Ane Brun has accomplished something that many artists do not; success on her own terms. She has released eight albums in her ten year career, all on her own label. The singer-songwriter credits her longevity to her passion and not being on a major record label. But part of her success is her beautiful voice and musical talent, which is highlighted on her cover songs. Brun will be kicking off her U.S. tour tonight at Jammin' Java. And she was nice enough to answer a few questions about her career, new album Rarities, the Swedish music scene, Amerie’s “1 Thing,” and more.
FO: Sweden is known for its music scene. You’re from Norway, how did you get to Stockholm? Was it because of Sweden’s music scene?
AB: No, not really. I moved there thirteen years ago, and it was just, well not just, it was love; a love relationship. And this was actually before I started releasing albums and becoming a full time musician. So it was not a career choice. But it’s a good place to be a musician.
FO: So what is it about the scene?
AB: Well, it’s hard to describe it I think. But I think the artists that come out of the Swedish music scene, if you speak of the more alternative music maybe, it’s quite personal music. The voices are quite personal and distinct in a way. Also, it can be American or British music, but still it has a touch of something different. It’s quite a very inspiring environment at the moment. In Sweden, I think it’s a good vibe. I think that when someone is successful, it always brings along a lot of other people who are behind, you know. So it brings this kind of wave of people that see that things are possible, so maybe they try harder and dream bigger. I think that the communication channels from Sweden to the big markets are very open economically, so all of the good music comes out internationally. So it seems to be a huge, fantastic scene now, which it is. Yeah, it’s visible.
FO: You’ve done eight albums in ten years, some artist haven’t even put out 1 album in 8 years. How do you find the stamina? What drives you to keep putting out more music?
AB: I think one of the main reasons is that I’m on an independent label, my own label since the beginning. And I’m never really depending on anyone’s schedule, any record company schedule. I can always do things when it comes to me. If I want to release a new song, I’ll do it tomorrow. So I don’t have to wait for anyone. I have constant flow of creativity that I can actually release. I think that’s the big difference. Because if you’re on a big label, even if you have a good contract, you’re always dependent on all the other artists; when they are releasing and what slot you have to be working with the staff. But in my case, I can kind of decide for myself, with my manager and just kind of make plans. For me that has been so good because it’s made me completely creative, being able to follow my inspirations. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I have been so productive. And the more you make the more inspired you get. And also, I’ve released albums that I don’t think would be released on majors. Like two live albums and a duet album with an Indian artist, which it is hard to get a release on. So I think that’s one of the reasons, maybe the main reason. Also, I want to be doing things, because if I’m not, I don’t feel like an artist. When I don’t do anything, I don’t feel I am communicating, and it’s hard to identify with what you are doing. To feel happy I need to communicate.
FO: We’ve seen a lot of independent artists break out here. Do you feel that having a record label would be helpful at all? It doesn’t seem like artists need to have a record label to be successful anymore.
AB: I guess if you have the resources to pay people to do the things that a record company does, if you have the money to pay the press people, and for the tours and the marketing, then you can do it yourself. There’s not many people who have that. I’m so established now in my home country and Europe, so I have the resources to do my own releases in a way that a big company would do it. Of course sometimes you think it would be easier to have a big label that can do it all over the world at the same time, that kind of stuff. But, at the same time, if you have that, it also means you have to do a lot of things that maybe I don’t want to do. Like three months of promos. Through the years I’ve come to a place where I figured out how I want to work and keep love of my music, and keep the fun in it. I’m trying to find a good balance between trying hard for success and trying to find a sustainable way of working. I don’t do everything to try to become the biggest artist in the world, I try to have a good life. Try to find harmony, then the career thing will kind of move slowly upwards. And that’s what it’s done for me for ten years; kind of grown, and grown, and grown.
FO: Do you have any plans to take a break? Do you feel the need to take a three month vacation or something?
AB: Actually, last year I wasn’t on tour at all between Christmas and June, which is six months. For me that’s quite a long time. I was just home for six months preparing for the release of the retrospective album that I did. And just being home, you know. The thing is I enjoy my work more than ever and I’m really inspired. I guess the break will come naturally.
FO: They’ve described Rarities as a collection of some of the most personal moments of your career. What does this album mean to you?
AB: It’s funny because when we just finished releasing songs from the classics collection of my songs, my manager sends me a file of all the other songs that we hadn’t released. And he said “Ane this could be an amazing album.” And I started listening to it, and I said wow this is good. We started recording the remaining in between things, and some things were released in not a big deal. Like a song for a project or something. And collecting all of these things into an album was really nice being able to really empty all the cupboards that we had with new music, and just start over in 2014. Many of these recordings are just me and a guitar, done myself, at home in my studio. They weren’t actually meant to be released, they were just for me to try out versions of songs. It is one of those albums I didn’t know I was going to release.
FO: The album has different ranges of music. There are a couple of covers on here from different artist, but the one that stuck out the most to me was Amerie’s “1 Thing.” And you did a cover of “Halo.” Does your personal music taste lean towards R&B?
AB: [laughs] Yeah, I mix everything in my personal taste. If I want to be happy and get some energy, sometimes I put on R&B. The Amerie song is one of my favorite, I love it, it just has this amazing production. And the cover that I did was me playing around in the studio, I had no idea I was going to use it for anything. I listen to everything. Today we listened to Brandy [laughs]. We jump through all the genres, as long as it makes me happy somehow.
FO: There are other covers on the album, like one from the Beatles. Was it the same as the Amerie cover, you were just goofing around? Or did you pick them because you know you could make a good cover out of them?
AB: The Beatles song, and many of the covers I’ve done have been request from different people. This one was a radio thing, they were doing a Beatles celebration in Britain and this specific radio station wanted me to do a Beatles song. And I chose this one. And the Cohen song was for a specific celebration album. And that song was picked for me, so I could just interpret it how I wanted to. The covers I chose is different, sometimes it is not my choice. It’s something that people want me to do, then I do it of course. And then sometimes it’s me picking out a song like “Halo,” or the Amerie song, or Arcade Fire song.
FO: You can take a song like “1 Thing” and bring it down. It becomes, this is not meant in a bad way, more melancholic.
FO: Your voice lends well to that. When you are on tour, is there a lot of crying?
AB: Well, I must say, I think there is. [laughs]I’ve heard it many times, people come up to me and say “I was crying during your show.” And it’s really hard to respond to that. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say good or thank you. Or there there. [laughs] I just don’t know how to respond to that. But I do believe it’s a positive thing. [laughs]Music can do that to you right? It can release things that you are carrying around.
FO: Especially if you can get someone who doesn’t normally express their emotions to cry.
AB: Yeah, that’s good.
FO: Is this tour any different from touring for your previous albums? Does the Rarities tour have anything that’s different?
AB: It’s different since I haven’t done solo, it’s going to be a solo-duo thing. I haven’t done that for three or four years. The last tours I’ve done have been big band, drummer, signs, backdrop, you know, everything. And it’s been such an amazing time, but my foundation, the way I started, was just me and a guitar. Of course when I do the big shows, I always do a few songs alone. But this is going back to my past, my core. And this is the way I write the songs. I always create my songs just me and the guitar or piano. I’m really looking forward to it because it takes a different kind of focus. You have to be very focused, and everything you do is important. When you have a big band you can kind of dance around and hide a little bit, but in this I just have to be there a hundred percent of the time. I think it’s a good challenge to do that again because it’s been a while.
FO: Is there anything you want to accomplish with the album and the tour? Like gain new fans, or try a new instrument?
AB: A lot of these songs I’ve never played live before, they were just something lying around. Me and Linnea Olsson rehearsed a lot to get the set together. And also since I toured with a band for the last few years, some of the songs were actually made for a bigger band. So I had to just bring it down to a duo version. Which was actually kind of fun to do what I do with covers, bring them down to a more acoustic style. Maybe the biggest song, “Do You Remember,” which is one of my biggest songs, is just me on the guitar this tour. So it makes a difference.
FO: Are there any plans for your next album?
AB: I think I’m going to spend 2014 touring solo and writing songs. And then I will record in 2015, that’s my plan.
FO: Do you think it will be more like your previous music, or you will try something new?
AB: I think I want to keep my core but continue exploring sounds and moving forward. I really love the rhythmical path that I brought on the last album. I think I’ll find a good balance between the soft and the more energetic stuff. I think that’s what I like about my music, it’s quite varied.
FO: Have you thought about scoring a movie or doing a soundtrack?
AB: I would love to do that. I know it takes a lot of work. You are kind of dependent on thinking about the film all the time, so you have to have the time to do that. It’s really rare that I’m not touring. Of course if the right subject comes a long I would love to do that. You just need to have the focus to do that because it’s going to take time.
FO: Is there any particular type of movie that you would want to do it for?
AB: No, I can’t think of anything. That’s really hard. [laughs] I haven’t really thought about it.
Ane Brun at Jammin' Java, February 11, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.