Amanda Bergman mag einigen noch nichts sagen – aber in Ihrer Heimat ist die Schwedin eine Heldin. Sie begann ihre Karriere unter dem Künstlernamen Idiot Wind, tourte als Support von First Aid Kit und The Tallest Man On Earth, stieg 2012 in die gefeierte Band Amason ein und schrieb nebenher noch ihr Solo-Debüt ‘Docks‘ (VÖ: 06. Mai 2016). Während ihrer ersten Deutschlandtour als Solo-Künstlerin trafen wir sie einen Tag vor ihrer Berlin-Show im Grünen Salon. Welchen Herausforderungen die extrem selbstreflektierte Singer-Songwriterin über die Jahre, durch verschiedene Projekte und jetzt im Alleingang zu meistern lernte, welche Rolle die schwedische Mentalität dabei spielte und wie oft ihr eine stimmliche Ähnlichkeit zu Cat Power nachgesagt wird – all das erzählte sie uns über einem Schokocroissant an einem sonnigen Frühlingstag.
When reading about you and different projects you’ve already been involved in, it seems as if you’ve been making music for some time now. Did you start making music right after school? How did you get into professional music making?
Well, it was kind of a coincidence, I guess. It was not that I was dreaming about becoming a musician or anything, I had completely different plans. But I always wrote songs for myself. And then – when I was 20 – I was asked to sing for a friend who was going to record an album and he needed some choir girls, so me and my sister did that. And they had some extra time in the studio, so I recorded three songs and put them up on MySpace and people started to find them. Through that I got a lot of attention that I wasn’t really prepared for.
Then came a few years of adjusting to being a musician – and I wasn’t really sure. I mean, after a few years I decided that it was okay. But in the beginning it was hard, because it felt so strange to get attention and I wasn’t comfortable with that at all. To me it felt embarrassing. Because I was just starting out and I didn’t really intend to release anything. And obviously I didn’t – because I didn’t manage to make a record until now. (laughs)
Why do you think it still worked quite well for you?
I think maybe because I’ve never been very eager to make my way into the music industry. And ironically that is something that’s appreciated in Sweden. We have that kind of mentality.
What is so special about this mentality with regard to the Swedish Music Scene?
Well, I wouldn’t say it’s all about humbleness – sometimes it’s stupidity! When you’re not trying to stand up for what you want. But I think Sweden is an old country – you know, we didn’t have big changes like a war or something like that. It has kind of been the same for many, many years and it has really hard work-ethics. So you’re kind of brought up not to think so much of yourself. And I think that definitely affects the music industry – at least parts of it. People rather help each other out instead of simply pursuing a solo career. There are a lot of collective moments.
And you’ve also been involved in several collectives, for example with the band ‘Amason’. What’s the difference of being a solo artist now?
There’s definitely a huge difference. To me – personally – it is a lot healthier to be in a band: Because it puts so much pressure on yourself to expose and present yourself with no one else but yourself to blame – or to praise. It’s a lot more challenging for your psyche to be by yourself. You’re a lot more responsible for everything and it makes you focus everything you do a lot more. And that can sometimes make you feel too safe-aware – it’s like you’re forced into having that strong focus on yourself. As soon as you cooperate with other people you kind of let go of the situation a bit more. You can share and you need to let go – you don’t have to take the whole control. And that’s a lot healthier for lots of people. But being solo can also be liberating. I can say “yes” or “no” a bit more freely, I don’t have to consider six or seven more people and their families when it comes to making decisions.
But you’re on tour right now and you’re also playing with a band, right?
Yes, I have four people with me on stage. And even if it’s kind of “my music”, there a many people helping out – and that’s nice.
You’ve been part of several bands, but you’ve also been performing as a solo artist – but under different stage names like ‘Hajen’ or ‘Idiot Wind’. What is the difference now? What made you chose to perform under your real name?
I’m not too sure how it looks from the outside, but to me personally it’s a huge difference, because I’m a lot more experienced and I’m older now. So it’s a difference in maturity mainly. Well, I’m still young and learning and doing mistakes. But I feel a little more confident with being a musician than I did five years ago.
So it is easier for you to perform under your real name now?
Well, it wasn’t my first choice. But I had to release under some kind of name. So I asked my friends, because I couldn’t decide for myself, and they said I should do it under my own name. And I think I don’t have the exact same need to have a moniker now as I used to have, because the more you work as a musician and as more experienced you get – to me that also meant that I don’t have such strong need to separate myself from my music. Sometimes it’s easier to perform under a moniker because it gives you some kind of separation, but I think I realized that there’s never going to be a separation or a complete merger. So it doesn’t matter if you call yourself by your real name or not – it’s not there where you find the balance.
So are you still involved in other projects or is it all about being a solo artist right now?
Well, I’m still part of other projects, but this year my main focus is definitely on things. So I kind of go back and forth with what I’m focusing on.
I read your album is mainly about relationships and the end of it. I think it often has quite a positive sound though. Can you narrow some things you wanted to express with that album?
I mean, the more practical view I have upon it, is that I wanted to make an album. You know, just to be able to work more or less. Because you need an album to be able to tour and to develop as a musician. So that’s one thing. And secondary, the whole theme of the album is definitely about going through changes and dealing with death of certain types. No matter if it’s an actual death or if it’s a relationship dying. And when I wrote the album it had been some time since I went through certain very dramatic changes in my life. So I think after a while I had the kind of distance to finish those sorrows. For me personally it was just like letting go of certain things that no longer served its functions.
Do you have favorite songs on your album?
Yes, I have one song that I like more than the others. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it’s a very comforting song to me. It’s called ‘Questions’ and it’s very simple.
I really like ‘Golden’. What’s it about?
It’s about going through times in your life where you feel very, very emotional and that you might not be acting in the best way possible, because you’re so blinded by your feelings and you’re so caught up in yourself. And that song is definitely about that moment in a very chaotic and sorrowful process, where you might have the feeling you’re standing straight and you’re acting in a way that is not so much colored by your fear or your emotions. And I think that can make you feel self-sufficient and strong for a bit. That’s what it is about! (laughs)
How long did it take you to record that album?
I think we had like four days in total in the studio. I couldn’t afford so much studio time so we recorded ten songs in the first two days. And then we had two more days for add-ons and stuff. So it was a really quick process and it was nice. Because when you come to a studio with musicians that haven’t been prepared or heard the songs and you have two days only, then you’ve got to lower your expectations and that can be a good thing, I think. There’s no chance that you can control the whole outcome. So it was a good thing, for me who has been trying for so many years to make an album by myself where I was supposed to control everything. And I never got anywhere, because I got so self-critical that I stopped myself at the first step! And that turned out to become a negative circle, because you start to blame yourself and push yourself down. It was very important for me to let somehow go of the process. I almost didn’t even play on the record and let other people contribute.
So it’s a good thing you couldn’t afford the studio any langer!
Yes, I think I learned that I don’t have to proof anything by doing everything by myself. Sometimes – especially as a woman in the music business – you can get the feeling that you have to proof a lot that you’re able to do everything by yourself and that you have to be twice as good as a man.
Does it often feel like that for you?
Yes, I think that’s a common thing! Many female artists are trying very hard and put a lot of pressure on themselves, maybe not in the commercial part of the industry, but in the alternative part of the industry. You know, like “I’m going to record and produce my own album. And I’m going to do everything by myself.” And you’re like “Who told you need to do that?” I mean, “Let people help you!” So yeah, that’s what I’ve learned. You don’t have to be so damn good all the time.
So it might not be surprising that it seems there are more female solo artists than female bands. Because as a woman you might feel to be forced to proof it all for yourself, so you get competitive and also start to work all for yourself.
Yeah! And I think there are many fixed opinions about what a female musician can do and what not. I mean, it’s more expected from you to sing than to play the drums. You know, things like that. But it’s changing – really.
Okay, so a totally different question concerning another female musician: You must know that you’re voice sometimes reminds a lot of Cat Power’s voice, right?
Yes, I’ve heard that. And I like her, because I feel some kind of kinship with her expression. I mean, I don’t know how things end up the way they sound. I’m not intentionally trying to mimic her. But for some reasons we might have similar voices. I mean, I have an alto voice and so does she and we might have similar music references. Of course I could be associated with way worse references! (laughs)