Winona Oak | 5 Minutes With

“I’m sitting here on a patio with a beautiful night sky above me and palm trees and flickering lights on the horizon,” describes Swedish artist Winona Oak as she retrieves after touring with Oh Wonder. In moments like these, one needs to unlock extra energy from their emergency power bank.

In the case of Winona Oak, this is not an emergency; this is a milestone. Playing off with the excess adrenaline from playing live shows all over the States, Oak celebrates the release of her debut album ‘Island Of The Sun’ out now.

‘Island Of The Sun’ is a collection of 13 songs with a title honoring Oak’s hometown of Sollerön, Sweden. At an early age, young Winona Oak was exposed to music, learning to play piano and violin. But for some time, she considered herself more of a writer than a singer.

At 19, she decided to give it ‘a real shot.’ Oak began to turn her poetry into musical sonnets with her voice at the center. Throughout her journey, Oak works to avoid being put in a box, and instead wishes her stories and experiences to be the focus of her music.

Press play on ‘Island Of The Sun,’ and let the daydreaming commence. Even Winona Oak herself hopes for you to let it create your soundtrack to your life. On the side, read our insightful interview with Winona Oak below.

‘Island Of The Sun’ is out now for everyone to hear. Are you excited?

Ahhh yes I am like beyond excited (!!!!) but it’s all so nerve wracking and scary at the same time. I’ve put my heart and soul into this album so I just really hope that people will love it as much as I do. 

How did you get into music initially?

I started playing violin when I was 5 and piano when I was 9, I also sang in choirs and music was always very present in my home growing up. I wanted to be a writer initially but as soon as I learned how to play those basic chords on piano I turned my poems and stories into songs. I was 19 when I decided to give music a real shot and it’s been quite a journey finding my sound and the right people to work with but it makes me extra grateful for the team that I have around me today. 

How would you describe your sound?

I feel like my sound is constantly moving and growing with me. I’m trying to not get stuck in a box and I just want to continue to experiment with different genres and sound landscapes. The core of my sound is my voice, the experiences, stories and subjects that I sing about. I want my songs to feel classic, authentic and futuristic at the same time, that’s the feeling I’m chasing…

How would you compare yourself as an artist and as a person behind the scenes?

Since I share so much of myself in my music there’s very much of me in my artist persona, it can be hard to separate sometimes. Behind the scenes I’m definitely a bit more shy and chill maybe. The music industry can be really tough so I think it’s important to stay kind (both to myself and everyone else) and to be humble. I’ve seen way too many people wasting their talent on the wrong things and as much as I share of myself and my experiences I value my mental health and my private life above it all. 

Who are your main musical influences?

I listen to all different kinds of music and get inspired by all types of genres. On a daily basis I can listen to everything from Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Aretha Franklin to Röyksopp, Bonobo, Kate Bush, Robyn, Christine and the Queens, Harry Styles and Tove Lo. And the list goes on.. You know when music is good and that’s when it makes you feel some type of way. 

How would you describe your debut album ‘Island Of The Sun’?

It’s a collection of 13 songs that I’ve written over these past 4 years, it takes place in a world where really raw and intimate songs meets dark pop synths and dancing melodies. The album is named after the place where I grew up in Sweden, a small island in the middle of the Nordic forests. It takes you back to the place where it all started, you’ll hear stories from my life and the lessons that I’ve learned. It also invites the listeners to create their own ”island” of memories while listening to the album. I think it’s so cool how every single person listening to the same song will think of their own unique experiences – and also create new soundtracks to their life stories. 

What are the main themes you’re touching upon?

Mental health, heartbreak, loving someone that’s not capable of loving you back, being a woman in a male dominated (and f**ked up world), losing and finding self-confidence, the highs, the lows, self-worth and my life lessons. 

What is the inspiration behind ‘Baby Blue’ and ‘Jojo’?

Baby Blue is a song about realizing your self-worth, that it has nothing to do with how other people treat you. It’s a tough lesson to learn that someone you love doesn’t care about you, maybe they wish they could but they just aren’t capable and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change that. And maybe one day you will learn that your happiness isn’t reliant upon the happiness of others. 

Jojo is a song that I wrote to myself, (Jojo is my nickname). It’s a song that I wrote about feeling like a helpless spot in the universe, like everything’s beyond my control. I feel lost inside the arms of society sometimes, it can be so damn cold and dark. No wonder everyone’s escaping to this parallel universe aka the internet and social media, where you can be whoever you want to be. Jojo is reminding me to take a step back and reflect on all the beauty in life, with all its ups and downs, I see the light and all the unconditional love, everything that’s worth living for. 

What is your take on today’s societal link with social media?

It’s a world that’s getting more and more shallow and gives us endless access to exactly everything. Polished images of “perfect” people living their ‘perfect’ lives online. On the internet we can be whoever we want to be. We can pick apart and choose the best parts of our personality, showcase our best moments, our most flattering images and even manipulate them to look less human. It’s a toxic part of social media that pushes people into doing things that ruin them. How do we know what’s real? How do we find real love and honest connections when you judge someone based on their internet persona? 

There’s good things about social media too of course, like finding communities and friendships, building connections and a lot of art and inspirational people. But I just hope to see more variation in the future and I wish that it would be illegal for people to post all these insanely photoshopped pictures where they completely change their body proportions and even change their facial features and stuff.. it’s sad and creates very unrealistic standards. We are all humans after all, why pretend not to be. 

You’re joining Alec Benjamin on his European/UK tour, what can people expect form your live show?

Yessss, I am so excited! I’d say that my live show is a pretty good mix of moments that makes you want to dance all your sorrows away and really intimate acoustic songs to hug your friends and really feel it all to. A little bit like an emotional roller coaster maybe? Haha..

What songs out of ‘Island Of The Sun’ are you most excited about performing?

Ahh, its hard to say because I love all of them.. Three of my favourites from the US tour I just finished with Oh Wonder has been ’NDA’, ’Yours tomorrow’ and ’Piano in the sky’. 

What cities are you most excited to perform at?

All of them!!! There’s so many beautiful places on this tour – it’s gonna be a lot of breath-taking moments. There’s a couple of places that I’ve never been to in my life that I am extra excited about like Amsterdam, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Ireland and Scotland…

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Words: Karolina Kramplova