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MUSIC

Sofia Talvik crosses the Atlantic with her guitar in hand

On the eve what she hopes will be a breakthrough US tour, Swedish singer and songwriter Sofia Talvik tells Majsan Boström how the internet helped launch her career and land her a spot at one of the world’s biggest music festivals.

Sofia Talvik crosses the Atlantic with her guitar in hand

With just a couple of days left to get organized before heading to the US for a jam-packed 10-day tour, Swedish singer-song writer Sofia Talvik remains calm, cool, and collected.

“I’ve played a lot in Sweden so it’s going to be great to meet my American fans,” she says after wrapping up a last practice with her band, The Tallboys.

“This is huge for me.”

And huge is about the only way to describe the main gig on Talvik’s US itinerary: the Lollapalooza 2008 music festival in Chicago, which routinely draws more than 50,000 fans a day.

Only two other Swedish acts have performed at the “Lolla”– indie groups I’m from Barcelona and Peter Bjorn and John.

So how exactly did this unassuming songwriter from the outskirts of Sweden’s second-city of Gothenburg become the first female Swedish artist to take the stage at one of the world’s biggest musical festivals?

Talvik started writing songs shortly after receiving a red Marina guitar for her 18th birthday, but wasn’t yet set on seeking a life in show business.

“I had played the piano before that and wanted to try something new, so I started writing songs to learn how to play,” says the now 29-year-old singer.

But after one of her demos ended up on the radio in 2001, Talvik’s emerging fan base took to their computers, causing Talvik to take the prospect of a career in music more seriously.

“I started getting emails from people who wanted to hear more,” she explains.

“That’s when I realized I had something going for me.”

She then set out to give her internet-based fans a taste of the real thing, scheduling her first live performance at a venue in Stockholm.

Within a few months, Talvik’s meteoric rise on the Swedish music scene was capped off by a performance at Hultsfred – Sweden’s equivalent to Lollapollooza – and the country’s biggest music festival.

“I was really nervous,” she says.

But Talvik took it all in stride, next heading to the studio to record her first album, Blue Moon, which was released in 2005.

A second album, Street of Dreams, came out in 2007.

Talvik describes her style as a mix of folk and pop music, with lyrics that touch on feelings and observations from everyday life.

Her angelic voice travels well with the mix of crisp Nordic and soft electronic tunes. And the melodies, mostly carried out by Talvik’s acoustic guitar, are backed up by cellos, double bass and soft percussion.

Her current project, Jonestown, has more of a pop-feel and is much more upbeat than the earlier two, explains Talvik.

“I like the mix of the two genres and I also hope I can incorporate some kind of Scandinavian sound,” she adds.

Jonestown is set to be released on August 27th, coming shortly after her US tour and the Lollapalooza appearance.

Talvik explains that her upcoming appearance at the popular US music festival also came about in part because of the internet.

But instead of emails from Swedish fans, this time it was an online talent competition organized last year by Famecast, a US-based website which allows fans to vote for their favourite emerging artists.

Talvik was among the acts which received the most online votes, resulting in an invitation to perform live in front of a panel of US judges at Famecast headquarters in Austin, Texas.

“I made it to the finals as the only European act, and after that the Lollapalooza [people] contacted Famecast and wanted to book me,” she says.

So how does it feel to be days away from sharing the stage with some of the biggest acts in the music business like Radiohead, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails and Gnarles Barkely?

“I’m excited for sure, but I don’t get nervous until it’s time to enter the stage,” she says, adding that she’s also looking forward to simply being a music fan at Lollapalooza.

“It’s going to be awesome to see Radiohead’s gig.”

Self-confident, but humble, Talvik says her dream is to open for artists like Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega or Tori Amos.

But for the time being, she isn’t planning on quitting her day job as a freelance art director at in the magazine industry.

“It’s nice because it’s a creative job and I can incorporate it in my music career by making all my own artwork,” she says.

And as she ties up loose ends before her departure for the US, Talvik is left with what is perhaps the most difficult decision of all.

“I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bring my darling red Marina guitar, or if I’m going to bring my vintage Guild guitar,” she says.

“Other than that I don’t think I’ll bring much, I’m usually a light packer.”

Majsan Boström is a Sweden-based journalist and freelance translator. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Raleigh News & Observer, various Swedish websites, and on National Public Radio.

MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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