TMO: As an artist you’re politically active, having organised the ‘no more lullabies‘ concert for climate justice. How politics and art interact is a thorny topic for many artists (and their fans) – is it something you want to do more of, and do you worry about that interaction? Would you consider writing an overtly political song about climate justice, for example?
AB: Well the closest to a political song I’ve gotten is One on the new album but that’s more of an existential song about how political activism and initiative starts and how some people just get up and say something or do something and it’s like that song is meant to be an inspirational song for people who want to make a change. I also have a song on my first album called One More Time, which is very much a song about how weird it is to live in a society where you grow up with people around you and you feel that you are exposed to the same things and everything but some people become racists and some people become anti-racists. How does that happen? How do we become so different? I think that song. It was one of my first songs ever. It was written in a period where there were a lot of discussions around this in Norway.
I feel that the political activism is personal. It’s not really something that has to be…of course it will be something that is connected to you as an artist but it’s a personal engagement and I don’t feel an artist has more or less responsibility to be active but if you are, you have an amazing channel because you have your audience and you have your say in many cases. I feel that writing about politics as poetry is a very tricky business. It’s really hard to make it good. One person that I really think is doing it well is one of my old favourites Annie di Franco – she’s writing these lyrics about all kinds of stuff. She’s done that for years and she’s doing it in a very poetic way and I think that’s very impressive. I think it’s difficult to write about. Society and politics and climate justice is really difficult. Another example is Another World by Anthony [Hegarty of Anthony and the Johnsons] which I think is an amazing song about how the poetry and the existential feeling and thinking about the world we have and what we’re about to lose if we don’t do something…major soon.
TMO: What’s the best thing about what you do?
AB: Oh I think it’s the magic of the music – the magic of the moments where everything just goes…..where it just flows and you’re on stage or you’re in the studio or you’re on your own writing songs and it just kind of hits that magic moment and it’s worth all the travelling and it’s worth all the other things that are tiring around the job. Another thing that I love about this job is the people that you meet – music brings you closer to a lot of people and I feel I’m very lucky that way that I have a lot of wonderful relationships people through music and how it opens up a connection. I think that’s very beautiful.
TMO: What’s the worst thing about what you do?
AB: The worst thing about what I do is the logistics of it actually – the travelling and the very unstructured life -how difficult it is to try to make routines in your life and which is I guess good for you to have routines and to – I don’t know – you can’t get both right – you can’t get the stable life and be a touring musician. But I try to make a little structure in this little chaotic work space that I have.
TMO: Can you remember writing your first song, and can you tell us a bit about that moment?
AB: The first song I ever wrote was in Spanish and it was this little love song. I remember I had been playing covers for two, three years learning how to play guitar and I was very excited about playing guitar and singing- it was my favourite favorite thing to do at that time. It was kind of like a natural step- I thought maybe I should try to write something that’s mine? I had no ambitions of anything – I wasn’t going to make an album or anything, but then I made this little Spanish song and the guitar picking is very much like a Ben Harper Song. It was called Otra Vez. Then I wrote a few English songs after that and it was a real high to finish it. I was struck by it and haven’t stopped since.
TMO: One of our favourite questions for songwriters, here at TMO, is what’s the difference, for you, between a good song and a great one?
AB: ‘Hmmm…..Interesting! A great song has this special extra little twist to it. It doesn’t have to be weird but it has to have this …I don’t know; when I write a song I always try to keep up the level of interest in myself throughout the song and make sure that every moment counts in the song. You want those moments where you kind of feel a rush in interest – where you feel lifted or something. I guess it’s really hard to say in words, and it’s also very personal because it’s a taste thing and for me also very much a vocal thing – who sings it’s very important for me. If it’s a good song and someone has a voice I can’t stand, I can’t hear the song so I’m very sensitive to that. A great song can be something that sounds like a classic and it can also be something that sounds completely new so …that’s a difficult question to answer!