Malmö based photographer and filmmaker Ebba Ågren sent us a recent photoshoot with Swedish artist Julia Spada and took the opportunity to ask her a few questions. Julia has collaborated with artists such as Silvana Imam, Mack Beats, Steve Angello and Mash Up International and recently released her debut as a solo artist, ”You’re Mine”.
She also gave us this lovely playlist. Enjoy!
Tell me about you’re latest single “You’re Mine”. What’s it about and how did it take form?
The song is almost like all of my songs – inspired by things that has happened to me and then I make up the rest. I had two break-ups last year and they of course worked as inspiration for the song. But I think that it’s also, in a broader sense, about letting go of something that you believed in, which is hard.
Do you exploit yourself in your music and does it say a lot about you as a person?
It absolutely says something about me, and I think that shines through. Then again, I’m not super interested in writing completely autobiographical music, because reality is so nuanced. It’s more fun, and the songs get so much better, I think, if you freely relate to yourself and your experiences. Pick something that happened to a friend or something that you see in a movie. Or make a specific event represent something else. I think that when you listen to my music and everything that I’ve done you get an idea about who I am and how I work.
Is there any specific subjects that you tend to write about? Do you find some things easier to write about than others?
I think passion is a subject that’s easy to write about when you already have those feelings. I think it’s a form you can vary endlessly. Songs written about other things don’t speak to people in the same way. It can be about love, friendship or going to the club. Feelings, you know. There’s a reason why people write about it, and why people listen to it.
You want to relate.
Exactly. If I wrote a song about how much I like this café it would probably not be a very good song.
Is there anything that’s hard playing live? Are you the same person on stage as you are backstage?
I would say that I’m, sadly, very much myself on stage. I mean, in a way, there’s nowhere to hide. I had stage fright, or fright of singing in front of people, for super long and it’s a real kick to stand on a stage and to sing live. But it’s also extremely vulnerable, and if something ain’t right I feel very exposed, and that’s beacuse I don’t have this Sasha Fierce-persona that I can turn into – it’s just me. I’ve accepted that’s how I am and I try to see it as a strength instead of a weakness, which I used to think it was.
What determines a good and a bad gig according to you?
The gigs that I like, without naming a specific one, are those when I feel I get to dominate the room and where people are there to listen to me, and where I kind of choose the setting. That’s amazing. That’s when I get lost in the music and really mean what I’m singing. I really get into that feeling. Then there are times that feel more random, and that’s a really frustrating feeling. I had one of those gigs recently, where it feels like, especially with emotional music, you serve your heart on a silver platter, and then people are like… you know. I have to make an effort not to zone out. I don’t do gigs like that anymore, it’s very stressful.
You have collaborated with quite a lot of artists, do you have a favorite?
Absolutely. I love working with the producer and artist Saturday, Monday and how we also built a very good friendship. Because that’s a thing with collabs. Especially a song we made together called “The Ocean” feels very important to me. Then, of course, “Lägg dig ner” (“Lay Down”) which I wrote with Ji Nilsson and recorded with Mack Beats. That song also generated two great friendships.
Besides that it was people I clicked with musically, those two songs are not at all about personal experiences, but still feel a lot like me when I sing them. Just like what we talked about before, when you can see yourself in it regardless what the song is about. When you collab you sometimes jump into someone else’s vision and end up losing your own voice.
What’s the difference between producing yourself and not?
To write music is very much adjusting to things. Like when you get a beat from a producer you want to capture the feeling, and that of course affects the music and lyrics, and how I use my voice. I only do collabs that fit me, of course, and there’s still a lot of myself in all the collabs I’ve done.
When I produce myself the instrumental part and the singning pretty much grows simultaneously, and I think I focus a lot more on my voice, for better or for worse. You can easily sit and perfect it for a thousand years when you do everything by yourself. In a way it makes the music more ego-tripped. It’s quite a difference.
Which do you prefer?
Both ways are fun. I think it’s good, and fun, that regardless how talented another person is, they will look at me and my voice from the outside, and it’s really exciting what they choose to do with it. Although, the things I make myself lie closer to my heart, and feel closer and more important because it’s more me.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m in a very good place emotionally right now where I’m very unconcerned about the future, and very uninterested in making plans. I just want to live in my next song and my next exciting thing to do, and it feels really good feeling that way.
Words and photography by Ebba Ågren