Talented Swedish Artist Winona Oak Talks About Her Excellent New Singles “Fire Escapes,” and “Fragile Thing” And “If I Were To Die”

Winona Oak
Winona Oak

Over the past five years, Swedish singer/songwriter Winona Oak has been known as an acclaimed artist who combines folk-pop and electro-pop for a distinctive, emotional sound. She has an expressive, warm singing voice, and her songs are full of beautiful melodies and poetic lyrics.

During the last six months, Oak has begun releasing new songs that mark a new beginning in her career. She has signed with top indie label, Nettwerk Records, and she’s  released four excellent songs that will be included on her upcoming 6-song EP called Void. These songs indicate that Oak is focusing more on a slightly more stripped-back sound, yet still featuring her atmospheric synth tracks and rich background harmonies.

Oak’s four new songs are “Fire Escapes,” “Fragile Thing,” “With Or Without You” and “If I Were To Die.” “Fire Escapes” is a graceful, lovely midtempo song that has a soaring chorus, and ends with lush, multi-layered harmonies. “Fragile Thing” is a piano-based ballad with a heartfelt lyric, that builds into a symphonic sound.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Winona, about how she wrote her new singles “Fire Escapes” and “Fragile Thing.”


“With Or Without You” is an elegant ballad that Oak dedicated to her mother, who passed away after a long illness. And “If I Were To Die” is her most recent release, a ballad that starts softly and then emerges with a powerful chorus. Soon to be released are her songs “Who Would I Be” and “Boy In Space.”

Oak was born in Sweden, on the island of Solleron. Early on, she liked to write stories, and she learned to play piano and violin. As a teenager, she started to write songs, and she eventually moved to Stockholm and signed a music publishing deal when she 20.

When she was 22, Oak decided to move to Los Angeles, where she signed a major label deal with Neon Gold & Atlantic Records. Soon after, she had chart success when she collaborated with the Chainsmokers on the single “Hope,” and with DJ/producer Robin Schulz on the single, “Oxygen.”

Here’s the video of Winona Oak’s single, “If I Were To Die.”

In 2022, Oak released her debut album, Island in the Sun, that contained her popular songs “He Don’t Love Me,” “Break My Broken Heart,” “Radio,” “Baby Blue,” “Piano in the Sky” and “NDA.”

Winona Oak Interview
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Winona Oak. She discusses her key songs from earlier in her career, and about her new singles from her upcoming EP, Void.

DK: I read that you’re from Sweden and you’ve also lived in Los Angeles. How did you get started with music and writing songs?

Winona Oak: When I was very young, I started writing stories. I wanted to write books, and I would write the most dramatic story, to the point where my teachers would even call my parents and be like, “Hey, is your kid okay?” (laughs). And I started playing violin when I was 5, and then piano when I was 9. My big sister would always sing a lot and play in the house, so I was always singing too. Then I started to turn my poems and stories into songs. So I started pretty young, but I never thought that I would be able o have it as a job. It felt so far away, and I didn’t have anyone in my family that had that type of career. It was like a foreign dream.

DK: Did you start your music career in Sweden, or when you moved to Los Angeles?

Oak: I started as a songwriter in Sweden, and I signed my publishing deal there when I was 20. I had grown up in the countryside in Sweden on a small island, and then I moved to Stockholm. I felt like I really needed to give music a shot; I spent all my free time in the studio. Then when I was 22, I moved to L.A. That’s when I signed a deal with Atlantic Records and Neon Gold Records.

DK: A few years ago, you had chart success with the Chainsmokers on the song “Hope,” and with Robin Schulz on the song, “Oxygen.” Can you talk about these collaborations?

Here’s the lyric video of Winona Oak’s single, “Fire Escapes.”

Oak: It’s funny how I actually started. At the time, I didn’t have any of my own music out on Spotify, and that’s when I released “Hope” with the Chainsmokers. So I was happy that they heard a track and they wanted to work on it. They invited me to their studio in L.A., and we clicked and became good friends, and they took a leap with me. They had no idea how my career would go, but they believed in me and were big supporters.

Then I started to release my own music and I collaborated with Robin Schulz. It was in 2020 during the pandemic. And I remember when we did the music video on the streets and I had to send everything to them. And now I’ve released another track with Robin, called “One By One.”

DK: Two years ago, you released your album Island of the Sun on Atlantic Records. Can you talk about the making of this album and your favorite songs on it?

Oak: Some of my favorite songs are on that album. It’s dedicated to the island where I grew up, which is a beautiful place in Sweden. It’s a place where I feel so connected to, and I wanted the music to represent that feeling. Every song tells its own story. “NDA” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It tells such an important story of my experience as a female and this world in general, and also in the music industry, because it can be very corrupt and male-dominated.

“Bend My Broken Heart” is another favorite from the album, and I love “Jojo.” It’s very hard to choose, but I had so much fun experimenting with that album, because I let myself do whatever I felt I needed to do. I didn’t have any specific frames for it. So every song is very different and I had a lot of fun creating that.

DK: You’re now signed with Nettwerk Records, and you’ll be releasing your new EP soon, called Void. Can you talk about signing with Nettwerk and making your EP?

Oak: It’s been really great so far. I was with Atlantic Records for five years and it was nice being with a major label, but it also comes with a lot of expectations. And right now, I feel like I have so much creative freedom in a way that I maybe didn’t have in the same way when I was on a major label, because you’re always competing with those enormous stars who are getting all the attention. I feel like it’s so nice now…I create whatever I have to create. There’s no judgment. I feel like I’ve fallen in love with my music again. I fell in love with being creative and able to do what I want to.

Here’s the lyric video of Winona Oak’s single, “Fragile Thing.”

Still, this EP was really hard for me to write, because last year was the worst year of my life. And I still feel like I’m in such a chaotic time in my life and everything’s pretty much upside down. I lost my mom at the beginning of last year. She was my best friend and my closest person. But Nettwerk has been really supportive and they told me, “If you need to take a year off, we’re here for you. There’s no pressure…just do whatever you have to do.” I feel like they have my back and they’re super supportive.

DK: I like your new song “Fire Escapes,” which has a beautiful melody and a unique lyric. What inspired you to write this song?

Oak: With “Fire Escapes,” I wanted it to have that really Swedish sound…it has a folk vibe to it. I grew up playing folk music when I was a kid. For 10 years, I played folk music and violin. And so I think there are so many beautiful melodies, and there’s a way of telling a story, and I wanted “Fire Escapes” to represent that. And the lyrics are very sad, but also with a humorous twist. It’s about self-sabotaging, and always trying to run away from yourself. So it’s a very vulnerable song, but it’s also written with some humor which I love, because it’s got that energy. And then you have that beautiful acoustic vibe that makes it less heavy.

DK:  I also like your new song “Fragile Thing.” Can you talk about writing this song?

Oak: I like “Fragile Thing” too; it’s one of my favorites. It’s so cinematic, and I wanted to create something that had that majestic outro, and parts of the song where the music just speaks for itself and the melodies. And also going back to that kind of poetic lyric. You know, the way of writing songs when it’s very poetic and beautiful. So I really do love that song.

DK: I read that your new song, “With Or Without You,” was written after your mother had passed away. Did you write this song about your relationship with your mother?

Oak: Yes, that song is dedicated to my mom. I started writing it before she passed, and then I finished it when she had passed away. So she was actually able to hear fragments of that song. She had been sick for about half of my life, almost 15 years, with an untreatable cancer. She went through so much. It was a miracle that she survived for as long as she did, because they had given her five years to live. She was the biggest fighter. I also teamed up with a Swedish cancer research program. I did a fundraiser for that, so I’m giving away money from the song to cancer research.

Here’s the video of Winona Oak’s popular song, “He Don’t Love Me.”

DK: You’ve just released a new song called “If I Were To Die.” Can you talk about that song?

Oak: Yes, it’s one of my absolute favorite songs that I’ve done. I think it’s different from what I’ve done in the past. Lyrically, it’s very dark, but it’s also written with the glimpse in your eye about catastrophic thinking,  which I feel I suffered from (laughs) my entire life. Whenever I’m happy and everything’s good, I’m always expecting the worse. And in my relationships and just everything, I’m always scared that everything’s gonna fall apart. So this is a song about that…it’s a song about feeling like you would almost rather die with someone than to lose all the beauty you feel in the moment, because you’re so scared of losing them. And you just feel more safe in the chaos.

DK: I looked at the writing credits for your EP, and you co-write most of your songs. With your songwriting, do you like coming up with ideas first and then bringing it to your co-writers, or do you like writing from scratch with them?

Oak: I like writing from scratch mostly, but it depends. It’s different from song to song. Sometimes it can be an idea that I have or a concept, and the lyrics need to be there because I want to tell a story and I want it to be clear. So I think the concept or the words can come. But I always start with the melodies, and then the story and the right words need to be there. I usually start writing the hook or the chorus, because if I find the chorus, it’s like finding the heart of the song. So I like to start with the hook, and I also think that if you don’t have a great hook, then you don’t have a great song.

DK: I want to ask you about your live shows. Will you be playing shows or going on tour when your EP comes out?

Oak: I hope so. I don’t have anything planned 100% yet, but I’m definitely excited to play live. I think that all of the songs on the EP are going to sound amazing live, and it would be so fun to play live. So I’m super excited.

Here’s the link to Winona Oak’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/winonaoak/?hl=en

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima