Sunday, July 27, 2008

Interview: Sofia Talvik

For those of you that aren't burned out on live music following the Pitchfork Festival, you're in luck because it's Lollapalooza week. Swedish singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik will be playing at the Citi Stage on Friday at 12:00pm. Her third album Jonestown is set to be released at the end of August and she answered a few questions for us via email.

NQL: First off, congratulations landing a set at Lollapalooza. Have you ever performed for a crowd of such potential size?

Sofia Talvik: Well, thank you. No, I’m actually more used to smaller, more intimate settings. It’s going to be awesome to play at a festival of this size.

NQL: The day before your gig at Lollapalooza you’re playing at the Swedish American Museum. In all the time I have spent in Chicago, I had no idea this place was even in existence. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a trip over there soon, but in the meantime, what can you tell me about Sweden that you would want those unfamiliar to know.

ST: Sweden is a small country about the size of California, in the heart of Scandinavia. We have a beautiful archipelago in the south and spectacular mountains in the north. We only have about two months of summer, usually not as sunny as one would hope it to be, but Swede’s love the sun and we don’t have any polar bears running around on the streets or anything like that. ;-)

NQL: Anyone else in particular you’re looking forward to seeing at Lollapalooza?

ST: Radiohead and Duffy. I’ll probably not have a hard time filling up my schedule with shows I don’t want to miss.

NQL: Can you describe how your early years in Stockholm shaped your songwriting?

ST: I think it was my early years, rather than my early years in Stockholm if you know what I mean. Like when you’re young you have all sorts of crazy thoughts going on, and you go to a lot of parties and meet new people all the time. Lots to get inspiration from so to say…

NQL: How did you approach the songwriting and recording for Jonestown as compared to Blue Moon and Street of Dreams?

ST: All my albums have been completely different processes. My first was special because it was my first. We recorded most of it live, and all of it in one week. My second was different because I released it on my own label and now my third has really been an experience as it’s the first one I worked with a producer on. I think you learn stuff from all ways of work, and working with a producer this time was a good learning experience as well as a good thing for my sound.

NQL: “Burning Fields” is one of my favorite tracks on Jonestown. It’s such a beautiful song with pretty personal lyrics. And me being the rude and nosy person that I am, can I ask about the back story to that song? What, or who, was the inspiration?

ST: Aaaah, I never kiss and tell. I think the songs lose their meanings if I force my own interpretations on my listeners. If you like a song it’s probably because you identify with it, so why should I wreck it with my personal experiences?

NQL: Sounds fair to me. On your debut album Blue Moon you pretty much oversaw the entire production of the album. As you set to release Jonestown and other music in the future, do you find yourself reluctant to give up production control to others?

ST: I do. I’m sort of a control freak. I guess that’s why I produced my two first albums and have my own label. I’m very ambitious with my music, probably more than anyone else could be. But that doesn’t mean I never need help, I just happen to like to be in charge, haha. I would never fully give up control over my music, but I’m open to suggestions.

NQL: Can you explain the naming of the Jonestown and the title track that ends the album?

ST: Well I guess this is where I contradict myself and wreck the song for you… Actually the song "Jonestown" was named after the cult People’s Temple and their utopian town Jonestown in Guyana. 930 people died there in 1978 when the pastor Jim Jones forced them to commit suicide. The song is sort of an invitation for people to consider their own actions and not hand their lives over in someone else’s hands.

NQL: How was working with Tobias Fröberg? Did you get a sense whether or not he minded sharing a first name with this guy?

ST: I actually called him up right now and asked him. He said that the name Tobias means “God is good” and that’s all he cares about. I enjoyed working with Tobias although it was hard to compromise sometimes when you’re used to deciding everything on your own. I think he did an awesome job and that his own albums are really good as well.

NQL: Also, what was it like working with Bernard Butler [guitarist for Suede] on the single “It’s Just Love” from your last album? I read that you contacted him via MySpace. Could you describe how integral the internet has been in not only distributing your music but also allowing access to other musicians for collaborations?

ST: I think the internet is crucial to spread music. Like I wouldn’t be here answering these questions today if it weren’t for the internet and I’ve done several collaborations over the internet, for example we released a remixed version of my second album Street of Dreams (which is available for free on my website), with artists from all over the world making remixes of the songs. Working with Bernard was a treat as he’s such a talented singer. I hope to be able to work with him again someday, though we never met during the process.

NQL: Any collaboration in the near future we all should know about? And is there anyone you would especially like to work with?

ST: There are tons of people I’d like to work with. Jon Brion for example. He’s a very talented producer. I don’t have any other surprises, but I am doing sort of a collaboration thing on myspace at the moment. We’re releasing web cam videos of me performing the songs from Jonestown together with other Swedish artists during the summer. That’s really something everyone should check out.

NQL: Sofia, thank you very much for your time. I really love the new album. Enjoy Chicago!

ST: Thanks for having me. I look forward to seeing Chicago!


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