Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inga Liljestrom - Black Crow Jane- INTERVIEWS

Inga Liljestrom's latest album Black Crow Jane  is "quite different to Elk. "

Tina Arena isn't the only Australian songstress to leave behind the golden shores and blue mountains of her homeland, Inga Liljestrom- The Currawong Girl from the Northern Rivers - has fallen in love with the same beloved , Paris. With a new album and old influences at her fingertips, Paul Andrew speaks to the singer about memory, white witches, amethyst crystals and her latest musical collaboration.

Inga tell me about your earliest memory of singing?

Well, my fondest memory of singing was when I was around seven years of age.
My mum was just starting to discover religion during the tale end of her Hippy period, so we would often go to the only church in Bellingen on Sundays and sit though a very conventional church service.

We moved from our lovely country adobe out in the hills somewhere deep in the hills of the Northern Rivers, into a place in town quite close to the church. I would visit the little church alone after school, be truly overjoyed to find the door open, and no one else inside. I would venture in and improvise to my hearts content, singing high notes so I could hear the sustain and the reverberations. I was absolutely in awe of the sound. 

I was very young, but I totally fell in love with this angelic sound and
the wonderful feeling it gave me. Looking back now, I think I have spent my entire adult life trying to recreate this feeling.

Tell me what you loved most about your musical training and education?

I studied voice at Southern Cross University in Lismore, many, many moons ago (not
telling how many). It was the early days of the course, so it was a
little loose in structure. Socially it was magnificent, and I feel I
milked every moment I could, with great parties, loves, wine and song.
The connections I made there I still have today, so many great people.

As for the actual music training, I fell in love with jazz, singers
including Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson,
Betty Carter to name a few. I felt like I belonged to this era of
women, I adored also the fashion, and would done myself in second
hand vintage dresses paired with black biker boots to add a little edge.

Tell me about one of your favourite and most inspiring singing teachers?

Valerie Tamblyn-Mills, a fabulous teacher. I loved Valerie because she
allowed me to be myself. When I arrived at the audition - for some
reason I remember her wearing a dressing gown and slippers (was I hallucinating?) which I recall telling her about a year or two later when I was well into my course, we had a good laugh at the time.

Valerie said she remembered me singing at the audition, so soft and so whispery, so soft in fact that she could barely hardly hear me, but Valerie said she loved my singing. One of the best things my teacher did for me was during a very strange time in my young adult life, a time when I felt I was being pestered by a spirit who wouldn't let me sleep ( the spirit kept turning my light on and off, shaking the bed, getting into bed with me) and it, the spirit, was literally making me crazy.

I would turn up to a singing lesson wearing old fashioned underwear, and be babbling away. I was so exhausted.  My dear teacher took me to see a white witch, who confirmed I was indeed being pestered, probably by a past lover who had since passed on, and she prescribed some potions, did a little magic on me, and I was back to being my true self once again and that pesky light switch no longer turned itself on and off mysteriously.

One of your fondest musical concert experiences?

Melanie Safka was my first real concert experience, and my first true
love musically. Melanie performed in Sydney, and my mum took me to see her
when I was around seven years old. I loved Melanie's songs so much, I would listen to her
at home, lying on the lounge and be covered in goose bumps. Her voice really moved me. Anyway, I only saw a few minutes of the concert, as I was so young, excited and overwhelmed, I fell asleep soon as she came on, however I must have absorbed the entire experience on some unconscious level, I vividly recall Melanie's long skirt, her long locks of hair, the plush red velvet curtains, a guitar, her gentle smile, the crowd applauding, then sleep, the sweetest sleep.

How did your latest album Black Crow Jane come about?

I wrote the songs while holidaying in the Blue Mountains two years ago while staying with my
sister. I had no home at the time and had been traveling for a few years. I would
take the guitar to the garden and these songs arrived, very easily, a new song nearly every day.

I went to France after this holiday and performed with a band I had formed in Paris a few years earlier, and we did our first show in the Czech Republic, it all went so well, the engineer proposed we make a recording together, which is what we did.

We hired a house in the countryside of Normandy, recording over a few days,  it all flowed really well, magically so. So what you hear are whole takes, no overdubs. just pure and simple. I wanted to make a recording that was different from the previous albums, more of a gutsy rock album, one of those things I needed to do and I imagine that the next album will be entirely different again.

These musical collaborations are very different to your earlier songs that we are more familiar with those Baroque folk pop songs like Phoenix or Stardust. What are your thoughts?

There are three collaborative tracks on the album, and they were very easy to make, the music was sent to me by the band and I would pen some lyrics, and that would be that. Or I would send lyrics and the guitarist would write the music. He too said it happened so easily. I think that ultimately Black Crow Jane is the rock album I always wanted to - and perhaps needed to- make, a little purging.

Rock is another aspect that is very real in me. I was brought up on Rock 'n' Roll and Folk. The first album I owned was Blondie, I knew all the lyrics to every Boomtown Rats and Rolling Stones song. Looking back now I was the only kid at school into them, everyone else was into KISS, not me. My mum listened to Nick Drave, Maddy Prior of Steely Span, and Melanie of course, so I think mum’s musical tastes were also highly influential.

Tell me about your songwriting process- does it begin with a chord, an image, a
memory, a dream?
Well, it can start from any point really, but for this album usually the music and lyrics came together, which is quite unusual for me. On the Elk album, it was the music that was composed firstly, in fact it was all recorded, and I had no lyrics or melodies for the songs. Very stressful!

On this album they arrived with a greater degree of simultaneity, which was a huge relief. While living in the Blue Mountains I would sit on the back garden step with a steaming cup of tea, a guitar in hand, black Currawongs watching over me. Birds with an unusual reverberating sing songy call. I would be listening to the birdsong and looking  out over the broken wooden fence and into the old pine trees, noticing the washing on the line, the collection of pot plants and the assortment of crystals, like amethyst and quartz,  glistening in the morning sun near my feet.

The songs on Black Crow Jane are the songs that arrived. It was such a wonderful period of time in my life, it felt so rare and the music felt effortless to produce.

In the evenings I would soak in a bath with the window wide open and watch the mists rolling, and I am so grateful having had these creative days.

Is there one particular song from this album that you find yourself singing
over and over to yourself?
For me probably Wildest Horse and Wishing Bone Hands perhaps because they are a little more fragile and folk like, nice to sing around the house. My partner sings Bittersweet all the time though, he says he can't get it out of his head.

I feel that the lyrics to these two songs are more pertinent to me on a most fundamental level, they are more a part of me or something, a little more insight into the lost romantic soul, that somehow, by grace, by music, is found again. 

More info:

BLACK CROW JANE in review:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

love ingas music!! thanks for interview