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 cant 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 Dont Tell Me Its Over (featuring
guest vocals from Ted Russell Kamp) just spin in your head
and hold up great under repeat spins. Theres a host of superb
rootsy pop sounds and infectious vocal harmonies in play on Little
Greens wonderful Innocent Again album. www.LittleGreen.se
mwe3.com presents an interview
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
The current lineup is:
Andreas Johannesson: Lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar.
Thomas Pontén: Electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin and backing
Karl Wassholm: Electric bass, upright bass and backing vocals.
Jonas Holmberg: Drums
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 didnt 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. Weve
moved from more of a home-recording environment to a full-blown studio-production
type of set.
Parallel to that weve 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 were 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. Well see. Weve 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,
its 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 Dont Tell Me
Its Over. He´s got his own solo-project The 2120s
and hes 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 hes the best and
most musical steel player Ive 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...
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 cant 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 1960s 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?
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 wasnt 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 90s 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 hes so underrated its 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 were 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 weve had lots of great reviews and airplay
there. Needless to say we also wanna do America and were looking
into that too...
Thanks to Thomas Pontén @ www.LittleGreen.se
and to Peter Holmstedt @ www.hemifran.com