Swedish sensation, Jazz diva, and pop idol Lisa Ekdahl is on tour yet again, having played in Norway and Demark recently, she is on her way to play in Iceland for the third time in two years, playing dates in Reykjavík, Akureyri and Bolungarvík, before heading to Sweden. The Grapevine contacted Lisa to ask her a few questions about her ongoing tour, but the roles were quickly reversed.
Is there much anticipation for your shows in Sweden?
I do not know exactly how it looks, but I hope so. I am traveling with a slightly different set-up now than usual. It is a much more intimate production. It is just one more person with me on the stage, so the concerts are very intimate.
This is the third time in two years you play in Iceland, how come you keep returning?
When I first came to Iceland two years ago, I did not even know I had fans in Iceland, so it was such a positive surprise. I was very glad to experience how people welcomed me. I just thought I would be a representative from Sweden in some sort of Nordic exchange program. But then I found out that I had an audience in Iceland, and that made me very happy.
You are playing in Bolungarvík this time; I will bet you that it is the smallest town you have ever played.
Really, well how big is it?
Around 800 maybe…
Oh my… Oh my. But do you think maybe there will be people from neighbouring towns there perhaps?
Probably, there is a bigger town close by, about 5000 people, and other towns as well, so…
Have you ever been there?
Well how does it look?
It is rather beautiful actually, especially in the wintertime…
Well, how do you get there? I do not know if I am flying or if you drive there.
You will probably be flying to Ísafjörður, which is a bigger town.
OK, and then you drive the rest?
Yes, it is about 20 minutes drive.
I am really looking forward to it. But I also think, in a way, when you have such a little set up, just me and one other person, it makes it possible for me to play a small town like that, rather than if you are bringing a big band. But I do not know… What do you think?
Well, I do not know, there has been this sort of trend for famous bands to play in these small towns in Iceland. Franz Ferdinand played in Borgarfjörður Eystri last summer, and that is a town of maybe… 100 people.
Wow… how exciting. Exciting for them as well. When you are used to playing for a large audience, it can be very exciting to play for a small crowd.
You have managed to be successful in two different genres, both as a jazz singer, and as a pop musician, do you have a preference of the two?
Usually, I like best what I am doing at the time. Most people find it to be the other way around; they think the thing they are not doing at the time is better than what they are doing. But for me it is the other way around, and I think that is very good, that you can get into what you are doing. I think it is very cool to do jazz, because there is a lot of improvisation involved, but then I am not writing my own music, so then I really miss writing. That is why I’ve just done those two albums in Swedish, because I really like writing, I think that is such a big part of me as an artist.
What about the language then, do you have a preference whether you sing in English or Swedish?
Hmmm… I sort of like both actually. I think it is very important what you have to say, and that people understand what you are singing about. I think it is cool when I am playing in the Nordic countries to be able to sing in Swedish. But when I am playing somewhere else, then I think it is cool to be able to sing in English so other people can understand as well, so really, I just want to communicate. I want people to understand. But I guess in Iceland, many people understand Swedish or what?
Well, I guess… Everyone is supposed to learn Danish in school, so we have a little grasp of Swedish I guess.
But what about outside Reykjavík, do you think people there are going to understand less Swedish?
No, I believe it is about the same, they might even understand more Swedish outside Reykjavík.
Yes, people can be a little focused on English in Reykjavík, but back to you. So, you are about to start working on a new album?
No, not really, I am just sitting around and playing for my self really. There is always this period when I sit with my guitar and play, and just take a little time with it.
How do you go about writing then, is it just you alone?
Yes, I always sit alone and I write the music and the words at the same time. I just try different things to see what works. Sometimes nothing comes of it, but sometimes, it clicks. I guess it is mostly about patience. That is why I am just sitting around with my guitar now, if you just sit around and play a little for long enough, you start to form ideas after a while.
Do you give it much thought whether to sing in English or Swedish?
No, I do not give it much thought. There is a need for music in Swedish here in Sweden as well, even if everyone understands English. There is still a need for music in the mother tongue, don’t you think? I mean, it has to be the same in Iceland; you probably need a little bit of both, don’t you?
Well, I guess, but I also think a lot of bands chose to sing in English, so they will have more of a chance…
Yes, I understand, but you never know when or if you are going to get the chance you know. That is very hard to know. I am just very glad to have the Nordic countries, because it means I don’t have that much of a need to be very famous, I mean there are people who understand, so I always have many potential listeners even it is not distributed all over the world.
But there are a lot of musicians and artists coming out of Sweden in the last few years; do you have any sort of explanation as to why Swedish musicians are doing so well?
No, I do not know, but I think you are right, there are more Swedish musicians being noticed than there are Danish musicians for example. But I do not know what it is. Maybe there is this tradition, like Abba maybe, even if that is not the kind of music people are listening to now, but there is this idea among Swedes that we can make it outside Sweden, I guess, but I don’t know. What do you think?