Andrew Sekora is big on traditional American bluegrass, surfs the Swedish coast, and is Creative Director of British audio giant Marshall Headphones. Possessing the dreaming heart of a true journeyman, he’ll pop down to Porto, reminisce on California, and profess undying love for Mexican food. When he rocks up to Bar Central in the fashionable Södermalm district, it’s in a brown biker jacket and his long hair curls out from beneath his wide brimmed hat. At 33, he looks more Wild Bill Hickok than a seasoned Stockholmer of six years.
His appearance, I presume, is traceable to his music-based childhood in Michigan. “The oldest memory I have is at Aunt Nancy’s, dancing in front of the radio to Johnny Cash, Tennessee Flat Top Box,” recalls Andrew with a proper chuckle. “My grandmother was a jazz musician, my father grew up playing in rock ‘n’ rolls bands, and my uncles were roadies. My aunt was a classically trained ballet artist in London and a bunch of my cousins are opera singers.”
Such a familial dose of cultural infusion surely begs for a wide release, so it’s unsurprising that Andrew found himself living between Los Angeles and New York in his mid 20s. It gives us common ground to order a round of beers and talk West Coast surf culture. “I want to do more long boarding actually. I love those guys who can tap dance around on their boards. I lived in Huntington for a while and also San Clemente; big surf community and I should be a hell of a lot better surfer for having lived there!” Despite his modesty, his living room door plays host to probably the thickest wet suit I’ve ever encountered, hanging in quick reach for Swedish surf sessions when the icy winter waves come rolling through. Certainly not for the faint of heart!
But it was a dream of moving to Berlin one night that got Andrew’s brain gears spinning. Sick of the New York grind at the time, he started “talking around.” Within a day, he scored himself a spot in Stockholm. “Two days later, it fell through. But the very next day, I got another place in Stockholm and a week later I was here. That was six years ago… Damn!” A colleague then introduced him to “a bunch of old snowboarders at a bar who were starting the headphone side of Marshall. We hit it off,” et voilà
"I love Marshall, I grew up with it, playing on it… I can feel decent about working for the brand."
But if you assume his success has been a playful string of coincidences, think again. “Initially we were a tiny group, doing everything. I was on photo shoots, designing the packaging, and all the marketing was done in-house. We weren’t hiring firms; it was just the whole team sitting around the table, only ten to fifteen of us.” The source of their hard-won success, Andrew attributes to his spirited team. “What helped with the brand were the people that were super passionate about it and loved Marshall.”
Today, Andrew has managed to expand that legendary name out of its music amp borders and into a fiercely competitive world of contemporary Bluetooth audio and tech. All the while, keeping Marshall’s deep-seated heritage of rich sonic performance, classic aesthetics, and its notorious reputation as one of the greatest names in rock.
Perhaps this is due to his hands-on approach, which certainly has not faded since his early days with the brand. Unlike some who drum up concepts simply to pass them on, this Creative Director still revels in having his fingers in the cookie jar for an all-encompassing experience. “I still go on campaigns, photo shoots, and promote our products at trade shows. I even work on structuring out our company now that we’re growing bigger.”
But to keep a healthy work balance without losing sanity, Andrew holds an absolute belief in cutting loose and breathing deep. “I need to be able to get out occasionally, get out on the road; Put it all behind for a few, and come back. That really helps me focus.”
Apparently, a particular escape of his is Portugal. “It reminds me of what the California coast must have been before it was packed full of people. One of my better eating experiences was in Porto. They were having a private party but the owners brought us in anyways, and made this amazing meal for us, then invited us out after for more drinks.”
Closer to home, Andrew points out a few of his Stockholm hangout faves. “Lock Ness, it’s a SHIT bar!” he explodes with that particular endearment of a local. “It’s a little Scottish pub. I was there last night a little too long.” His wryness temporarily disfigures his moustached frown into an open grin. He takes a swig of beer to think, and adds: “We go to Indio Kitchen quite a bit, this sushi spot around the corner. We do that pretty much every Sunday. And a couple blocks over, there’s Katarina Ölkafé – it’s a small little beer café that only does microbrews.”
Then of course there’s his not-so-secret passion for Mexican food, which he must miss after Los Angeles and New York. “Yeah, oh shit yeah! I moved out here and there wasn’t ANY Mexican food at that point. They have Swedish tacos which are… well, don’t fall for it! So I actually learned to cook Mexican food. You never did it in LA; it was cheaper to buy it. And when I got here, I taught myself how to make my black bean burritos. It was one of the things I missed.”
Much later on after we part ways, I reflect on his good-natured creative spirit peeking out from beneath that hat of his. A man drawn to wanderings, living life to the full, and laughing heartily, Andrew cannot seem to resist answering the call of the open road. Because, says he: “I think seeing new things fuel creativity levels and changes our mind set. When we’re in a new place, we’re more open to changing our habits. Which of course changes our perspective!” Wouldn’t you agree?
Text & Photography: Mr. Vagabond
GQontheRoad for GQ Portugal