Since the last decade Scandinavia has become a hotbed for female singer/songwriters, with acts like Robyn, Lykke Li and Annie receiving international recognition. Currently in the midst of her largest tour to date, Scandinavian starlet Ane Brun took time out of her busy schedule to talk to Joe Wilde about her experiences as transnational performer, Peter Gabriel and the Arab Spring.
You started out as a busker didn't you? What was the spark that took you from performing on the streets to performing across the globe?
The busking took place quite a while before I started writing songs, it didn't really have anything to do with becoming an artist or anything it was something I started around the time I was learning to play guitar. I started getting really into it and around 1998 I really wanted to go be in Spain for the summer and busk on the streets. I think that for the personal challenge it was amazing, it was trying to be brave and perform in front of people, it was then that it really became my livelihood; playing for people, but there was still a big leap between doing that kind of stuff and where I am now, that in mind I still see my beginnings as being a real challenge and setting me off for things to come.
When you were busking could you have seen yourself in the position you're in now?
No I never planned to become an artist at the time, I was still doing my studies and music was still something I cherished as a newfound pursuit. I came in quite late you see, I didn't start playing guitar until I was 20-21 so it was still an escape from normality, like a kind of meditation.
Do you see yourself as being influenced more by traditional Scandinavian music or more contemporary pop?
Definitely the more contemporary stuff, but I think that I've benefitted a lot from listening to classic, folk and jazz as well as contemporary releases. It's not really a question of one or the other, more a mix of influences and styles. I don't consider myself to have been influenced by one person alone either, there's not really one defining act that made me want to pick up a guitar in the first place either.
You worked with Peter Gabriel on the re-recorded version of 'Don't Give Up' for the New Blood album, what was it like working with Peter and on such an ambitious project?
It was amazing working with him; generally he is a very generous and wonderful artist and person as well. The whole experience of working with him was very positive and quite amazing, the long tours and studio work was all positive and fun. His musical style on the album was not exactly new as I've always used string elements, since the first album I've tried to incorporate some orchestral elements to my music, so I've always divulged into the classical style before. Some of the shows I've done in Sweden and Norway have been largely orchestral so the Peter Gabriel link is nothing new.
Of course you are no stranger to collaborating with other artists, do you see yourself as being someone who really thrives in a partnership?
Yeah I think I do to an extent. I'm quite an extrovert personality you see and I like to be around people, at the same time my writing is quite introvert so I'm constantly looking for ways to work with other people. I think the collaborations have helped me learn but at the same time they put yourself into situations that you wouldn't do in your own little space; they let you challenge the voice and the musicality. I don't think I come out better but I think it helps draw new things out of me and helps me to learn.
You're about to start a considerably big tour; do you prefer touring to recording?
I like them both similarly because they're so contrasting; again it's that introvert/extrovert disposition towards different ways of working. I'm really having fun at the moment and although it's tiring it's definitely worth it.
On your tour you'll be spending a considerable amount of time in America, do you find much of a difference between American and European audiences?
Often enough I'll find that American audiences are more dynamic, they may not me anymore alive but the tradition they have with going to see performers is very natural for them. At the beginning I would get confused when people would heckle and I didn't really respond to it, but once I became more familiar with the dynamics of the audience and how open they are I eventually settled down. It is similar in some European cities but there is something very distinct about American audiences and I very much enjoy touring in America.
On your album (It All Starts With One) you cover such topics as the Arab Spring ('One'); do you consider yourself to be a political artist?
I guess it depends on how you define it because I really haven't played or written much with a political agenda. There are definitely artists who deserve the label more so than myself so I guess that whilst 'One' is strongly influence by what is still happening in the Arab world it is also very much about actually being political and taking an initiative and trying to do something to help save the world.
As well as political themes, you tend to focus on very emotional themes; do you tend to write from personal experiences?
Definitely. Sometimes when I write more personal songs the inspiration can stem from other people's lives but I bring them into my own to be able to construct the metaphors and imagery I need to make the poetry. The actual reality of some of the lyrics are picked out from seconds of my life, it's just a feeling I have about something I'm trying to describe and not like a diary of events that have happened in my life. I do find that song writing can be very therapeutic for myself so I'll try not to dwell on one occurrence in my life.
You've won numerous awards, collaborated with some exceptional people and toured the world, how much is left to accomplish for you?
I always like to look at things from where I am at the moment, like with this tour for instance and promoting the album, therefore I don't tend to dwell on what's left to do. The next step of course is to write new and interesting songs for the next album and my career has always been about that, trying to keep the creativity alive and to keep on growing. Of course all the career stuff is important because it's my livelihood, but I don't really have those kinds of ghosts because those external things are so out of my control and the music industry is so erratic I only really try to dwell on the things that I can control like the artistic parts of my life.