Susanne Sundfør has returned once more to grace our ears with her new, exceptional, sixth studio album ‘Music For People In Trouble’, which is out next week.
Clash caught up with the Scandinavian talent to dig deep into the album’s roots, and to understand the importance of being an artist who follows their own path, crafts their own unique music in a world full of churned out pop hits…
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Can you start off by giving me a brief summary of your new album in your own words?
I would say it’s an album of finding strength through facing your demons. I think introspection is key for survival today.
Who would you say where your main inspirations and influences?
Musically I would say Nick Drake, Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell regarding the songwriting and some of the sound of the album. Other inspirations were Stockhausen, the soundtrack on The VVitch and Under the Skin, Jimmy Giuffre, Radka Toneff, Skeeter Davis and Susanna Wallumrød.
Can you explain the meaning of your album’s title, if it has one?
It’s pretty straightforward I think. I like art with banal titles. It leaves more for the imagination, it’s inviting and open. ‘Music For People In Trouble’ is full of beautiful, profound lyrics.
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I think introspection is key for survival today.
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Can you pick a favourite idea you’ve used and explain its purpose?
Thank you so very much! I like the glass cylinder space ship idea. It seems like a popular idea that we will evolve into civilisations orbiting planets in glasslike spaceships in the future. It’s a nice, romantic idea, although a little bit claustrophobic.
And do you have a favourite track on the album? If so, which and why?
I do really like the title track. I think [the album’s producer] Jørgen did a superb job on it. And Andres’ words are beautiful and profound.
Would you say songwriting is a vital element to your work? Do you think singing words someone else writes leaves you more disconnected?
Yes, I see it as my main purpose in life to write songs. Singing other people’s work is more like a side note for me. I love it and I’m always grateful someone wants to use my vocals on their tracks, but it’s not really what I do.
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I see it as my main purpose in life to write songs.
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Is there any songwriter/musician you’d most like to collaborate with?
I’d really like to do some more work with André Bratten.
Do you have a favourite that you’ve collaborated with?
I would say the producer and mixing engineer on my album, Jørgen Træen.
John Grant features on the last track of the album, ‘Mountaineers’ (which, by the way, is outstanding). What do you think you most gained, if anything, from working with him?
Thank you! I think I most gained a new and deep friendship. Musically, an outstanding vocal performance.
This will be your sixth studio album. Do you see every album as a stepping stone in the way that you learn, develop and evolve as the years go on?
I guess I’m old fashioned and see an album as a chapter in a person’s life. I put more meaning into it than what might even be intended by the artist. I don’t see it as evolving, or becoming better or whatever. Maybe I’m the smartest now or maybe I was five years ago and it’s all downhill from here… or maybe I’ll reach my peak at 70. Who knows. I just make what I feel like. What feels right at the time in order to convey what I wanna say.
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I guess I’m old fashioned and see an album as a chapter in a person’s life.
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Do you draw from your Norwegian roots when making music?Are there any elements to it you think are in direct correlation of where you’re from?
Someone said that a lot of Scandinavian pop music gets its musicality from our long-lasting tradition of hymn songs. They could be right. Our hymns are really beautiful. When I went to school we would sing a hymn before our first class and we would go to mass at the end of semester. So it’s definitely a part of my childhood.
I’m not a Christian, but I think all religions have been really smart at creating an otherworldly space for their disciples or potential converts with the help of art. A lot of great beauty has come out of it. But I wouldn’t say that I deliberately use this background in my music. Perhaps subconsciously.
And finally, if you could advise your teenage self after your years of experience now, would you change anything or do anything differently?
I think I would advise myself to believe more in my own powers and something better to come. It came.
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‘Music For People In Trouble’ is released on August 25th.
Words: Laura Copley
In Conversation: Susanne Sundfør