“When I left Sweden I didn’t think I would do any more acting,” says Fanni Risberg, when The Local catches up with her in the old English coastal resort of Brighton, her home for the past four and a half years.
“But when the role of Lena in “Upp Till Kamp” (Join The Struggle) came up I jumped at it,” she says, referring to her role as the politically astute young singer in Peter Birro’s four-part Sveriges Television (SVT) series about youth, revolution and change in late 1960s Gothenburg.
This role was followed up with a part as Cecilia Blanka in the film adaption of Jan Guillou’s Arn trilogy, which has re-established her as a face in Swedish film. But despite the resumption of her acting career after a seven-year hiatus, Fanni’s main driving force remains her music. But, she explains, that doesn’t mean she is a reluctant actor.
“No. It is like asking someone to choose between their mum and dad. Music and acting are both a part of me, part of my upbringing and equally essential to what I am doing today.”
When asked whether she saw a mission in her music like her character Lena in “Upp Till Kamp”, Risberg thinks for a moment and replies:
“Yes, but not politically, different, more abstract.”
“I hope we are heading for a revolution, though,” she adds.
Risberg’s idea of revolution would see people taking back the power over their lives and making choices. It would also see the artist placed back in the centre. But despite the dominance of money in the music industry and the struggle to get one’s message across, she is very positive about music today.
“It is chaotic at the moment. It is a very interesting time.”
File-sharing, TV talent shows, community web-sites and the sheer volume of music and musicians “makes it harder to make money but it is positive for the music,” she explains.
“You have to be able to do more yourself – a record label won’t touch you if you haven’t already developed a fan-base,” she says, adding that there is a creative virtue in this struggle, as these days almost nobody just gets ‘discovered.’
Fanni Risberg is busy juggling the school holidays (she has a seven-year-old daughter) with work in the recording studio on her debut album that is scheduled for release in April 2009.
The material for the album has been honed with frequent live performances in the UK, and across Europe in support of the Swedish band Mando Diao in the autumn of 2007.
Risberg’s music is folksy, reflective and personal, and she hopes that it will raise questions and thoughts, and afford her audience the scope to decide its message for themselves. But what does she think of being categorized as a “female singer-songwriter”, and does she feels any solidarity for others in her genre, such as Gillian Welch or Ane Brun?
“I feel connected to them, but yes there is competition,” she says, admitting with apparently genuine modesty that they may not think of her in the same way.
Many doubted the wisdom of Risberg’s decision to flee Sweden for England’s south coast, and music school, just as her acting career was considered to be on the verge of a major breakthrough. But she felt that she had little choice.
“I was shocked. I had always wanted to act and became a professional actress at 17 years of age. But it was too easy – I thought it would be more of a struggle. It consumed me, and when so young you don’t have that grounding in life to handle it.”
When asked if she felt this time was any different, she replies: “I am less afraid of success,” adding however that she has no intention of jumping back on the oscillating hot-air balloon that is celebrity.
Risberg decided to leave her roots in Stockholm and head for Brighton on a journey to separate herself from the role that she felt had been assigned her, and to escape the expectations of her surroundings and her background (she is the daughter of actors Angelica Lundqvist and Kenneth Risberg). England, the English language and adopting it for her music made it possible for her to start again.
“It is all fresh. If I learn a new word I can take it and use it for what it is. English has given me the freedom to create my own language,” she says.
Having grasped those newfound freedoms she admits to feeling some resistance to moving back to Sweden despite Stockholm’s thriving music scene.
“If I did move to Sweden, it would be moving on, not moving back,” she says.
There is a fluency in how this reflective, pensive and yet engagingly charming thirty-something describes her life and surroundings and one gets the distinct feeling that Brighton is no end game for her. In fact she recoils at the idea of having goals and destinations.
For the time being however she is relishing the “new creative vibe around Brighton.” With a huge number of venues and musicians plying their trade, there is no shortage of work or inspiration. This suits her lust to experiment with different sounds and find her voice as her album takes shape.
What makes the town so special for this exiled Swede is that many people have made a conscious choice to live here, she says, to change and to take power over their lives.
“Our lives are in transit,” she says, and laughs when she reflects on the fact that we are sitting in a café in the offices of a travel agency.
“That’s why I like this place so much, everybody’s always coming or going.”