Iceland’s other Oscar winner
Markéta was born and raised in Valmez, Czech Republic. “I started learning piano when I was seven, and then a little later the guitar. When mum and dad were kids, they wanted to learn an instrument but didn’t have the chance, so they tried to give us all the opportunities they never had,” she says.
“I never realised I could work in music later. I’ve seen mum and dad really enjoy how it developed and they are very much to thank for the fact that I am living the life I am.”
Markéta met the musician Glen Hansard when he played a music festival in the Czech Republic and they ended up forming the band The Swell Season. They ended up playing venues around the world. “That was absolutely the beginning of something, though there was no chance that I could even imagine how it would go. I learnt from Glen how to write lyrics, and he was very much ‘Wait! You have a piano, you sing, why are you not writing?’ so he encouraged me to start writing,” Markéta says.
Soon, she started writing a lot of music and quickly achieved major success when she and Hansard wrote the music for the film Once. She also played one of the lead roles in the film. Their song from the film, Falling Slowly, won the Oscar in 2008, when Markéta was just 20. “It was a super-low-budget movie. Nobody thought it would go far. But then the film went to the Sundance festival and then a huge amount of advertising started in the USA. After that, it blew up. It was amazing to watch it. And then we got the Oscar, which was also just crazy weird, but happened nevertheless. I think it was just meant to be. Everything that happened was like someone had planned it all out.”
A new home
After her Oscars adventure, Markéta stood at a crossroads. “I had a decision to make about whether to carry on in music or go and do something else. Then I moved to New York and made a solo record and then I came here to Iceland to make my second solo album. I met Míó, my husband, and then I was just here for eight years!” Marketa is married to the musician and sound engineer Sturla Míó Þórisson.
Míó describes their meeting: “We met in the studio. I was working with my genius brother, Valgeir Sigurðsson, [...] and Markéta came there to record the album called Muna. So, for the next year we were playing around with her record a lot. She only planned to be here two weeks but just didn’t leave again. I think I'm the luckiest man in the world, because I get to do what I love with the woman I love.”
At the Live from Reykjavík online festival this month, put on in place of Iceland Airwaves, Markéta played as part of the Emilíana Torrini & Friends group, having first met Emilíana many years previously. “I had known her music, as my sister gave me her album for Christmas maybe ten years ago. But it is over the past two years that we’ve started to meet often with our children. Emilíana is such a fun character and a really talented musician. It's always an honour to be able to do something with her.”
Asked, Markéta says she is working on a musical, and on the third and final album in her trilogy. There is therefore plenty going on, despite the lack of concerts to perform this year. “Even though there’s very little do do, it’s as if ‘all systems are down’ or something. All the rules of the music industry, it’s as if they don’t apply anymore and you can just do anything. It’s really fun.”