The pandemic of 2020 and 2021 will be remembered as the time when people had to literally prove they were brave just to survive. Singer-songwriter Su Andersson knows this, as we all do, but she has taken pen to paper and written ten fantastic songs that not only reflect the times we live in but also show just how far she has come since her critically acclaimed 2020 album Train Stories. Whereas that album was an external burst of musical creativity extrapolating upon her train excursions all across the U.S., the ten track / 34-minute 10-track release of Brave album finds the celebrated Swede searching within and the results not only surpass Train Stories but it sets a new standard in musical ability in the 2020’s epoch. Perhaps because people all over the world had to show their own bravery over the past 2 years Su thought the time was now to let the sunshine in. Commenting on her desire to spread her wings and make music again after months of lockdowns and mandates, Su explains “I found that other artists I reached out to were as keen to connect as I was. It’s amazing really. There are people around the corner if you’re willing to go there, and are brave enough to make that step, and say hello.”
Key to the sound of Brave is her new songs which come alive in the studio and her choice of musicians to assist in her new musical setting, including co-producer Henning Sernhede. Henning co-produced Brave as well as performing all forms of guitar, electric and acoustic, as well as mando guitar, sitar guitar, keyboards and synths. Jonas Abrahamsson adds in drums and piano, and several guest artists join Su on vocals and a kind of series of duets. Even with a star-studded crew of supporting musicians, the key to Brave is the new music.
One after another, the songs on Brave take in Su’s global vision. Kicking off is the album-opener “Japanese Tea”, which starts off the album in a lo-key yet effective way. “Southern Belle” takes a look into a mystical lady Su met “In a backroom of a bar on the Lower East Side”. Henning’s sitar guitar adds a mystical edge while backing harmony vocals by Eva-Maria Junker is equally effective.
On “Scissors”, Su brings a new sophistication to the modern day art-rock sound, and added vocals by Maja Granberg seals the deal on one of Su’s best songs. “Bread And Butter” is a Scandinavian dream come true with Su’s leading vocals are intertwined with singer / jazz cornet player Ryan Edmond.
“Limits” is a key track pairing Su with Swedish folk-rocker Fia Ekberg with some solid jazzy piano fills and riffs, played on what sounds like a tack piano, by Jonas Abrahamsson, making it a highlight of Brave, with the chorus delivered in a kind of Swedish flavored, McCartney-esque style.
“Northern Light” is a another in a neo prog-rock style with Henning driving the beat on his sitar guitar and synths and Jonas driving the beat on the drums. This track has one of her finest vocals yet. You can feel the piercing Northern winds from Arctic Swedish winters.
The title song “Brave” is quite an upbeat country rock track driven along by a steady beat that features Su sharing the uplifting lead vocals with Wendy McNeill.
Su’s devotion to New York City is reverberated in her track “Echoes”, on a vocal featuring Su with NYC based singer Naiika Sings along with some blistering electric guitar solos by Henning and drums / piano by Jonas. If there was every any reservation about Su’s rock sound, this track will put the uncertainty to rest.
“Turquoise And Rust” makes for another highpoint of Brave, this time sharing vocals and cool acoustic piano fills from Jaded Jane. It’s worth waiting for the album closing “Missing It All”. With Su on vocals and Henning and Jonas on the beat. The song captures a driving rock energy with a lyrical message that underscores the craziness of the pandemic era.
As Su adds in her Brave liner notes, “Restrictions of freedom only enhanced my desire to want to interact with other people no matter how insular a world we might have found ourselves in.” As Brave underscores, the human desire to transcend fear and emptiness in times of hardship can lead to not only acts of bravery but can also lead to new musical breakthroughs. With Brave Su Anderson gives music fans reasons to be hopeful and optimistic in a world of uncertainty.
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
mwe3: How has Sweden been this past year and a half. I remember we spoke after Train Stories came out but this has been a very tough period in human history. Has Sweden gotten over the hump so to speak regarding the pandemic?
Su Andersson: Most things in Sweden are back to the normal. Covid-19 isn’t any longer classified as a disease danger to society. But of course it isn’t over, we had a huge hump in January, by Omicron, but most of the people, not all, have taken the vaccine and through that managed and could avoid hospital or/and death.
Everyone can get it, like we can catch cold or the flu. Unfortunately it looks different in different parts of the world, as usual, with a lot of things. It’s great to be able to see your family and friends again, in a normal way, going to live concerts and restaurants.
mwe3: When did you write the music for your new 2022 album Brave and how did you record it? With all the technology around these days, it seems like remote recording is the way to go. I guess you, Henning and Jonas were recording in Sweden yet some of the ‘collaborators’ were in other countries recording remotely. So what made you choose to record with other vocalists?
Su Andersson: I wrote the songs during the winter of 2020. I was planning doing a Train Stories 2, just a working name. I would do a train trip in Europe but I had a lot of songs that could make some kind of record, in between. I wanted to collaborate with other people, and I had a lot of really good and nice ones on my wish list. I was curious about where it could lead to. I don’t mean career-wise, I mean musically.
Henning, Jonas and I made the recording as you assumed, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Three of the artists, the Gothenburg-bound, Maja, Fia and Jaded Jane came to the studio. In the other cases, recordings were done remotely. Eva-Maria in Helsingborg (Sweden), Wendy in Valencia (Spain), Naiika in New York (US) and Ryan in Stockholm (Sweden). I’m both very impressed and proud over the collaboration between the artists and the recording technicians… and me, hahaha.
mwe3: Brave kicks off with a nice soft song called “Japanese Tea”. It’s very meditative. Was the song a personal statement or something deeper?
mwe3: Is “Southern Belle” a song you were inspired to write about an experience you had in New York? Tell us about “Southern Belle” and about working with vocalist Eva-Maria Junker. I really like Henning’s sitar guitar sound, it’s such an unusual sound. I guess you got to meet a lot of unique people in your travels to NYC.
Su Andersson: It’s not in the first hand about New York, but there too. It’s the meetings with different Southern Belles in different places around the world, in different moments, points of time, in my imagination. Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind in a new version, a hotel room on Zanzibar inspired by Scarlett O’Hara, an old lady not giving up her manners, what do I see, what do I show, what are the images we want to give? The meeting in the mirror, what are the expectations of my own reflection? Does it differ from the picture that I have in my head?
Eva-Maria is a friend of a friend, just met her once, but I’ve listened to her own music and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t better known! I really liked her style, and was so glad when she wanted to participate. I can just agree about Henning’s guitar… Whatever guitar he chooses to use, it’s always splendid. The sound, his play, the feeling, everything!
mwe3: “Scissors” is a very interesting recording. Is the song about escaping reality? The chorus is very striking, ‘you don’t need to put me in a corner, I’ll go there by myself’. It's a haunting kind of song and there's an element of sarcasm in there too. Tell us about working with singer Maja Granberg on that track. The sound of Maja’s voice is an interesting contrast to your voice.
Su Andersson: No, no, it’s not about escaping reality, though I’m glad if people connect to it and hear different things than I do! It’s about identity and integrity. About the feeling of being in, not out, of control. The importance of that. Integrity, don’t play with my integrity, I choose my path and position. The love of meeting people, but on my conditions. Don’t come too close. But at the right times you can come as close as possible. The chorus is a wink to “Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner” from Dirty Dancing.
I met Maja Granberg at Göteborg Open Stage, an open mic that I’m arranging. She really knocked me out with her voice, and she still knocks me out! She’s been studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston and she’s got her own music project under the name Maja and the Missing Orchestra
mwe3: “Bread And Butter” is kind of dreamlike. Is it a ‘waiting’ kind of song? You sing about ‘waiting seven hours for the tunes’. It has very poetic lyrics. Tell us about working with Ryan Edmond, who is from Australia living in Sweden in your home town of Gothenburg. How did you meet Ryan? Also, his cornet adds a nice jazzy tone to “Bread And Butter”.
Su Andersson: The song includes a lot of my music friends and the meetings with them. We share some bread and butter and cheese and wine, we wait for new tunes, create them, and experience them. Together or one by one. The island in the north in the song is Lofoten, in the north of Norway, extremely beautiful landscape, which made a huge impression to me, and became the foundation stone to the song.
Ryan Edmond is an artist that I also met at Göteborg Open Stage, when he was performing several years ago. He made a great impression on everybody, though he himself, I was told afterwards, thought he was a mess – but everybody loved him, he felt that love and all the welcoming and felt really good about that. It meant a lot to him, and it means a lot to me that he wanted to join me in this song. His voice and his cornet is so beautiful. Nowadays he's living in Stockholm.
mwe3: “Limits” is a good song for the Covid era. ‘Easy dreaming, harsh to see’. It has a very catchy chorus. Can you explain the ‘I’ve got the right everything, thank you for letting me in” part? It’s very breezy and very effective. I enjoyed your vocals with Fia Ekberg.
Su Andersson: The line “Easy dreaming, harsh to see” is some dream of fairness. How it could be, but will never be. The part you mention describes my privilege as white, middleclass, western woman and checking those boxes there are never any problems for me getting into the US. I also wanted to show my gratitude and love to the people I’ve met in USA. My meeting with the country is of great importance to me. Invaluable. I share this feeling with Fia Ekberg. We’ve become friends quite recently and have still a lot to learn from each other and share! We’ll have some common things in the future, just wait and see.
mwe3: On Brave, Fia sings in English. Do you think the Swedes expect their artists to sing in Swedish or English mainly? I also enjoyed Jonas on drums and piano on “Limits”. What kind of piano sound is that, I love it!
Su Andersson: Fia’s album from last year, one of the best albums of 2021, is in Swedish, but I don’t think the Swedish audience expects one or the other of the languages, but my experience is when I sing, and listen as well, you capture the lyrics much faster and easier if you sing in the language that the majority of the audience speaks. I guess the piano in the song is an ordinary straight up piano. I must admit I hadn’t Covid in my thought. My song coach hears the song as a tribute to crossing the limits, go further, beyond… I like that too!
mwe3: “Northern Light” has Henning’s cool sitar guitar effect again. Is Sweden known for its Northern Lights? With its train of thought lyrics, is the song kind of Dylan-esque? Is the song about living Sweden? Is that your favorite time of year, in the purple haze of the night sky?
Su Andersson: If it’s my favorite time of year?! November in Gothenburg?! You’re welcome over! It’s fifty shades of grey. It’s grey and longing for sol y sombre (sun and shadow). “Northern Light” is about how the bright and dark matters. The importance of air and breath. How does the light or the loss of light affect your mood and so on? The ray of sunshine appears once in a while and you got to catch them. Quickly. Very much about living in Sweden, in my part, during winter season without snow. Dylan-esque – that’s fun to hear – is it a question, sorry I have no answer!
mwe3: I was thinking about it and how your music also sounds influenced by Brecht / Weill and even the Doors. I thought about that on “Northern Light”. It also has a blues feel.
Su Andersson: The words and feeling came to me during walks in my neighborhood. The sound comes out of when Henning showed me how I could tune one of my guitars in a special way, then I just found the sound that I wanted and made something I never thought I would. It was kind of surprising for myself, and a lot of fun!
Think I’ll have a break here, to take in Dylan/Brecht/Weill and the Doors for a moment. Gotta taste and enjoy that for a while. I’ll be back to earth in a minute.
mwe3: I was expecting the title track to be a prog-rock epic but it’s more of an upbeat country rock track! Does it have a therapeutic message? I thought you were brave to be a cutting edge artist. It’s sort of a return to the Hippie / Beatnik ethos but from the perspective of a life well-lived. It’s got great rhythm too! Also tell us about working with singer Wendy McNeill on that song
Su Andersson: Maybe it was a good thing that everything wasn’t as expected, or… ? Hope you like surprises then! The song comes out of that a lot of people say I’m brave and I don’t consider myself as that. One of them is Wendy McNeill, and the questions she asked about wanting to know more behind me as a songwriter, what things, meetings, impressions and so on, in life, had made me come to where I am today? Brave, changing careers, taking steps other people hadn’t take, reaching out, performing etc, etc.
She didn’t want me to answer the questions by just telling, she wanted me to tell it by the music, in the songs. That’s the reason I threw some of the planned songs for the album away, and I got in and wrote some new ones. She made me write “Brave”, the song. And she made me brave enough to ask her to join, and she said yes, and I’m so happy about it.
My thoughts still are that I’m not brave, I’m scared and anxious. I’m a worrying kind. That I do things that don’t frighten me, doesn’t make me brave. Is it coincidences, faith, destiny, the sliding doors, if you catch that train or the next one? I also know that good timing just doesn’t happen by itself, I’m totally confident about that, it does need some effort, action, move, activity, then a choice made from you.
Actually I did experience some moments of bravery during last spring, while busking in the city park. That was a little bit scary when I made it myself. But not at all when I did it together with some friends! And today, I think I feel a little bit more brave then when I wrote the song.
mwe3: “Echoes” is another New York flavored track. I know you like it there. Conversely, when I went to Stockholm the first time I fell in love with the beauty of the city and subways. The Swedes took me in. The piano echo sound is excellent. And what about that guitar solo? Wow, great. Also tell us about the singer Naiika Sings.
Su Andersson: I felt at home as soon I saw New York from the cab window on my way in from JFK airport the very first time. When I first set my foot on the ground. Pathetic? Maybe, but true. The song is about the love for a place, a city, to New York, the impact of the meeting with that city has made on me, including some people I’ve met there. My second home, has meant a lot. The pictures in my head, gives birth to echoes in my heart. The longing and assurance that we’ll meet again.
Naiika Sings is another artist that I met when she visited the Göteborg Open Stage in Gothenburg. We clicked and I met her and common friends of ours again in New York, we had some great times there. She’s a totally outstanding, amazing singer… “from subway singer to soulful sensation” is what is said on her website. What she’s doing in this song and how she lifts it up to highest level, is, well, that’s her and nobody else who would do it like this! The guitar solo? I can just say that when I listen to this song, I fast-forward to that part and then I want it to never end!
mwe3: “Turquoise And Rust” is amazing sounding. It’s another song with a kind of mid 1970’s feel. Tell us about working with Jaded Jane on that track. Jaded Jane’s piano sound is excellent. And the guitar treatments and backing vocals are stellar.
Su Andersson: This was in a time when I really needed a room of my own. Not in lack of square meters in my house – something else. And… my dream came through, just in another room then the one that woke up my cravings. Maybe some things are just reachable in a dream, and that’s fine, and are worth clinging to even if it doesn’t come true. Maybe that’s one of the meanings with dreams. Says Axel (Jaded Jane).
Jaded Jane was the one that made me start busking, after I’ve been sitting down in the park next door, listening to him busking. Then I heard him singing a song about dreams, and I know he was the wright person for this song, he would understand. He knows what dreams could be about, and he’s also a guy with his feet on the ground. His girlfriend has made an outstanding video with us two on this song.
mwe3: “Missing It All” with it appealing hooks is almost ABBA like. Is it a love letter to your fans or it could be a message of love for the deceased! It sounds like a Covid relief anthem.
Su Andersson: I think it’s just what it was, a feeling in that time. A love letter to my friends, as I don’t have the image yet that I have fans. Have to cope with that. Think it’s a feeling that so many of us had, or still have. The missing of you all, the missing of it all.
mwe3: So where does that leave us now? Are you optimistic about the earthlings? You mentioned Jupiter and Mars, even the astrologers are pessimistic these days! Where are you off to this week, you said you were traveling…
Su Andersson: Optimistic about the earth or earthlings? Oh no, but since I live here now… I’ve got family, I’m even grandmother, I’ve got friends, I have to keep up that life in a good way, in the best way I can do, for them, for me and I hope that somewhere, in some way I try to make some good things for people in real need.
I mentioned Jupiter and Mars, sometimes I allow myself just to be poetic, with no attachments to the real world or deeper thoughts at all… Or maybe I keep it to myself, to get the listeners a little curious… Now I’m going to pack my bag for a trip to Italy with friends. By train.