Despite its relatively small population, Sweden has long served as a breeding ground for new music that resonates beyond its borders. Over the past decade, the likes of the Cardigans, Peter Bjorn and John, and Robyn have enjoyed huge success worldwide, and the steady stream of quality acts from Sweden looking to gain recognition abroad shows little sign of letting up in 2011.
One name to look out for in the new year is that of Britta Persson. Uppsala-born and currently residing in Stockholm, the 29-year-old songwriter this autumn released her new album, Current Affair Medium Rare, to a rapturous reception from critics and fans.
And on Monday, she was nominated for a Swedish Grammis award in the category of Best Female Artist.
Persson has been plying her trade in Sweden since 2004, starting out as a solo artist selling her demo CD through her website. In an age where Myspace and MP3s have long been the norm for getting your music out there, it sounds prehistoric that Persson actually burned the CDs, packaged them and sent them in the post - each with a handwritten set-list included.
Once word of mouth spread, she became a one woman production line – sending two thousand copies of the demo in total. That must have been a lot of trips to the post office.
“It was a period when I was in my own little bubble’, she told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper in a recent interview.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again, but in some ways it was quite nice. I think I was good at it.”
Britta’s big break came when she contacted singer-songwriter Kristofer Åström. Claiming that their “musical language and voices fit together”, Persson proposed a collaboration.
“He wrote ‘Prove it!’ and invited me to the studio where he was recording the album Loupita.”
The meet up proved a success, and Persson ended up singing on Åström’s album and even opening for him on tour. The former Fireside and Hidden Truck singer later produced Top Quality Bones and a Little Terrorist, Persson’s 2006 debut album. She describes it as a “pure homemade recording”, cut in Åström’s kitchen with “two microphones, a guitar and a computer.”
Four years later and Persson is now a seasoned pro - both in the studio and as a live performer. Together with what she calls her ‘genius band’, Persson has made album number three, Current Affair Medium Rare.
“The album sums up not many years of my life, but is an excerpt of what it is right now,” she writes on her blog.
“But I think you can chew on it for a long time. There are quite a few layers to the album and goodies to discover after the thirtieth listening too.”
On 2008’s Kill Hollywood Me, the album’s immediate predecessor, Persson was writing wryly humorous songs about the ups and downs of romance. While the new album’s no less witty, it’s more about human relationships in a general sense, focusing more on building expansive arrangements and creating experimental sounds than on summery pop melodies.
“Nowadays I find the production as important as the songs,” she tells The Local via email.
It’s certainly a million miles from the early days of recording her vocals through a lampshade.
“This time I‘ve had much higher ambitions,” she continues.
“I kept thinking that I was going to make the world's best record and that there shouldn’t be a minute that is useless on this disc. These are ten very-good songs.”
November saw Persson tour throughout Sweden, and she’s due to play Stockholm’s Södra Teatern later this Thursday, December 16th. It’ll be her last gig of the year, and she is looking forward to it.
“It’s a whole new thing with this album and this band, much easier and more fun live,” she insists.
Of course, it’s full steam ahead for 2011, with Current Affair Medium Rare released in the rest of Europe early in the new year, after a trip in January to play at the Eurosonic festival in the Netherlands.
As for why Sweden bursts at the seams with great music, Persson proposes a couple of theories.
“I think one of the reasons is that we’re a bunch of spoiled kids!” she quips, before getting serious.
“It might be that we Swedes have developed some kind of collective self-confidence in pop music. If all your friends are making music, it’s not hard to think you can do it yourself.”