot of things. Some people don’t like it because it’s a bit rough and dirty - it’s ultra real here. You see a lot of real life here which isn’t always beautiful and good and happy and nice, and that’s kind of shown me that that’s an important part of life experience too. It shouldn’t always be sugar coated, cities shouldn’t always be clean and taken care of, so I think all of this input allowed me to find some voices inside of me that maybe weren’t there before, or that I didn’t see or listen to. I definitely didn’t listen to them before - now I can.
You also write a lot of your own music and a lot of your newer songs have this dreamy sound to them, but that has a contrast to how you describe Berlin. Is there a special song that’s memorable to you?
“Wasted Dawn” I wrote after a night of being out until like 6 or 7 in the morning, and we also shot a little video on the way home from a party, and we had all these little interactions on the street at 7 in the morning.
What about “Warm Heaven”?
Now with my newer work it’s going with my development as a lot of my old things were a lot more dreamier and lighter. I maybe wasn’t seeing reality as I am now, and I’m also growing up, which obviously happens as you get older with your art and your personal self. “Warm Heaven” to me is a bit more painful. It’s focusing in on these realities and seeing unfairness and seeing pain and suffering all the time, and wondering what to do with that. It’s kind of hard to live life in the current state of the world when things are looking pretty dark and I get caught up in that stuff a lot. I think about how unfair everything is and it’s tough.
I think it’s only natural that you extend that through your music, As an artist, it’s a way to express yourself.
Yeah, for sure.
You have a very distinctive style, Do you feel it’s easier to maintain that in Berlin or do you feel like you have to be different just because it’s so diverse here?
No, I think that’s one of the things about Berlin that’s special. You can really be your authentic self here and the general public doesn’t care. Like you can see people walking home in all states at 8 o’clock in the morning, and people are still up and out, people are going to work - it’s many different types. I think it’s pretty easy to be your authentic self here. I think there’s nothing holding you back. There’s no judgement - it’s pretty easy to find your way.
what inspires you in terms of your writing process?
I’m not so disciplined, which is something I’m working on with my whole character and my whole life. Some days I just really don’t feel like doing anything, so I don’t. And then sometimes I have really insane creativity spurts where I have to write all day and all night for a couple of days and finish a few tracks. I feel like it really comes in waves but unfortunately I’m too emotional so I feel like it’s always really coming when I’m going through a really rough time or falling in or out of love.
What are your plans for the next year?
Right now, I’m releasing a new EP kind of. We’re going to put out a new track every month or so for the next few months and then the full EP will come out in the summer. And then I will do a big tour in the fall of Europe at least. I’m starting with a big performance at this festival in Berlin called Pop-Kultur. This will be the first commissioned work I’ve done which will be like this full immersive installation and kind of theater piece to this soundtrack that I’m making that was based off of “Warm Heaven.” So that’s going to be a big project for me that I’m looking forward to getting started. At the moment I’m just working on music. I’m playing three shows in Greece in July, which will be really nice to do a small Greece tour. It’s mainly just me playing shows on and off and then the longer tour in the fall. I find long tours to be exhausting - it’s a lot of physical and emotional stress, and I’m not so good at that, so hopefully I can find a way to exist in this industry without always having to go on three or four month tours with shows every night.
What are five key words that make you think of “Warm Heaven”?
Escaping, love, vulnerability, angels, death.