The 405 meets Linnea Olsson
Linnea Olsson has been charming The 405 over the past few weeks with her elegant, ear-warming debut album Ah!, and having chatted to Linnea for this interview, has somehow managed to charm us even further, if such a thing was possible.
The classically-trained Swedish cellist has been involved in the music scene for years, as she discusses below, though Ah! is her first solo material - make sure to read our generous review. Here Linnea talks Arthur Russell, ice-skating on oceans in winter, Peter Gabriel and future plans.
Hi Linnea, thanks for agreeing to talk to us. How was your tour with Peter Gabriel?
Hi! My pleasure. The tour was absolutely amazing. I said to David Rhodes over a coffee the same day I arrived to the arena in Quebec that it’s like "A dream come true I never dreamt." I mean, I couldn’t possibly imagine I would do backup vocals for Peter Gabriel ever in my life. But now I have. It’s been great. It’s been another level of luxury than I’m not used to while touring. Private jet back and forth to the gigs and so on. It’s comfy! The best thing was the concerts, of course. I think Peter has one of the best voices and to be able to sing with him was very inspiring. The whole band is inspiring. They all play great. The fact that I had a dear friend and colleague by my side in the shape of Jennie Abrahamson did not do the experience worse. We had a great, great time. Playing the cello and singing with Jennie as she opened the shows was wonderful. To be two people on such large stages is a special thing.
What kind of music did you listen to whilst growing up, and how did your listening habits evolve over time?
I grew up with Paul Simon, Beatles and Beach Boys. I think the first CD I ever bought was with Snap; "Welcome to tomorrow". I don´t know about that record. I haven´t really listened that much to it. When I started discovering music on my own I discovered ABBA, Björk and Tori Amos. I used to borrow my older brother’s CDs. He’s the reason that I love Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Nirvana and Garbage. He is actually the first person that played Peter Gabriel for me! Growing Up. But I discovered Radiohead before him! Afternoons alone in my room listening to Radiohead...that was nice. Lately one of my dearest music experiences has been listening to loads of Frank Zappa. I use to listen in the car – It’s the best music while driving. What a genius he was.
What was it like growing up in your small Swedish town on the coast? It sounds idyllic, tell us about it...
I guess it was pretty much the same as any small town. The closeness to the sea does make it richer though, I am sure. I’ve developed a close relation to the sea, every summer I spent as much time as possible on the beach and if it was cold enough we ice skated on the ocean during winter. That IS pretty idyllic actually. I still live here, in the same town and I still love it. But the sea is the reason to the towns loveliness.
What made you decide to go solo, and create an album?
I felt I had a lot of stuff in me that needed to get out and this is the way it went. I didn’t plan or anything, I just sat down with the cello and I started to write songs. I didn´t feel they needed other instruments, I thought the cello did the job. I was intrigued by the thought of playing solo as I never tried that before.
Did you enjoy the recording process of 'AH'? What inspired you?
It was a great process, easy and joyful. I did a bit of mind traveling while writing, I found myself being on that same beach I’m talked about where we ice skated in winters, and floating around in the woods that surrounds the beach. It sounds a bit new-age but that was what actually happened. I was in a very inspired mode when I wrote the music, I improvised a lot and recorded demos of just fooling around with loops and delays that pretty fast became songs. I recorded almost in secret by myself at first but soon I invited my then boyfriend Fredrik Gicken Johansson to mix it, and to collaborate with him was also great. He knows what I like and understands what I mean when I say weird things. He’s good at twisting sounds and he has a great sense for different moods while mixing.
Are you a fan of Arthur Russell's work?
Yes! But I hadn't heard his music before I started doing mine, and I was happy to discover it. I really like it. I had listened to Zoe Keating and Julia Kent but Arthur was a great surprise.
How did you come to use a darbuka? And please explain what it is to the uninitiated...
Oh, it was the only drum in the room really. If it would have been an old marching drum I guess we would have used that. Darbuka is a drum. It was a Christmas gift from my father. I felt I wanted something more than hand claps, they didn´t really suffice.
Your sound has been described as "Neoclassical meets pop". Would you agree, and what has influenced you in each of these, if this is indeed a fair statement?
Yes, I would agree to that. I mean, I am a classical trained cellist that don’t want to play classical music. I´d say it’s my vocals that add the pop. I call my sound cello-pop. I have been influenced by so many things during my life and it feels like it´s a mish-mash of a little bit of everything really.
You toured with Ane Brun for a number of years; what did you learn during this time?
I still tour with Ane when I can. I’ve learned a lot about the music business from her, and I’ve got to see what it’s like to be an artist close up. That has been very exciting. She is such a pro and I learnt that the most important thing is to have a good time on stage. I also learnt a lot from everybody playing with her. It’s one of the best schools to play in a band. You learn to be a listening musician, you learn about all kinds of social stuff, you learn that it’s best to be a no shit person and to be nice.
I love your press photo! The one where you're standing in the sea. Tell us about it, was it your idea?!
Thank you! Yes, my mind was set on standing out in the water. It was a freezing morning in February, I can't feel my hands in that shot. It is my friend and colleague Tammy Karlsson that took the pic. I got to know her when we played behind Frida Hyvönen. She´s also a kick ass drummer. And singer! Now she´s singing in Goat! She´s a wonder woman. We are actually doing a photo shoot this week. Anyways, Tammy wanted the morning light so we got up super early and headed off to the beach. I held the cello real tight while wading around. We got all kinds of weather during one hour, sun, rain, snow, rainbow...it was a fun photo shoot.
What's next for Linnea Olsson?
I am doing some nice gigs during fall/winter. I am looking forward to share stage with Rebekka Karijord, we are going to Germany together. I am going to Holland to play, that will be great fun. I am going to write some new music. Perhaps more than one drum next time. I will basically just keep on playing and creating, the things I love the most. I am a lucky girl.
Ah! is released on October 29th via Götterfunk Productions
Purchase and listen
We've been itching voraciously to bring you news of the Linnea Olsson variety for awhile now, and now we can. [read more]