EuroSonic Noorderslag: Jenny Wilson Interview

Cult Swedish art-pop songstress
Jenny Wilson
Swedish art-pop songstress Jenny Wilson enjoys a cult status at home. She’s got two very successful albums in her arsenal, she runs her own label, and she’s also mates with Karin Dreijer Andersson from The Knife/Fever Ray.

The EBU - an association of broadcasting institutions around the continent, such as the BBC and Channel 4, recently chose to award her for successfully reaching audiences abroad. Is the UK next?

You won the European Border Breakers Award. Which are the biggest borders you’re facing?

If I was a troubadour I would be touring around the world all the time, but now I need a lot of people to make what I want to do.

Which your biggest cultural shock abroad?

Wow, culture shock! Did I have any? Sometimes I get questions from men in other countries that I cannot really grasp. But generally not that often.

To what extent are lyrics important in a song?

I really love good lyrics, but I actually listen to songs because of the music. When it comes down to my own songs the lyrics become very important. I put a lot of effort into them and I write hundreds of pages in order to nail the right ones.

Do you find it easy to express yourself in English?

It depends. Sometimes I feel like a three-year-old with such a limited vocabulary! I think it’s horrible. I chose English because in my teens it was all about American music and I really got influenced by it. Consequently it felt stupid to sing in Swedish. I don’t think it’s stupid anymore, but my singing language remains English.

You’ve established your own label, Gold Medal Recordings, why?

My first album was released by The Knife’s own label, Rabid Records. I really love to work with them and they are such wonderful people. They don’t really want to run a record label in a conventional way, because it’s so much work. I think my album got much more successful than they could actually handle, and I thought the best way to do this was to start my own label.

Did it have to do at all with maintaining control of your music?

Partially I guess. I am not a control freak that wants to have everything on paper, but I am quite chaotic and artistically I like to do things my way. There are so many decisions to make and it’s very important to be the person who has the last word.

What do you think of the current status of the record industry?

As you know the music industry doesn’t sell a lot of records anymore. They desperately try to find stupid ways to earn money and the artist is always the least important person in the procedure. I really don’t like that. In Sweden in the last couple of years, artists released albums on their own and I think this is a good trend.

Where does your latest album’s title ‘Hardships!’ refer to?

I try to describe ordinary life struggles while living with kids and a husband. ‘Hardships’ is a very beautiful word. I really fell in love it.

Is this personal experience?

It is a very personal album indeed, but it’s not private one. You don’t need to be the mother of two kids to actually find the lyrics interesting and to be able to relate with. I don’t want to write diary notes, it’s more like poetry.

You’ve been coined as art-pop. What is the practical use of art for you? What would you like the use of your music to be?

I would like to give people strength and power. I know these are very cliché answers…

How did you start playing music?

I started when I was about 18, when I heard PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’. I was already buying a lot of records and listening to many interesting things, but it wasn’t until I listened to her that I realised that I wanted to what she does

When was your first public appearance?

When I was 21 with my band First Floor Power. We actually did our first gig in a biggish venue in Malmo, with an 800-capacity. Nobody had heard us before and thankfully it went well.

How has your sound evolved over the years?

Like I said, when I started with First Floor Power I was very influenced by PJ Harvey and wanted to have the same blues influences she had in the beginning of her career. When I made my first solo album, ‘Love and Youth’, I wanted it to be more accessible and electronic. With ‘Hardships’ I had a lot of gospel, R’n’B and hip-hop in my mind.

Which artist would you like to collaborate with?

There are many, but definitely with Missy Elliot.

Have you started working on new material?

I am in the beginning of the recordings of a soundtrack I will do for a Swedish screenplay. It is about Queen Kristina, so it is a big thing back home.

Words and photo by Vasilis Panagiotopoulos

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