Ane Brun: One and Only

(Unfortunately, as of May 1st, Ane has had to cancel the first two dates of her tour, including the intended opening night in Philadelphia, so she will not be...

(Unfortunately, as of May 1st, Ane has had to cancel the first two dates of her tour, including the intended opening night in Philadelphia, so she will not be appearing at Union Transfer this Wednesday.  But I would still highly recommend picking up her latest, It All Starts With One, today and reading my recent chat with the singer/songstress.)

Is it just me, or does any time a foreigner chooses your city to kick off a national tour make you feel special… like you’ve chosen wisely and deserve recognition for your taste in geography?  Well, I have to say, I do feel a bit that way.  This Tuesday, May 1st, Norway’s Ane Brun will release her eighth LP, It All Starts With One (already platinum and award-winning in its native country), stateside and Wednesday, May 2nd, she will be kicking off her North American Tour at Philthy’s own Union Transfer.

Although Ane has released an impressive number of LPs between 2003 and now, the process of developing, writing, and recording It All Starts With One was not quite as rushed as you would imagine.  In that time she moved from Norway to Barcelona to give street performances a try and then onto the US to tour and record alongside Peter Gabriel.  And she feels as though strumming acoustic covers on the streets of Barcelona and learning to sing a reasonable portion of Peter Gabriel’s back catalogue has helped her to realized the breadth of talent she possesses and given her the confidence to expand her aesthetic.  The sound of It All Starts With One is the most varied and dynamic of Ane’s studio LPs.  It’s the first that listeners wouldn’t necessarily be quick to label as a “folk” album.  It’s actually quite epic… but in a very minimalistic sense… I recently got a chance to chat with Ms. Brun about her latest release and her geographical wandering, among other things.

Izzy Cihak: On behalf of Philadelphia (or Philthy, as we like to call it), I would like to say that our city is honored that you chose us to open your upcoming tour here.  What can fans expect of the shows?

Ane Brun: I’m really happy to come back to Philadelphia! I’m bringing my own musicians this time, and we’re performing mostly songs from the new album, but also songs from my other releases, a couple of these in new versions.  You’ll get to hear both the melancholic and the powerful, energetic side of my music.

IC: The title track of your recently released “Do You Remember” EP was a collaboration between you and folk duo First Aid Kit.  How did that relationship come about and what are your thoughts on the Soderberg sisters?  The duo recently wowed Philadelphia on the same stage you will be gracing on May 2nd.

AB: I adore First Aid Kit. I’ve listened to them for a couple of years, and they have always amazed me with their incredible talent. One night, during the recording of the album, First Aid Kit was doing a guest performance at a local venue in Stockholm and I went to see them. I was so inspired and really wanted them to be featured on my album. We were, at that time, finishing the track “Do You Remember” and I was looking for something folky, with a twist in the backing vocals. I had plans to try to figure out something myself, but when I was reminded of their greatness I asked if maybe they would like to contribute, and they did!

IC: In a time when a lot of artists seem to be sticking to short-form outputs, you’ve released quite a few LPs in a relatively short period of time.  Is there something about full-lengths that you find to be more appealing than these shorter releases?  If so, I’m definitely with you on that.

AB: I’ve never really considered not releasing full albums, even though I’ve also done a couple of EPs through the years. I think maybe it’s because I work in cycles. When I write, I write intensively and in a defined period of time. And this usually results in at least 10-12 songs, and I never finish a song before I really like it, so I don’t have any songs to throw away. In that way, it becomes LPs instead of EPs.

IC: You’ve also released a number of live albums in a relatively short period of time.  I’ve always found live releases to be far more interesting and pure than studio albums, yet they seem to be losing popularity.  What are your thoughts on the art of the live album?

AB: For me, it’s been very natural to release these live albums, since I change my live-concepts quite often and the recorded songs get new “costumes” on the road. I’ve toured with a string quintet, orchestra, solo, with full-band, vocal-trio, duo, and other constellations. And I think it’s important documenting what me and the musicians are doing out there, and the music grows into new shapes on tour. I also think that because I own my own label and approve my own releases I may be more free to release whatever I want to. Maybe it would be harder to get an approval from a bigger label to release a live album in 2012?

IC: You have a varied musical background.  What do you feel like have been the biggest influences on your sound, whether musical or otherwise?

AB: I believe that the music I’ve heard throughout my life becomes a part of a source of melodies, phrasing and tone in the music that I make myself.  And growing up in Scandinavia means hearing and seeing music and culture from the English-speaking world, combined with Scandinavian culture. I think my music is, of course, influenced by old and contemporary popular Scandavian folk music, (I can hear that in some of my songs, like “Lullaby for Grown-Ups” from Changing of the Seasons in 2008), but my sound is a result of me listening to pop, jazz, classical music, and music from other parts of the world in combination with the traditional music from Norway and Sweden

IC: Considering how much your sounds vary, have you noticed a commonality among the kinds of people who best “get” your work?

AB: I think it’s hard to analyze my own fans *smiles*

IC: As a musician, you’ve spent a lot of time in various countries, from Norway to Spain, Sweden, and the US.  Are there any notable differences between the music scenes in each country?

AB: I’ve only been a musician in Stockholm, which is a great place to be a musician.  I’ve played all around the world, and I find that the differences are not so related to geographics; it’s more venue, seasons, and atmosphere. Good audiences exist everywhere.

IC: In your own words, what can fans expect of It All Starts With One, which is to be released the day before you find yourself here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection?

AB: It’s an album full of energy. Both powerful and emotional. The sound is open and feels big. The voice and the lyrics are in the centre, surrounded by echoing drums and strings and, on some songs, my usual finger-picking guitar. Its’ got a guest performances from one of my favorite Swedish musicians, José Gonzales, and First Aid Kit.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.