- Mon, 2009-02-23 15:47
Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun is recognised as one of the leading Scandinavian voices in contemporary indie-folk. With five album releases to her name, platinum album sales and a Norwegian Grammy it is hard to believe that the singer-songwriter has only been making music since her early twenties.
Having toured the world, recorded a collaborations album, Duets, and had her version of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours feature in a huge Sky TV campaign for their High Definition output, Ane Brun's success is not only recognisable on paper but through her musical output.
Perhaps most notable is her recent album Changing Of The Seasons. Recorded in Atlantis Studio in Stockholm with producer Valgeir Sigurdsson (Bjork, Sigue Ros, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) The result is a beautiful album which sees her unique voice laced over the subtle flourishes of string arrangements written by Danish composer Malene Bay-Landin and American composer Nico Muhly.
I Like Music caught up with Ane to chat about her process for making music, how she has developed her style and found her voice, her advice for other artists and the inspiring live concerts she has seen.
"I Like Music because…it fills my life in all situations.” Ane Brun
ILM: How would you describe the vibe of your new album Changing Of The Seasons?
Ane: My goal, when working on it, was to keep the intamacy but also to have interesting arrangements. You won't necessarily be hit by it the first time you hear it, but once you've listened to it two or three times, you get stuck. That's the goal because those are the types of albums I love. I also tried to find the balance between arranging the songs, and the simplicity of the songs. I didn't want parts to take over.
ILM: It must be difficult not to get swept away by the arrangements?
Ane: It is. That was one of the difficult parts. First we had the normal recording, the foundations with the band. Then we were supposed to put on the strings. Before we did the first mix we had strings all over it and I was saying Oooo! I love strings! Then we heard it, and I was like Oh God! Strings! So we made it a bit more airy, stripped them back a bit.
ILM: You worked with Valgeir Sigurdsson.What was that experience like? How did you work together?
Ane: He was very good at co-operation. It was really, really lovely to work with him. I sent him demos across the summer. Then we laid the foundations in the studio, a studio called Atlantis in Stockholm. A beautiful, beautiful old studio that is quite legendary. A lot of ABBA albums were recorded there. We had eight days there and it was magical. The first day was hard, I was nervous. But every day was just a dream. I felt that all my choices had been right. He was right. The musicians were right. The studio was right. Then we continued in Iceland. So I was in Iceland for several weeks, which was just amazing. Just being there. Recording the strings and vocals and then going to the outdoor pool in the middle of the day, a really hot pool, but snow around the outside!
ILM: How does Changing Of The Seasons fit into your musical journey so far?
Ane: I feel like when I am doing my albums or my songs I am always trying to search for some kind of core in my music. I am always trying to get closer to something. My artistry or my visions are very abstract. I feel that on this album I got very close to what I search for. I found some of that through working with Valgeir, he has the same interests that I do, we both wanted to bring in aspects of classical music. With this album the string arrangements are a bit more advanced than a normal pop arrangement would be. But they are subtle. There is a nice balance between the commercial side and that unique, other element.
ILM: How do you approach your writing?
Ane: It's a fusion. I can have a few lines I want to include, perhaps a small riff. It comes together and grows together. Sometimes I will have written the whole lyric and it will form round that. It comes from different directions.
ILM: You have earned much critical acclaim across the globe. How has the response been in the UK?
Ane: It feels like things are moving. Really positive. I see everything as a bonus. The UK is a big country with lots of music.
ILM: What do you look forward to about getting up on stage and playing live?
Ane: Do you know, I had a break for a couple of months and it was so much fun to play last night! I understood why I was travelling so much again, because I just love it!
ILM: Out of all the gigs you have played, which will you never forget?
Ane: There was one very beautiful gig which happened last year (2008). Very many beutiful things happened last year, but first of all, I did a show in Stockholm. It felt like a mile stone in a way because it was the first time we recorded a DVD, we will make a DVD of that concert. It was nice in that way. I also had a full band with all the musicians that I wanted, a choir consisting of friends of mine, plus some artists that I knew did a couple of songs. It was at the Concert House. It was packed, full, sold out. It was just perfect. A perfect, perfect night.
I also played at a Dutch festival called Lowlands Festival which is a really lovely festival. My gig time was 11.30 in the morning! I've been to festivals a few times myself, so I was like 'Hmmm. Which way is this going to go?' It was Saturday, the third day, and everyone was tired. I came on stage and it was just packed! Thousands of people were there. It was just a beautiful concert. They were crawling out of their tents.
ILM: Do you still get nervous before you play?
Ane: Not anymore really. Although sometimes I do. It depends. It is hard to decide when I do and when I don't. It comes out of weird coincidences. Someone can be there and often maybe I get more nervous at home, when my friends come to watch. But really I don't get nervous, more excited!
ILM: You've worked with a lot of artists. Your 2005 album Duets, in particular shows this. Out of all your collaborations, which are the most memorable?
Ane: I did learn a lot from doing all these things. Through the recording of the Duets album I found all of my different voices, I had to adapt to a lot of songs, so I found my Dolly voice! All the different aspects of my voice. It also made me look for more, as I had put myself in so many circumstances. The thing about that album was that it had bought me to so many places. Since the album went so well we were able to play shows together. I bought some of my artist friends on tour, a couple of them are really good friends now. One of the songs, the one I did with the Norweigan band called Madrugada, still today is one of the top ten Norweigen hits ever. That song gave me the opportunity to play at the Nobel Peace concert. I play that song solo everywhere! What happened with that song was big, but back to my collaborations, it's hard to chose one. They were all special. I loved recording that album so there might be a Duets Two one day!
ILM: You mention finding your different voices. A lot of writing about you compares you to a number of other artists. How do you feel about that?
Ane: The references I have seen in the UK have been really great! I'm happy! I am like that myself really, I listen to so much music that I think you have to have references, you have to have categories. It has to be like that. If it is going to lead people to my music then that is great.
ILM: What is your advice to anyone looking to come into the music industry?
Ane: I've been lucky. I chose to work for myself, since I have had my own record company. Since I have had that I have learnt to be very cautious, to always follow my gut. That is the most important thing. Always follow your own feeling, so that what ever you deliver is something that you yourself like. Also, put yourself out there. Get feedback. Plus, it sounds very cliched, but follow your heart. If you don't do that, I think it is hard to have success. There is so much music. If I wanted to take a step out of this, to the side, I could. I'm glad I did the journey, playing smaller cafes and things. It's good experience to have. If you are dreaming of a big career and someone just picks you up and puts you on a big stage, the fall can be very big. So I always say, play as much as you can. It's so good to have that experience.
ILM: What is your earliest musical memory, when did you decide it was what you wanted to do?
Ane: The thing is, I didn't start playing music until I was over twenty. I wasn't into performing. My first show with a microphone and everything was, well when I was 23. I went to a workshop for female singers. We were four girls who made a band, and we played a big live concert to celebrate the end of the workshop. I remember walking off the stage thinking Oh God! This is fun! I'm going to have to do this now.... I craved it after that. It's the same with song writing. Everytime you write a new song you remember what it feels like. The same thing happens every time you have a good gig.
ILM: What are your future plans?
Ane: I have some sketches for a new album, but very, very few. My wish is to be able to sit down for a few weeks and make some more songs. I also have a side project with a few friends. A band project which should be very fun. I also hope to continue being brave and keep jumping in to new things.
ILM: What are you listening to at the moment?
Ane: I've been listening to Radiohead's In Rainbows a lot recently.
ILM: Oh! It's so good isn't it! Have you seen them live before?
Ane: Yes, I saw them in Sweden a few years ago. I remember thinking that just to be that big and to be able to go on stage and do whatever they want to, as they are really experimental on stage, must be fantastic. I've also been listening to Joan As Policewoman. I love that album. I have my iPod here...
[Gets her iPod out]
Let's see. Fleet Foxes. Anthony and The Johnsons new album, wonderful. Band of Horses. Bon Iver, of course. Elbow. Frida Hyvönen from Sweden, she has made a really beautiful album.
ILM: Out of all the gigs you have seen, which have really inspired you?
Ane: When I really enjoy a gig I start laughing. [Does a silly laugh]...like that....it's really strange! The last time that happened, I think it was the first time I saw Broken Social Scene, in Ireland. The first five or six songs. Also M.Ward playing in Stockholm. I love him. Every song he played was a favourite, it was like....Oh....yes!...that one two! Oh! Yes! Hahaha! And Joanna Newsom. She played in Stockholm too and I was so impressed with her, she was fantastic. She has a softer voice live.When I watched her I was just like, woah, she is in a league of her own.