When I was 10 years old, my mother came home and said that I'd been given a new middle name: Viktoria, after my great grandmother. But no-one called me Maria Viktoria Mena, the name just disappeared. After my previous record, I felt that I'd become a calmer person. "Maybe this is Viktoria?", I've been thinking, "an understanding and forgiving Maria". The name has never felt natural before, but now it's about a divide inside of me, about a new person, about a kind of victory.
One of Scandinavia's most successful artists is back with her fifth studio album, "Viktoria". Norwegian/American Maria Mena (25) has played before full houses on tours, played several of Europe's biggest festivals and charted in most parts of the world since "Cause And Effect" (2008). Her previous album went gold in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Norway, and she was also awarded Spellemannprisen (the Norwegian Grammy award) in the category "best female artist". - "Viktoria" is a direct result of the fact that I let out a lot of anger on my previous record. Even though there's darkness here, too, it's a record about forgiving and about being sure that things will blow over, Mena says.
For the second time she's been in the studio with producer, and former LIPA student, Martin Sjølie, who's arranging Mena's self-composed songs. The result is 11 very beautiful songs . Sensationally, Mena got her breakthrough in Norway just after she turned 16 with "My Lullaby". After her debut album, "Another Phase" (2002), she's continued to be one of the country's leading artists for almost a decade. "Mellow" (2004) and "Apparently Unaffected" (2005) provided Mena with an international audience, and now she's touring in large parts of Europe, charting highly in Asia and South America, and having a global fan base. Kanye West, John Legend and Tinie Tempah are among the music greats who's taken a fancy to Mena's music, but her formula is still the same as when she was 12 and wrote the first songs in her bedroom.
- For me it's never been about writing hit songs. I haven't sat down trying to find some words that accidentally will fit a catchy melody. Music has been my way of putting into words what I'm feeling, my salvation, and still it's like that, Mena says. Maybe it's her honesty combined with a rare nose for melody that's given her an enormous impact and big hits like "You Are The Only One", "Just Hold Me", "Miss You Love", "All This Time", "Belly Up" and "My Lullaby". Just to mention a few.
During the last year in Norway, Mena has also received a lot of attention for songs outside of her own album projects. Her collaboration with award winning director Bent Hamer resulted in the song "Home For Christmas", the title song from his latest film "Hjem til jul". This delicate, piano-driven song immediately became a Christmas classic and Mena's best selling single ever in Norway. When tragedy and terror hit Oslo and Utøya on July 22nd, Mena's version of "Mitt Lille Land" became a musical rallying point in the middle of all the sorrow. She made the song available for free dowload, and she sang it for the rescuers and the victims' relatives at Oslo Cathedral.
Despite her impressive list of achievements, her best time starts now. She's already been booked for a number of festivals, and her European tour starts in the winter. - I understand more and more that the most important thing is to get the opportunity to pass this on, to hope that I can put words to something for the human beings. And I'm proud of the work that I've done, of releasing my fifth album and of still being allowed to travel all around with my music. It's a privilege, Mena says.