5 questions: Sofia Talvik

Sweden's indie-folk innovator visits the Sentient Bean

"You almost have to sing in Swedish to become a big artist in Sweden," says Sofia Talvik. "And that was never an option for me, never."

Forget ABBA for a minute, OK? There’s much more to Swedish music than Bjorn, Benny and the girls.

Case in point is Sofia Talvik, who’s performing at the Sentient Bean Jan. 5. A self–taught musician, she writes compelling, non–linear lyrics (in English) and sets them to unusual melodies, accompanied – on the five full–length albums and nine EPs she’s made back in Sweden – by a wide assortment of instruments ranging from acousti–folk to all–out electronica. There’s something very Euro–pop about her recordings, too, even though everything begins as a folk song.

She writes everything on acoustic guitar, and that’s the way she’ll perform at this week’s Savannah show.

There’s more here than meets the eye (or the ear, as it were). Talvik’s latest, Florida, was released in two versions – one features elaborate production, the other simple acoustic, solo versions of the same songs.

They’re both exceptional.

 Talvik never set out to make music for a living. In 2001, she began posting her original songs online, for free. A radio show that specialized in unsigned indie artists started playing them ... and Talvik found an audience.

In 2008, she became the first Swedish female artist to play the Lollapalooza Festival.

1. Don’t you think there’s a certain innocence in being a self–taught musician and songwriter? It all comes straight out of you.

Sofia Talvik: I played the piano for many years when I was a kid. After playing the classical music for so many years, I just got so tired of doing that. I wanted to do something else. So I got the guitar when I was 18 and just started writing songs to learn how to play it. I’ve never been like most people who learn how to play an instrument – they usually do covers to learn how to play it. But I started writing my own songs to learn how to play. I guess that’s how I do what I do, and I don’t do covers.

2. When you started doing this, in Sweden, did you always think: “America. I gotta go to the States”?

Sofia Talvik: At first, I didn’t have a plan at all. I didn’t see it as “I have to become a pop star,” or a folksinger, or anything. I just did what I did, and people started acknowledging it. And I figured I had something here that’s worth pursuing. After a couple of years, I just realized that I got better response from people in the U.S. than I did in Sweden. Because Sweden is such a small country, and certain trends come and go – and when that trend is out that’s the only thing they’ll play on the radio and stuff. You almost have to sing in Swedish to become a big artist in Sweden. And that was never an option for me, never. When I started releasing my albums, I thought I better come over here and see what it’s like, and what I can do with it.

3. You had two albums and four EPs out last year. Why do you write so much?

Sofia Talvik: Well, I don’t really feel like I’m writing that much. But I guess I do. I don’t know – whenever inspiration comes to you, you have to grab it I guess. When the song finds you, you have to write it down. Mostly a melody comes to me first, but sometimes words can inspire me – like if I hear something on TV, or a movie or something, I get inspired by a certain phrase or something like that. It seems like the inspiration can come at any time.

4. When did you learn to speak English?

Sofia Talvik: In Sweden we all start learning English when we’re about 10 years old, in school. And then we have all the TV shows and movies and everything. It’s just subtitles in Sweden, so we hear English all the time on TV.

5. This is a solo tour, but I understand you’re using a video backdrop? What does that consist of?

Sofia Talvik: It’s a little bit of everything. It’s some landscapes, and patterns – the oil in the water thing and stuff like that. Whatever fits to the music and sets the mood to it. We replace footage as we go and make new ones, so it’s going to change during the tour.

Back home I had a day job – as a freelance graphic designer – but now when we’re here, it’s just the music. That’s why we’re trying to do as many gigs as possible. We bought this old RV a couple of weeks ago, and that’s our home now.

Sofia Talvik

Where: Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park St.

When: At 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5

Admission: $5

Artist’s website: sofiatalvik.com


Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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