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I meet with rising alt-pop singer Winona Oak days after her show at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, which I’m shocked to learn was her first show…ever. The Sweden-born artist was featured on (and co-wrote) The Chainsmokers’ song “Hope” in 2019, which not only proved her musical prowess, but amped up the excitement for her upcoming solo music.

With 2020 came her highly-anticipated EP Closure, chock-full of the heartbreak and personal growth that go hand in hand with being a 20-something. But Winona’s songs are unique in that their messages are universal; at her show, I was equal parts shocked and delighted to see an older man singing his heart out the entire time.

“It was a great show because I had these songs with me for like five years,” Winona tells me. “It’s such a relief to finally be able to share them with the world. Just to see someone singing your songs, that’s insane. That’s my goal. To just make music that everyone can connect with.”

It’s hard not to become addicted to Winona’s music. Danceable synth beats and ethereal falsetto create the kind of hypnotic pop that defines artists like Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds, both of which Winona has been compared to.

Read on to get to know Winona Oak, and stream her electrifying EP below.

These songs have been years in the making. What was the process of creating and releasing this EP like?

It’s been like five years. “Lonely Hearts Club” is the one that I wrote five years ago. That’s insane, I was 20. That one is a deep self-reflection, about battling my inner demons. It’s like the start of a journey to self-love. “Break My Broken Heart” is about taking risks after being hurt, because it’s better to feel something that to not feel anything at all.

You’ve been compared to both Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds, both of which tend to incorporate romantic visual elements into their work. Just scrolling through your Instagram, it’s clear that visuals are also a very important part of your storytelling. 

I feel like the visuals go hand in hand with the music. I just feel like it’s so important. It creates a different perspective.

Where do you draw inspiration for visuals and music videos?

Places that I’ve been to. When I was a kid I wrote so many stories. Crazy stories. And I forced my friends to play all these different roles. It’s always been important to me to create a world.

Tell me about your upbringing in Sweden.

I grew up on a tiny island called Island of the Sun. You should go there. It’s beautiful. The name is from back in the day when the Vikings worshiped this god of the sun. So there’s a lot of Viking graves on the island.

Um, that sounds amazing. How did that environment influence you growing up?

I feel like it made me pretty grounded. And made me very grateful. I just love being out in nature. Growing up, I barely had any TV channels. I was just creating this big fantasy world. And I think that’s still a big part of the way that I write music. I don’t feel like I fit in a box, I just want to create something beautiful.

Your songs are all about these tumultuous relationships, but the title of the EP is “Closure”. Why did you give it that name? What does “closure” mean to you?

I just feel like you have to go through certain things with yourself. Every song is a part of that process. There’s a lot of things I’ve learned about valuing myself. I had to forgive myself for putting myself in those situations, in order to find closure. It’s five years of stories: the good, the bad, everything. Now, I feel like I can let it go a little bit and move into this new chapter.



photos / Julia Drummond

story / Catherine Santino

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