Hits, humor and therapy when Maria Mena invites you to a summer show

- I give people what they want! We only play singles, promises Maria Mena. She also wonders about something: Did she date someone at a party in Kongsberg approximately 20 years ago?

Ever since she sang her way out of the girls' room at secondary school age, Maria Mena has been the very definition of a personal, private and honest songwriter. Of course it hurts when buds burst, but after more than half of her life as an emotionally activated artist and hitmaker, Maria Mena believes that it is also great fun - and not least educational - to be at a concert with her. 

In addition to a series of hits ("we play optional singles!"), there are self-help seminars, therapy sessions og stand-up.

- It's always nice. Often a bit awful, but still really cosy. I press a few buttons that mean that there are few people who leave my concerts without starting to laugh, says Maria Mena.

- And then I'm quite funny, that is. I could do all this as a stand-up!

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The superhero of self-surrender

It is important to emphasize that these above quotes are delivered with sparkling eyes, a chuckling tone of voice and a totally melting smile. Maria Mena, 37 years old, is Norwegian pop's superheroine in self-disclosure. Now she is at a place in her life where the scales have rarely been more level. More confident in himself, in all dimensions: As a singer, as a songwriter, as a person. And not least as a musical caregiver, in the best sense of the word, in a proud tradition where she holds the audience's hand along the path where we can still see the footprints of Bjørn Eidsvåg's quiet, paternal footsteps.

- On the tour last Christmas and winter, I ran some themed programs on divorce and how to deal with anxiety. These are the kinds of things I think I can teach. So I always welcome group therapy. Not to talk about the bad times, but to teach what has worked for me. I've always been so open about these things, I see know that there will be people in the hall who have used a lot of effort and braved anxiety and depression to be there, explains Maria.

Gamle Norge
Wednesday 5 July / Time: 22:00

Maria Mena

She has always had the microphone in one hand and her heart in the other. Or the heart has hung on the outside of the t-shirt. Or lying clearly visible in an open handbag. The tears roll from despair and frustration, but also from laughter and joy of life. The ugly og nice on the back. Pain and triumph, alternately.

- I have become a part of other people's lives through these songs. Therefore, it is also important that I show that I to be you out there! You are not alone! If I've been able to get through these things, so can you. For me, it's about wanting to be the one jeg had needed himself, at various times in his life.

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Every time we stream

If you rummage around on Maria Mena's artist page on Spotify, you will be greeted by some pretty hefty numbers. Her most streamed hits have long since surpassed 50 million plays. 

It must also be said that Maria Mena largely led the way in the 11th season of the TV hit "Hver gang we meet" a few years back. Anyone who has spoken to her for more than two minutes understands why a musical dinner party is a wonderful arena for her. Maria's versions of the other contestants' songs were consistently the most popular throughout the season, topped off with a heartfelt one "could-be-original-Maria Mena" version of Staysman's "Need a Man".

Photo: TV2

This spring, she has further expanded the edge zone of her talent and musical habitat with a woven and confidently laid-back collaboration with the Norwegian Americana duo Darling West. "Try Again Tomorrow" is a lovely little affair, done with stealthy intimacy in a mood that hints at Kacey Musgraves' "Golden Hour" and "Folklore"-era Taylor Swift.

This is just one of many singles that have trickled out in a steady stream from the studio over the past year. Time will tell when these will finally be collected in album format - and which of them may be the next to reach eight-figure power metal. The very last of them arrived the other day and is called "Easy Love".

- I probably sound old now, but I miss the CD format. That's what I grew up with. I like my songs together, in the right order. The order is not random, I always tell a bigger story with the songs. And I do that in concerts too, I take people with me on my life's journey.

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The control freak case

At Kongsberg, in idyllic surroundings on the outdoor stage at Gamle Norge, this could be a pretty perfect evening with the hit machine and self-help inspiration Mena.

- There have been periods where I have feared the stage, but now it is a lot of fun! I give people what they want, just hits. We aim for zero drug breaks for the public!

But the hit machine has also become a braver and more mature stage artist. 

- What is a bit new is that we dare to let the songs spread more. I'm very much like "three and a half minutes, bang!", so it's taken time before I've become comfortable with giving the songs more air. It has been a process as well.

"Process" in this case is simply that at some point last year, certified control freak Maria Mena was so tired that she told her band, "Practice a little without me."

- The musicians were given a few days in peace to work on the songs. It was a huge investment for me mentally, but in hindsight it really paid off. The band has been given greater freedom and ownership. We are so good, we are one properband now!

Photo: Sony Music

This new confidence and ability to let go of control is also about Maria Mena's own instrument, the instantly recognizable and charismatic voice.

- In theory, the voice should get worse as you get older, but I can do things vocally now that I've never been close to before. A big difference is also that I dare to ask for help to a greater extent. I have been the definition of "clear all soul", and have almost always been alone as a vocalist on stage. It is very vulnerable. Now I have several vocalists with me on stage, including my voice coach. Talk about taking the therapist with you on a trip, sort of!

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Wanted: Do you have a clinic with Maria Mena at Kongsberg?

Maria's relationship with Kongsberg is stronger than her relationship with jazz. Radka Toneff's version of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is nominated for a favorite within the latter genre, but a longer list of jazz favorites is worse to get out of her. 

- I've never listened to much jazz, I was more into rock and soul when I was growing up. I'm a child of MTV, so right now I'm a hero piece on 90s and 2000s R&B. A Vogue. Lucy Pearl. Toni Braxton. Also the Fugees, I still enjoy the Fugees and Lauryn Hill to death.

Check out Maria Mena's R&B playlist.

Papa Charles Mena has played at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival several times before, most recently as part of Bugge Wesseltoft's The Organ Club constellation at Energimølla in 2021. Maria's relationship with Kongsberg is – for now – a little less musical.

- My first experience of being celebrity come to Kongsberg! In high school I had a classmate from Kongsberg. So I went home with her, and there was supposed to be a home-alone party. At that party I experienced that everyone sat in a circle and looked at me. I was kind of an attraction. Then I realized: From here on things will be a little different, she recalls.

- The chance that someone from that party about 20 years ago will show up at a concert in Kongsberg is pretty big, isn't it?

- Haha, that's true! Imagine if I fuck with someone? They will remember that, don't you think? I have to ask from the stage if there is anyone here who has a crush on me. If so, please rate me on Yelp!

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Text: Sven Ove Bakke

Gamle Norge
Wednesday 5 July / Time: 22:00

Maria Mena