Sound Off: Winona Oak
Oct 23, 2020
With the inclusion of previously released “With Myself”, Winona Oak’s sophomore EP, SHE, is a roller coaster of emotions grounded by the theme of empowerment.
Following her debut EP Closure, SHE totals out at 4 songs and 12 minutes of Winona defying, once again, the limits set upon pop music. With enchantingly rich vocals and a knack for effortlessly characterizing life scenarios, Winona is soon to be backed by a new hoard of fans.
Title track ‘She’ along with ‘With Myself’, are both empowering anthems that explore the double standard set in today’s society. Using the official music video for ‘With Myself’ to juxtapose those stereotypical feminine and masculine qualities, the video exudes the essence of a woman through Winona while she enjoys all of the things within her reach.
Contrasted by the albums second track ‘Piano in the Sky’, Winona pulls out her emotional range on this darkened track admittedly even crying as she recorded the vocals.
Winona talked to us about the EP, tour hopes, and mental health.
What can you tell me about the creation of ‘With Myself’?
I wrote it in Denmark either last year or two years ago. For me it’s just such a like statement song. I’m just so sick and tired of female bodies getting sexualized. I wanted to play around with a character though was just bossy and badass and all the things that men can do and be praised for. If we’re successful, it’s like, “Oh, she’s so bossy or blah, blah, blah.” Why can’t we just be humans?
The music video shows scenes of floral, parties, and poker almost like a juxtapose of masculine and feminine. How did you come up with the visuals for that?
I wanted to create the stereotypical male positions with like males around a poker table but still embrace the femininity of it and still be feminine and successful and bossy. I didn’t want to “act like a guy,” I wanted to show that women can be feminine and do both. I have like friends that like are scared to be too feminine and perceived a different.
I feel that way myself sometimes and I think, “Oh, should I be really weird?” or I have the thought “am I showing off too much?” or “am I wearing like too much lipstick or makeup?”
You were originally set to go on tour in April. Was there a city or venue you were really looking forward to playing in?
There’s this one in New York actually that I was supposed to play in called Kings Theatre. It’s crazy beautiful. I remember showing my dad photos of it and I told him that he should come there with my mom.
One of my favorite tracks on ‘SHE’ is “Piano in the Sky”. In regard to the overall EP, how does it fit in to the story that you’re telling?
I think the new EP is just a mix of different vibes. It’s a mix of emotions. ‘Piano in the Sky’ is based on a dream that I had, and I have another song has a similar mode. They both talk about just breaking the stigma around mental health. I struggled a lot with anxiety and my mental health and I just wanna be able to talk about it in my music.
Artists always express themselves as having used music in a therapeutic way. Do you ever have a hard time releasing something that is personal to you in a song?
I think it’s beautiful because I’m able to share something so personal, that can still apply in somebody else’s life. They can relate to it and they have their own story, but it’s also like you’re naked. You’re putting your soul into something and it’s always real, especially when I write about break ups or if I had like a fight with my boyfriend or with my family and I write about it and I even told my boyfriend, you know, I’m like, “this song is about you”. And he’s like, “what?” and I’m like, “yeah”. Secretly sending him messages for my love.
I saw you posted something recently on mental health awareness that described a lost sense of reality. When/where do you feel most present or in tune with yourself?
I’m trying to work on my mental health all the time. I feel like when I’m with my friends and my family, or when I’m on a stage, writing, just performing, that’s when I’m the happiest or when I’m most in connection with myself. Also, if I’m out in the nature.
What is your favorite place in Sweden?
It has to be the Island (Sollerön) and also another Island called Gotland.
My boyfriend took me there two years ago for the first time. He’s been there since he was a kid, so I think he has a lot of like emotional connection to that place.
Is there a song you’ve written that you’re most proud of?
They’re all my babies. I love them all. From my new EP, I love ‘Piano in the Sky’. I was really sad when I recorded that one, and I think you can hear it. That was a really real moment for me, and I let go of so many feelings that I had.
You had early training in both violin and piano. How did the early training and exposure into music affect how you create now? Do you use either when creating?
I don’t really play violin anymore, but I play piano. I think just being exposed to music at like such an early age, like my grandma was accepted to the Royal opera in Stockholm, she was an amazing singer. She would always sing when I was a kid and play all kinds of instruments. My grandpa was also really skilled.
What do you look for when you’re looking for new music to listen to?
The soul, I think. I think a lot of people these days just make music in order to write hits, and that’s cool. I can listen to that as well and enjoy it, but I think there’s a difference when you hear that somebody actually put their heart into something, and they can really hear that their soul is present in the music. So, if I feel something for real and I can connect with them for the music, that’s when I save it to my playlist.