The coronavirus pandemic across the world is taking a toll on musicians who need to connect with their audiences. The Forumist meets several leading Swedish singers to find out they are coping with the lock down.
“It’s all gonna change”, sang the lo-fi- emperor Casiotone For the Painfully Alone back in 2003. We have to realise that change is both needed and inevitable. Either in order to prevent future pandemics or due to the galloping climate change. Business, as usual, cannot be usual anymore. We are all in the midst of realising that we need a new way of living. Well, some of us at least, and maybe today’s social situation is a taste of what the future might bring. The coronavirus has been a blow to more or less all businesses all over the world. But for the music business, largely depending on live shows, the blow has been sudden, unforeseen and enormous. We gathered a gang of artists, both battle-scarred and newcomers, each on their own location, to find out what this exceptional situation has meant for them?
The South Africa-born and Sweden-raised artist, Nea (Linnea Södahl), is far from a newcomer to the music business. She has written songs for the likes of Zara Larsson, Tove Styrke, and Axwell. The last of these collaborations earned Nea a nomination for Composer of the Year at the Swedish Grammy Awards. The step into the limelight wasn’t an obvious choice for the well-renowned songwriter. “The trigger to actually take the step was when my dear friends and colleagues, Petter Eriksson and Linn Wexell at Milkshake Label, asked me if they could sign me. The butterflies that filled up my tummy in that conversation simply wouldn’t let me go – so I guess that says something about personal realisation.” For those who know their bangers from around the turn of the millennium, the melody in the chorus of the widely streamed debut single will be instantly recognisable. “I wrote ‘Some Say’ with friends in Berlin and the whole idea actually started out as a joke where one of the guys was humming the old 90s hit ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ by Eiffel 65.” ‘Some Say’ has become one of the most Shazamed songs in Europe, while, in the meantime, Nea’s debut EP is up for release in June. “It’s so crazy! Honestly, it’s really hard to take in how well it’s been received throughout Europe. I try to just catch the momentum – which is a bit hard in these times, I was supposed to be on a radio promo tour right now, but that obviously got cancelled due to the coronavirus – enjoy the adventure and work hard to see how far we can take it!”
Time for self-reflection
The acclaimed twin-brother duo Bennett released their debut album Och du heter? (And Your Name Is?) in the beginning of May. A vibrant album filled with diverse music genres and features from the crème de la crème of Swedish hip-hop. The second single released from the album was ‘Flyger Högt’ (Flying High). “What I like about that song in particular is that the melodies and rap blend so nice together,” says Sammy Bennett. We always strive to be more versatile in our songs and I feel like ‘Flyger Högt’ has a lot of different flavours to it.” Johnny reflects on the pandemic and the current social situation: “I think you first have to figure out how to minimize the financial blow this whole situation will have on you and your family. When you got that figured out, there’s actually a lot of time for self-reflection while the world’s on pause. Just have fun, educate yourself and pick up new ways to create. This quarantine lifestyle feels like bonus time in a weird way, and I just try to treat it as such.”
If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad…
…then Muhammad must go to the mountain. Quarantine-style festivals have already become a thing. Daniela Rathana has sung backing vocals for artists like Zara Larsson, Seinabo Sey and Kent. She released her debut EP Halva vägen fri (which roughly translates as Halfway Free) in late January and has already headlined a ‘quarantine festival’. “I’ve sung on stage countless times, but not fronting the show as the main artist, so that was a weird experience, since just weeks before I had my first ever gig with ‘my own’ crowd. Performing without any vibe or interaction from a live audience in a room was definitely a new experience. Now I really understand how important it is with the exchange between the audience and the band. I also felt quite guilty to be honest, because I was on a stage, living my life, while people are suffering, dealing with the pandemic. I had to remind myself of how important it is with music in these times and that my mission is to entertain.”
To entertain is also something Fiona FitzPatrick, of the duo Rebecca & Fiona, wants to continue to do. “I really hope we will age with dignity musically and personally,” she says, “So we can keep entertaining.” It’s almost ten years ago since the duo had their breakthrough with the debut single ‘Luminary Ones’ and their own docudrama on Swedish Television. Fiona is optimistic, despite the pandemic. “I think the power of interests is very strong and in focus now. Hopefully you can indulge in your interests. We can make so much music without interruption, like meetings, which we hate. The perfect day is a great breakfast and Swedish Radio P1, to make music in bed, and then get out into the Swedish spring. Spring in Sweden is an incredible luxury.”
The singer Janice has been in the studio since the beginning of the year, working on her sophomore album together with Fibes, Oh Fibes!-singer and solo artist Christian Olsson. “Gigs and other projects have been cancelled which has affected my economy. I had also gotten into a flow in the studio that came to a halt for a couple of weeks, which made me feel down and stressed. I didn’t feel any inspiration after two weeks of voluntary quarantine. Now I’m two days a week in the studio and I’m slowly getting back to the flow.” Janice releases her new song ‘Rain Brings Out the Sun’ on the 20 May.
Words by EMIL VIKSELL
Photography by BEATA CERVIN at ACNE Photography
Styling and Art Direction by FERNANDO TORRES
Makeup by ELVIRA BRANDT and LOVISA LUNNERBORG
Hair by ANNE ANKERVIK
Stylist assistant: VIXON BERISAJ
1& 2# (Nea) Leather coat by Humana Sweden, Harness by Antonia Pihl and Shoes by Eytys
3 & 4# (Bennet) Jacket by Erik Olsson, Trousers by Eytys, Vest and Shirt by Acne Studios
3 & 5# (Bennet) Shirt and Trousers by Göran Sundberg, Vest by Diemonde
6# (Daniela Rathana) Vest by Acne Studios, Top and Jacket by Eytys
7, 8 & 9# (Rebecca & Fiona) Full look by Humana Sweden, Shoes artist’s own and Earrings stylist’s own
10 & 11# (Janice) Top by Weekday and Skirt by Liselotte Bramstång