Musical Discoveries: Are you still living in Austria and where have your travels taken you since the release of Learn to Swim?
Agnes Milewski: Yes, I still live in Vienna, Austria. We've been to a few European countries in the last year. In fact, we just got home from our tour in Poland and we're already planning the next one to Germany, France and Ireland.
Please contrast Almost Spring with your prior two albums.
Almost Spring differs from the previous two on so many levels. First off, almost all the songs were recorded live. We did a few overdubs here and there, of course. But all in all it's really just us musicians, sitting in a room together, playing music.
It's quite refreshing and inspirational to just let the music flow by itself, not being restrained to any kind of timing, etc. The music can breathe and therefore lives a life on it's own. Also, the arrangements were not really planned or thought out beforehand, as we used to do on the last two alums. I just let the musicians play their hearts out and we took the best takes of the session, just like it used to be before computers took over music production.
How was it working with Jonas on this particular album?
Jonas Petersen and I have been friends for many years now and he never ceased to amaze me with his skills as producer, sound engineer and musician. Also, he knows me so well, we speak the same language when it comes to music. So for me it was clear from the very beginning that Jonas is the man for the job as sound engineer and co-producer on this album.
What would you tell newcomers to your music to expect on Almost Spring?
The music on Almost Spring is probably the most honest music I've ever done. It's quite down to earth, folky with a hint of ethereal sounds, jazz and even a tiny bit of gospels in it. All the instruments except for the beat programming on one song are real instruments, played by real people. It's quite a straight forward approach with no frills. Pure, essential music, so to speak.
I've always thought that good and honest songwriting is the key to making worthwhile music. I don't really care about what sound is en vogue at the moment. These things always seem to change so quickly. I was listening to tons of singer/songwriters from the 60s, 70s, etc, and I realised that most of them still sound fresh and new. A well written, simple song can survive so much longer than all those modern pop songs. For example, you can put on any old Joni Mitchell recording and it will sound great, even after 40 years. Nothing can beat a guitar or piano and a voice!
You may call this kind of approach old fashioned. I call it timeless.
Tell us what isn't written in the press release about your musical goals for the new album.
On this album I wanted to tell my very own "winter journey", just like Franz Schubert did with his famous song cycle. I, too, went off to have a serious think about certain things that were happening in my life at the time. I really needed to take the time, to wait for the cold, wintery period in my life to pass. The album is about waiting for that spring to finally arrive.
As a young woman in the recording industry, how important is your "image" and what kinds of things have you done to manage it?
Unfortunately "image" has always been very important, for us women especially. People will always look and see first before they listen and hear. That's part of human nature. In addition, we have all the mass media nowadays that is mainly based on visuals. Nobody seriously listens to the radio anymore to find out about new music, everybody looks things up on youtube, so as an artist you kind of have to maintain a certain standard in your physical appearance, because people will always judge you for that.
It's sad that everything has to be almost pornographic nowadays to catch people's attention. Nothing is left to the imagination anymore. Still, I do believe that, if you look like a cheap whore you kind of have to be prepared to be treated like one.
You were active in online social media leading up to the new album release. How has it changed the initial response and reception to the album, especially in comparison to the prior two?
I've never had a big company behind me to do all the promotion. I always had to rely on personal contact with my listeners, both at concerts and on social media. I am a very straight forward person, I have no problems with sharing insightful info to my songs with people on the internet.
The music business is a tough one, especially financially, when you're doing most things on your own. That's also the reason I started a crowd-fundung campaign to finance a bit of the production. The response was great, we were able to reach the goal in half of the time estimated, all due to the fact that I simply asked my folks on FaceBook.
The difference between recording the previous albums and the new one was that it felt more like friendship than business, a much more communicable emotion I would have thought.
What can you tell our readers about your live performances and what to expect of your on-stage persona?
On stage, I'm not really that different from the person I am in real life, to be honest. I like to chat to people, have a good laugh with them, and I really hope that everyone enjoys the music we're playing as much as the band and I do.
Please tell us about the others you work with and their contribution to the Agnès Milewski experience.
On Almost Spring I had the amazing luck to work with some really great musicians, such as Bernd Bechtloff on drums and percussions, Walter Till played beatbox bass flute and other flutes and whistles, Eddie McLachlan from Ireland played guitar, and ukulele on "Wintertime", Martina Heck played glockenspiel and sang most of the backing vocals, and last but not least we have our special guest Stephan Steiner, who played the violin, accordion and this really cool Swedish instrument called Nyckelharpa.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
I would like to invite all readers to connect with me on all the social media sites, all the links are at the conclusion of this interview and can also be found on my website.