Marina Erakovic took the tennis world by surprise when she revealed that she'd quietly released an album in March - find out more about when she started to make music and how she records on the road.
Alex Macpherson

NÜRNBERG, Germany - Surprise releases are all the rage in the music world, but WTA World No.143 Marina Erakovic took secrecy around her music sideline to a new level by releasing an EP in March - and not telling anyone about it for two months.

Under the alias of The Mad Era, the EP - titled, appropriately enough, Incognito - comprises six tracks of synth- and guitar-driven alternative pop, written and recorded while on the road. Speaking this week, Erakovic discussed the importance of music in her life on Tour, the artists she’s discovered through fellow players and how technology has changed the game for travelling music fans.

You only let your fans know you’d released some music after it had been out for a couple of months. Was that because of the review?

ME: Yeah, exactly. I wouldn't really say “release”, it was just kind of a hobby I was doing. That magazine basically found it and contacted me - that's how it got published so I thought, 'Why not?' The response has actually been pretty positive. I always felt like I was doing it for myself and I never really knew if it was any good, so it's nice to know that people like it, which is a nice feeling!

How would you describe your musical style to people?

ME: Ah, I'm not sure actually. I'd say it was alternative, whether you want to call it alternative rock or pop. I like bands like Kings Of Leon, The Killers, The 1975; I like Fleetwood Mac, so that kind of genre, I guess.

What equipment and technology do you use?

ME: I basically use my laptop, it's a Mac, and I have a Traveler guitar. The interface is an Apogee - that's the company, it's called a ONE. It's kind of small and you can travel with it; I just plug it in and record.

When did you start making music?

ME: I’d probably say seven or eight years ago. I bought the recording stuff around that time but it all started with me jamming around on the guitar, then I thought, I'd really like to have a voice recording, to have someone singing. Then I realised, well, I'm the only one who can do that. I've never had the greatest voice, but then I started singing on the tracks and that's how the songs came about.

How long have you been playing the guitar for?

I started playing late. I was probably 17 or 18 years old and I was at my friend's house, he had an electric guitar. He played “Nothing Else Matters” on it and I was like, whoa, I have to do this as well. So basically whenever I was at his house I'd play around on his guitar. That was how it started, but it didn't really start properly until I was maybe 21. I injured myself at a Challenger in the States - I sprained my ankle and I couldn't do anything for a couple of weeks, and the hotel I was staying at had a guitar shop right next door. I was feeling quite down and sad so my dad thought, 'Why don't we get you a little guitar?' So I got a little mini Yamaha guitar and ever since then I've travelled with one.

Is it easy to pack and travel with?

Yeah - actually the little case I have for my guitar also fits two racquets in it! And that's how I've always travelled - I always have two racquets with me in the case so it's kind of cool, no one knows I play tennis when I'm at the airport. Everyone thinks I'm just carrying a violin. But at the moment, my bag is actually lost, so I don't know where those two racquets are!

Has music-making made life on the WTA Tour a bit easier?

ME: It's made it a lot more enjoyable. Life on the Tour can get a little, you know... there's monotony there and you have stuff that you struggle with - the flights, being on your own. It's a nice hobby to have and it's definitely helped me to relax and do something else outside of tennis.

Are there any other musicians on tour you jam with when you get together?

ME: Yeah, there's another Kiwi guy called Marcus Daniell. He plays doubles, mainly, and he's actually really good. He travels with an acoustic guitar and he has an amazing voice, so we sometimes jam. I know the Bryan brothers do their music, one on keyboards and the other on drums. There's a bunch of other guys I know of, but I don't know any girls, really - I know Andrea Petkovic used to play drums back in the day so we've always had a laugh over how we're going to start a band, but no girls that I know of play the guitar or travel with an instrument.

The WTA Tour is so diverse in terms of where the players come from and what music they like - have you discovered any artists through fellow players?

ME: Absolutely. I discovered Jake Bugg through Laura Robson, so obviously the British influence is there. I guess the other one would be Andrea again, because she's very much into her alternative and indie music, and she knows really small bands from Europe - it's always nice to know what she's listening to. There's definitely different music choices around the Tour - I think music is crucial to life and maybe sport even more, because it's such a motivator. I don't think a lot of the girls go to the gym without their earbuds. It's definitely a big influence for sportspeople.

You’ve talked about the music you love - what other things inspire you to write a song?

ME: Sometimes it's just been what I've been listening to, whatever genre I'm into and have thought, 'I should do a song of my own based on that.' Sometimes it could be what some of my friends are going through, life stories and relationships. With any musician, I guess, it's whatever gets them going.

What’s the song on the EP that means the most to you?

ME: Oh, that’s hard! I was thinking “Go My Way”, because it was just a really fun song that I made and it kind of reminded me of a cheesy pop song from the '90s. So it was definitely fun to make and it's got a great beat.

As a music fan, do you find it easy to keep up with your favorite artists as you travel around the world?

ME: Absolutely! That's what I do when I'm not on court. I have this app that tells me the concerts in my city, so whenever I'm travelling I update where I'm at. It syncs your music so it knows the artists you like - it goes through Spotify and your iTunes. So I know who's playing in which city, and if I can make it to that concert I'll usually go. So that's been more of an opportunity for me, because you definitely have more options when you travel and are in the bigger cities than in New Zealand.

What’s next for The Mad Era?

ME: When I put this thing out there I just thought, well, here we go. I never really wanted to tell people about it, probably because I think I have a terrible singing voice so I didn't want anyone to know I was singing. But I really enjoy it, if it doesn't turn into anything down the road it'll always be a hobby for me, and music will always be a part of me as well as tennis - I think I enjoy them both equally.