Singer Maria Wilman Talks About Her Debut Album, ‘Dark Horse’

London-based singer/songwriter Maria Wilman is known for her transformative journey and trust in her potential. Her latest album “Dark Horse,” produced by Colin Elliot, delves into unexpected sides of ourselves. Raised during Franco years in Basque country, her songs brim with rock ‘n’ roll spirit and retro-pop charm, evoking artists like Nicole Atkins. Wilman’s introspective tunes embrace the fluidity of loss, resonating with an urgent curiosity about the future and enduring legacies.

 Photo: Alberto Otaduy

Your journey seems marked by unexpected transformations and a strong belief in your potential. Could you share some key moments that have shaped your path and led you to where you are today as a singer/songwriter?
When I look back on my life, every moment is key and plays its unique part. Every decision big or small is determined by the people around you, your circumstances and your environment. From that remark, that comment, that word of advice or encouragement given, to that supportive person or that criticism or injustice felt, all has shaped me along the way.  But if any standout, those will always be the creative moments in my life: my first guitar at the age of 10 and the hours on end playing in my room…dancing, acting as I was growing up.Film and music shape my dreams, allowing me to dream” big”, to dream further. All of it made me believe that if you follow through, if you turn up and commit, the path keeps stretching beneath your feet. 

Your upcoming release, “Dark Horse,” delves into the idea of hidden sides of us emerging unexpectedly. What inspired you to explore this concept, and how does it resonate with your own experiences?
I feel as if I am on a constant path of discovery and growth, both personal and interpersonal. I find myself asking the same old questions “who am I” and “who am I going to develop into”, “is the scope for change?” Sometimes we surprise others by becoming something they didn’t expect us to become; but most of the time we end up surprising ourselves. I think we surprise ourselves because we forget, we give up, we abandon dreams along the way. We emerge unexpectedly when we remember, when we find the resilience to keep going and when we keep dreaming, keep growing, keep learning, “keep pushing”, keep asking questions.  


The creative process is often deeply personal. Could you provide some insight into your songwriting approach and how you translate your personal experiences into your music?
I have asked myself this question before and tried to find a rational answer to it, failing to even make sense of my own words…! The only thing I know is that my constant queries make me put down in writing my feelings about it. The more honest I am and the more I let go of any form of control the better the result. The creative process feels like putting your entire soul out there hoping it will be found and returned home safely…

Collaborating with producer Colin Elliot, known for his work with artists like Richard Hawley, must have been an interesting experience. Can you share how this collaboration influenced the sound and direction of your music?
I think the key to collaboration is mutual respect, understanding and appreciation for what you have in front of you. We were both enthusiastic about the music, he respected the artistic process and where the music was coming from, and I had to let go and trust him. A collaboration is introducing something new into the mix; In our case it worked like alchemy: it had the power to transform things for the better. 


“Dark Horse” is a glimpse into a larger body of work you’ve written over several years. What themes or emotions can listeners expect to encounter in this upcoming collection of songs?
There are three Albums written and recorded in under two years. It felt like an uncontrollable journey of creative madness. Somehow structured in three basic pillars: past present and what’s to come yet. Consciously arranged over early experiences of growing up, maturing and evolving further.  Radio Silence, the first album, touches on themes of solitude, introspection, belonging, inner strength, pursuing your true potential, accepting loss and defeat, letting go of what is not valuable. Dark Horse is anchored in the present, focussing on transformation, bereavement, self-compassion and self-discovery, following your dreams, the unifying power of beginnings and endings, reconnecting through time with others and the power of love as the eternal element that brings everything together. Radioactive, my third album, it’s about what’s to come. Inspired by Radium, a material that “does not behave as it should”, this third piece of the triad does exactly that. 

The sense of loss and constant change is a recurring theme in your music. How do you find ways to navigate these feelings in your own life, and how do they inform your songwriting?
Loss and change are a constant theme in my music as they appear as a constant also in my life. This is not exclusive to me; I think it’s universal to all. Time is also a constant variable that appears intertwined with loss and change. I believe my personal struggles with bereavement and transitions have made my songwriting richer and personal. It is not always easy to talk openly about these experiences but reflecting on one’s shortcomings through songwriting seems to grant a relief when others empathise with them. 


Your music carries a blend of rock ‘n’ roll swagger and retro-pop influences, while still feeling urgent and contemporary. How do you balance these different elements to create a unique sound that resonates with listeners?
I believe I am unconsciously collecting and mixing everything that I have listened to in my life whilst giving it my own interpretation and shape. This eclectic mix is also what I listen to, the music I dance to, from classical to modern rock and pop. I am very comfortable with the mix, and I really enjoy that. Anything with a beat has potential! 

Your background in psychology and your experiences in the politically charged Franco years have likely shaped your perspective as an artist. How do these influences manifest in your music, and what messages or emotions do you hope to convey through your songs?
I found psychology laid the foundation for understanding human behaviour, emotions, intentions. The same empathy and compassion needed to engage in a therapeutic relationship is actually needed to engage with an audience. Both feed from connection and being real with each other. Whatever the socio-political circumstances one grows up in, tell the story of who you are. They shape your views about the world and others in it. In my case it was a case of two mixed cultures: one based on division, suppression of roots and identity,  opposed to another rooted on unlimited potential, and open mindedness where I felt I did belong. Anything that is suppressed will eventually fight its way out. “What we resist, persists”. Writing songs has made me come back to all of this. Now, with some distance, and time to heal, it all makes more sense. I’ve discovered more players, other voices with a chance to express how they lived and what they lived for. 


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