Musical Discoveries: Please tell us about your development as a musical artist leading up to the new album.
Sofia Loell: I have been fortunate enough to work with many talented musicians and songwriters since my first album and I believe that every person you meet leaves a mark on your work and move you forward. To seek and find inspiration in new places has been a guiding light for me since my first album.
I really only had my own musical world to lean on when we started to work on Right up your face, but since then, starting with that album, so many influences and impressions in different forms--people, music, work--have crossed my path and hopefully broadened my emotional spectra.
As for my vocal style, I haven't really thought of how I've developed my style, I more of a "doer" when it comes to my music. Usually I tend not to over analyze things and not to lose the magic in what happens when I sing, perform or write, I try to not think too much about what happens, but interacting with other musicians is definitely a powerful tool when it comes to evolve as a musician or singer/songwriter.
What can you tell us about the Right Up Your Face days?
Well, the recording of Right up your face is a long story that in short started with a very musically naive Sofia. I was eighteen when I was introduced to the art of studio recording. Up until then I had only been performing my songs live, and mostly by myself with a relation to tempo that more than often followed my mood and level of nervousness.
Since then, my producer Johan Glössner and the rest of the Pama Records team has been guiding me through both the recording world as well as live performing. They have taught me how to have fun with music and how to open up to new impressions, in different shapes be it new music genres or new people. Through them I've discovered so many artists I didn't knew of before, that since then have had a huge impact on my musical intake.
Joni Mitchell and Sting are a few of them. They've also been a tremendous support on promotional trips and through interviews. These are the friends and mentors that have been with me from the start and through the whole journey up until today. Between then and now we worked with Curb Records that signed me and released my debut album. Wonderful people that gave me opportunity to meet the world in a way I never thought possible.
After that Johan and I started to write for the second album that was to be released through Pama Records. It's hard though to name a particular reason to explain why my second album took so many years to see the daylight, but it was finished almost three years before the release. I've heard so many artists describe the same phenomenon so it's not unusual in this business.
So many people and different kind of labels are involved in the process of releasing an album and sometimes timing is just not on your side. Finally this spring we released it together with Universal in Sweden.
What do you think have been the turning points in your career?
As a new artist to the market I guess signing with Curb Records was a huge step for me. I didn't really grasp it at the time though and it's not until later on I've realized and understood how big of a deal it was. For a young unknown girl from Sweden to be discovered and signed to such an established company in the USA was pretty unlikely to happen, yet it did.
I learned numerous things during our cooperation with them and maybe sometimes it's good not to understand everything at once. To me, knowing myself today, I think it could have been overwhelming to understand the size of the opportunity given to me.
Naturally today things have slowed down a bit after waiting so long for my second album to be released. Personally, I like being able to overlook the situation, so it feels like a gift, a fresh new start ahead of me, and that all has turned out for the best from the very beginning, all that I've experienced and learned. I'm very blessed.
As a musician and songwriter my most memorable moments has taken place in periods of "happenings", when we've been dedicating a lot of time to either recording, song writing or rehearsing and performing live. When it comes to live performing I've met and gotten to play with a few wonderful musicians the last year that have had a fantastic love for music and really mastered the magic in "letting the music knock you out".
I don't know how to describe the feeling of playing a song and suddenly discover that it somehow comes to life and almost grows into its own spiritual being, allowing you to be a part of the mystery of true inspiration. Maybe it sounds weird, but I can't find any other words. This is definitely one of the things that have made me grow since Right Up Your Face.
Also I've been dedicating time to things outside of music, and that has come to mean a great deal to me in a matter of self awareness. I've learned that I am much more creative musically when I mix my "music periods" with taking time to work with other things. For example I've been studying sociology for two years discovering that it has made my emotional spectra explode and given me access to so many more layers of the world when writing songs.
Were there any particular female vocalists that influenced you during your professional development?
Many artists, both male and female, have been spinning in my CD player. Some of my favorites are Joni Mitchell, Joss Stone, Natasha Bedingfield, Gavin DeGraw, Coldplay, Sting and Mark Knopfler. They are all amazing lyricists, singers and musicians and lend their flavors to enrich my perspective.
But at fifteen, the one singer that got me understanding what crazy amazing things you can do with your voice was Mariah Carey. I dropped my chin every time I heard a new song on the radio with her.
Today I don't listen to her to the same extent, not because I don't like it, but I find myself on a constant journey looking for "new" inspiration.
The latest discovery that got me stunned was when a friend gave us a record with Robert Plant and Allison Krauss! It knocked me out completely! I like music that's dynamic, it makes me disappear into another world.
What do you make of the comaparison that some writers made of early work to Andrea Corr and The Corrs?
I was very flattered by that comparison, and still am! The Corrs is another band I really like and since I've always been fond of folk influences in popular music, it's close at hand to feel kindred to them. Most European folk music has a certain stroke of melodiousness in common, like the violins and the quick harmonic twists, so therefore I think it was easy to be inspired by their way of using folk music. Also some rhythm types are more typical to the folk traditions of Europe, like 6/8 which is a rythm I love to write in. It has a natural lift in it that I find very attractive!
How is Where I Belong being received internationally?
It hasn't been displayed internationally yet, but one of the singles from my album, "On & On" will be published in a compilation in an Italian music magazine this fall so I'm very excited to find out how it will be received.
Please tell us about the writing, recording and production of Where I Belong.
Where I Belong is a tribute to being content. By that I don't mean that you shouldn't aim higher or settle for less, absolutely not, but to learn how to enjoy moments of fulfilled achievement. Today life is filled with little gadgets invented to make your life more effective, making you perform more in less time. Being a person that enjoy to rest in the fact that my mission was accomplished, whether it be cutting the lawn or finishing the lyrics to a song, I find this stressful and time consuming instead of time saving cause it leaves little time left to just being. I like to dedicate my time to things that matter to me like music, cooking, friends and family.
I don't wanna explain my songs literately, partially cause it's private but also I believe that we all have to find our own responses to the music we come across, but I will say that the album Where I Belong to me represents all those amazingly well put together little contradictions that by themselves are nothing more than little flaws, but together gives us the variety of life that builds our margins for pleasure, pain, appreciation, grieve, basically all emotions that we face as human beings.
What are some of your favorite songs from the album?
Two of my own favorite songs on this album are "Shiver" and "On & On." "Shiver" has a bit of an unusual rhythm that kind of awakens you and for some reason it is one of the songs I connect to a in special way. It's about a kiss. "On & On" is about finding the strength to keep moving no matter what. It's a little pep talk I guess! The vocal recording on that song was made in an apartment an early morning after way too many cups of coffee, but I think it has an edge to it that gives it a crisp freshness. All in lovely contradiction to the coffee-mode.
How would you contrast your two albums?
I very much feel like both of my albums reflect me as a person at the time of their respective making. Naturally a lot happens in your emotional life between 16 and 17--which was when I wrote the first songs to my first album--versus between 22 and 26--which is the time period when most of the songs on my second album were written.
You mature, as do the songs. The area between black and white tends to promote its presence, in private as in the songs, both in harmonies and lyrics--makings things a lot more complicated! But also adding numerous nuances you didn't hear before! I hope that is coming across to the people listening to my albums.
What can you tell us about your live performances?
I love to perform live! The magic that occurs when interacting with an audience is impossible to beat. I used to be nervous to an almost painful extent when I was younger.
I remember a contest when I was seventeen, the backstage crew ran me up the stairs and out on the rooftop through a window five minutes before I was on, because I couldn't breathe.
Fortunately I've learned how to tame that energy a lot better today! My biggest fear today is to stand there before getting on stage and not being nervous. That would be a tragic loss of presence.
A very special gig was this spring when I threw a release party for my album. I had planned it myself down to every little detail, I really wanted the atmosphere from the album cover to shine through, barefoot, sunset and picnic mode.
When I entered the hall and saw the people, all my friends and family that had been the foundation that inspired this album, my heart stopped for a moment!
It was unbelievable, just as I had dreamed it, wished for it to be. That feeling stayed all through the night and the concert was magic with an amazing band that really followed every move and mood. If really hope that the audience realizes how much I appreciate their presence! To me a concert is a two way street where the connection between the audience and the band/artist is what makes it unique and extraordinary.
What are your personal views regarding the relative importance of "image" to a female recording artist these days?
This is a part of being an artist that I believe can be fun or troubling, this depending on your relation to yourself before you find yourself in a situation where your appearance is to be documented and used as a signature for your product, i.e. your music.
Personally I had never identified myself through clothes or make-up prior to my entry in the world of music so when we started working on my debut album, this was a language I didn't really know how to speak.
As I have grown into my role as a musician the rest has slowly fallen into place, but it has taken time for me to understand the full meaning of "image". I don't think there are any rights or wrongs in different visual expressions, but I do believe that the concept of an image has to come from an understanding of the musical expression by the artist in focus.
Do you think that MySpace is becoming the all important location for musical artists nowadays?
I think MySpace is one of the websites that represents a renewed web concept that's easy on the user. Myself, I use MySpace, Facebook and Reverbnation. Recently I discovered another web platform called Mubito that offers an all-inclusive package in design, web shop and downloads and I think this is a concept we'll be seeing a lot more of on artists official sites.
These kinds of solutions gives the artist more control and makes it possible to be active on even more promotional fronts than before. I haven't decided yet how to transform my own website, but it will not be in the form it is today. Right now it is easier for me to edit my MySpace site which is why I'm asking visitors on my official site to visit me there.
Has Where I Belong been released on iTunes?
Yes, Where I Belong is released on iTunes. I really like the new download platforms, they offer so many new possibilities, especially for artists that are working on a smaller scale or are aiming towards a younger fan base.
Physical CDs and download medias are two completely different ways to reach a target audience. For me and many other artists, CDs are sold mostly on live gigs, but for people that seek new music, internet has become huge and a great tool because it offers you the possibility to form an opinion about an artist or an album before you buy it.
This is important especially now when in so many places the access to live stages has decreased rapidly, and as a consequence reduced your opportunities as an artist to present your work to a potential fan base. This is not a phenomenon everywhere, but in Sweden it's a reality many artists have to struggle with.
I believe that music festivals have become so big because it's a great opportunity for the fans to see all their favorite bands and artists perform. Likewise it offers the artists the possibility to meet their own as well as new audience, not to mention how nice it is to meet and be inspired by you music colleges.
Personally I love the almost ceremonial feeling when reading about a band/artist and reading the lyrics from the CD cover while listening to a CD, but what really matters is the ambition to meet the consumer in the area that's most appealing to him/her. To me that ambition is to have a physical CD for sale when I perform live but still offer the possibility to shop at home through your computer if you desire.
To be released on iTunes and other web shops, means that your music is available for music consumers to find relatively easy. To release a physical record requires that you find your audience, for example through advertising, radio or preferably live performances.
In a perfect world you have the means to combine these alternatives. I don't think one is better than the other but I do believe it's important to understand how they cover different areas of the market. Most of all I hope that online shops encourages people to support artists they like by paying for their music, and by doing so giving them a chance to keep recording and perform.
What does the future hold for Sofia Loell?
I will keep playing music, writing lots of songs and finding new live stages. I want to try my wings in as many areas as possible, both music wise and outside of the music territory. I also want to meet as many people as possible and never give up the search for inspiration and surprises. Other than that I don't know what the future holds but I'm looking forward to finding out!
Is there anything you'd like to tell our readers?
Thank you so much for giving me time and I really hope to see all of you in the future!