LITTLE GREEN
Innocent Again
(Paraply Records)

 

Back in late 2009, Sweden's Paraply Records released an album masterpiece from pop maven Citizen K and now in early 2012 the label have put out Innocent Again, the third CD from the Gothenburg, Sweden based band known as Little Green. While listening to Little Green, one can’t help but admire just how skillfully this Swedish band have adapted and assimilated a musical style kindred to the best 1970s folk-rock bands from both the U.S. and the U.K. One can hear echoes of bands like The Eagles and Poco as well as U.K. folk legends like The Strawbs, while some music critics have also compared Little Green to Americana icons The Jayhawks and Son Volt. On Innocent Again, Little Green not only write memorable songs but they have the chops to back it all up. Innocent Again features fine playing all around, including the mandolin and guitars of Thomas Pontén and the lead vocals and guitar of Andreas Johannesson, who get solid backup from Karl Wassholm (bass) and Jonas Holmberg (drums). Accenting their sound with seasoning from Swedish music, Little Green also enhance their sound with fiddle player David Odlöw, lead and backing vocalists and several additional guitarists and keyboard players. Some tracks like the Little Feat flavored “Don’t Tell Me It’s Over” (featuring guest vocals from Ted Russell Kamp) just spin in your head and hold up great under repeat spins. There’s a host of superb rootsy pop sounds and infectious vocal harmonies in play on Little Green’s wonderful Innocent Again album. www.LittleGreen.se

mwe3.com presents an interview with
THOMAS PONTÉN of Little Green


mwe3: When did Little Green start recording and playing and who is in the current group lineup?

TP: Andreas and me started out through a common interest for recording and song writing back in 2004-2005. We did our first show in the spring of 2006.

The current lineup is:
Andreas Johannesson: Lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar.
Thomas Pontén: Electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin and backing vocals.
Karl Wassholm: Electric bass, upright bass and backing vocals.
Jonas Holmberg: Drums


mwe3: Can you compare the sound of the early Little Green albums with the 2012 release of the Innocent Again album and how has the group sound changed over the past few years and where is it going next?

TP: The solid song writing has always been there. After all, that was what brought us together in the first place. We didn’t start out to play a particular genre of music like so many other bands appear to be doing. The song was always the focus. To put the songs in what we felt to be their right environment production-wise though we have evolved tremendously since our first release back in 2007. We’ve moved from more of a home-recording environment to a full-blown studio-production type of set.

Parallel to that we’ve gone from early Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor-type singer/songwriter, via bluegrass/acousticana reminiscent of Gillian Welch, Nickel creek, The Greencards, Darrell Scott and Tim O'Brien to electric countryrock/alt country/americana influenced by people like Little feat, The Band, Buddy Miller and Shawn Mullins but also by Kathleen Edwards, Steve Earle, Mindy Smith, Hayes Carll etc, etc... Right now I feel we’re moving towards my old passion for classic guitar pop and it might take us closer to bands like Arcade fire and Swedish act The Deportees. We’ll see. We’ve got a good forty five new songs in our dropbox waiting to be recorded.

mwe3: What guitars are you using on the Innocent Again album and who were your biggest guitar and musical influences over the years?

TP: Wish I could list a bunch of awesome vintage-guitars here but I did it all with a 2004 Fender Highway One Telecaster, a seventies electric 12-string Univox, a Danelectro baritone and a Taylor 110E acoustic. The mandolins were a Morgan Monroe MMS-8FE and a 1996 Flatiron Festival F built by Bruce Weber at the Gibson factory in Bozeman Montana.

As far as guitarists goes, and here I would like to have listed a bunch of credible country pickers, hearing Carlos Santana made me start playing in the eighties. After that I guess Steve Morse, Uli Jon Roth, Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Frank Gambale, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Albert Lee, Jerry Donahue, Eric Johnson, J.J. Cale, George Benson, Robben Ford, Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Bonnie Raitt, Darrell Scott and Lowell George all put their mark on me.

Musical influences through the years are too vast to cover here, but funny enough Kraftwerk have been with me since day one. Also The Police, J.J. Cale, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, XTC, Darrell Scott, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, The Band, Little Feat, The Dixie Chicks, late period Fleetwood Mac, Buddy Miller, Eliza Gilkyzon, Shawn Colvin, Hayes Carll, Ryan Adams, Paul Simon, Steve Earle, Chatham County Line, New Order, Nickel Creek and The Greencards are all bands and artists that have changed me in one way or the other. But again being the music addict I am, it’s an impossible task for me to cover it all here.

mwe3: Can you say something about the other guitarists and steel guitarists appearing as guest artists on the new Little Green album and what did producer / guitarist Sven Karlsson bring to the table musically?

TP: Our singer Andreas of course also played acoustic on most of the album. Christian Smedström played on “Don’t Tell Me It’s Over”. He´s got his own solo-project The 2120’s and he’s doing great right now with lots of songs in feature films and series and he even has a song in a commercial promoting the state of Texas! Sven did some great guitar work too. Like the fake 12 string and the harmony-guitars on “Time Till Monday”. Country-Sweden´s best kept secret is playing pedal steel on the album. His name is Daniel Melander and he’s the best and most musical steel player I’ve heard in Sweden. There, I said it! I bet there´s more technical pickers out there and they can do all the fancy Buddy Emmons stuff and all. But nothing else...

Taking on Sven as producer was great! He never settled and pushed us that extra mile to get it just right. We can sometimes be a bit sloppy and rush through it. And he dared to let us know when something sounded a bit off. Also he did a great job recording and mixing and has a great ear for our genre. He laid down some great backing vocals too. Would be fun to work with him again! He has a great studio outside Gothenburg.

mwe3: What amps do you prefer to use live and in the studio and how about other pedals effects, strings and guitar picks?

TP: The previous album was recorded with guitar plug-ins like Amplitube or maybe it was Guitar Rig? This album was all Vox AC30 top boost. Maybe I did the occasional overdub at home through my small Laney CUB15 tube amp.

Live, I use a Fender Twin ‘65 reissue. Though on our level many times you can’t use your own amp and gotta rely on whatever backline is there at the club. That´s why I got it all on my pedal board so I can get my own sound wherever I go. TC Electronic Polytune, MXR Dynacomp, MXR Phase 90, Morley Distortion/volume/wah , T-rex Moller or Fulltone Fulldrive, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man. I use .011 Elixir strings and Jim Dunlop jazz III picks.

My main guitar is a 1960’s reissue Gibson SG with split coils so I can get both the twang and the fat. I also carry a 1996 Fender American Standard to the gig.

mwe3: When did you become interested in American style roots rock music like Little Feat and The Band and who were some of your big influences guitar wise and music wise?

TP: Back when I was in grade 8 or 9 I started getting interested in music history and stumbled over bands like Little Feat and The Band and listened to it but it wasn’t until later that I realized their greatness. Of course watching The Last Waltz led me on... I also listened to the music of Albert Lee and fusion-pickers like Steve Morse and Eric Johnson and that also led me closer. As well as the blues. Then when I finally got hooked on Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor in the early 90’s I was almost there. Digging into the roots...

I often find myself loving the things I hated to begin with, like Hammond organ, Southern rock, country-rock etc... maybe I should see someone about that... (lol) Anyway of course people like Buddy Miller, Don Rich, Joe Walsh and Lowell George have influenced me when it comes to playing this kind of music but I must say Darrell Scott is probably on top of my list both as a musician and as a singer-songwriter. Effortless is what it is, and he’s so underrated it’s terrifying.

mwe3: How has your music been accepted in Sweden and what are the plans for Little Green in 2012 and beyond?

TP: Our kind of music is tiny in Sweden. Although growing through the T-Bone Burnett-effect... We sometimes feel trapped between the pure country-scene in Sweden with bands ripping off the Bakersfield-sound on one hand and the indie Americana-hipsters like Band Of Horses, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver on the other. Equally uninteresting if you ask me. I have a weak spot for the Texas troubadours like Guy Clarke, Robert Earl Keen and Hayes Carll as well as the more commercial sounds of people like Shawn Colvin, Mindy Smith, Kathleen Edwards and Tift Merritt. That´s where I wanna be. In that spot. With a little Kraftwerk and New Order on top.

For later this year we’re doing our fifth tour with Ted Russell Kamp in Sweden. We´re also gonna start recording some new songs. Though it might not be a CD this time. Maybe just digital and maybe vinyl if that trend continues. We also wanna tour in Germany and the rest of Europe since we’ve had lots of great reviews and airplay there. Needless to say we also wanna do America and we’re looking into that too...


Thanks to Thomas Pontén @ www.LittleGreen.se and to Peter Holmstedt @ www.hemifran.com



 

 
   
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