Sink Like a Stone, the brand new EP from the queen of infectious synth pop Naomi Pilgrim, is already making ripples — but taking a stand and making a difference in the world is just as important to her as making music.
Before the release of her debut single in 2013, No Gun, Naomi Pilgrim used to sing backing vocals for artists such as Lykke Li. With her successful solo debut, she caught the opportunity to make her own music, to sing her own songs and speak her own mind. Pilgrim’s self-titled EP, released early the following year, was just as well received as No Gun and the acclaim created anticipation for her next release. That anticipation has been rewarded, because Pilgrim has shown us that she is an important artist, being able to point out social injustice with her pop songs. It is a beacon of hope, knowing that music can still be a powerful thing and that a song can still change something in this world of ours.
When you meet her, you are instantly drawn in by her contagious positivity. Sitting outside in the spring sunshine, the Swedish-Bajan singer starts off our interview wearing a pair of beautiful big sunglasses, which she removes halfway through. They go very well with the casual street style she is rocking.
Her new EP, Sink Like a Stone, has just been released and we’re discussing the inspiration behind its title track, which has already received lots of attention since it came out on April 15. Although the subject of the song is a dark one, Pilgrim’s positive message shines through.
“Sink Like a Stone comes from my frustration about Eric Garner [the African-American man who died of a heart attack in New York in 2014 following police brutality],” she says, “but also about prejudice in general. I think all prejudice is so unfair – it’s not a good way to live your life and it harms people.”
When she utters the word “unfair”, the effect an event like Garner’s death has had on her is palpable. She seems like a person with great empathy for others, something she brings to the fore with her artistry. In the middle of our conversation she starts singing some of the words to Mama, another track on the EP, to help explain the meaning of the song – “Maybe someday it’s my turn.” The track is her way of honouring her beloved mother and also communicating that it is possible to help your fellow man when you have been blessed with a good life.
“I was born with a privilege, because I was born in Sweden,” she says. “We haven’t been involved in a war for more than 200 years and that means we are in a position to do good things for the rest of the world. And many people do. That makes me ask myself why am I an artist? What is it that I want to do? Is it because I want to make music and be important? What is my ‘why’?
“My friends and I all have good energy, we have lived lives and we have things to say. Not everybody has the chance to make their voice heard.”
Pilgrim feels she can make a difference in the world by taking a stand as an artist. As a co-founder of Falling Whistles in Sweden, she is making a difference. The non-profit organisation is campaigning to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by investing in projects that create sustainable jobs and stability at a community level throughout the war-ridden country.
The EP’s final song is I Wonder. Pilgrim explains that it’s about longing and wondering if a relationship really feels right. The three tracks obviously provide an interesting mix of subjects and, together, they create a forceful entity.
For Pilgrim herself, this summer looks set to be one to enjoy and remember. One of the high points will be her slot at the Stockholm Music & Arts festival next month. She will perform on Trädgårdsscenen, a stage that will be headlined by Patti Smith each night of the three-day event.
As Pilgrim looks forward to playing her new material during the coming months, we can look forward to listening to what her songs have got to say.
Sink Like a Stone EP is out on Cosmos. Stockholm Music & Arts, July 29-31, Skeppsholmen
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