ANE BRUN – An Interview with the Artist
Interview by Miriam Cadoni
Norwegian singer-songwriter and entrepreneur Ane Brun has managed to finally play her tour in support of her two last full-lengths “After the Great Storm” and “How Beauty Holds the Hands of Sorrow” released via her imprint Balloon Ranger Recordings in 2020. So, let’s not ourselves beat up with the pandemic’s current situation and just, dream with us and her music.
Hi Ane, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you and how life is treating you in these precarious days?
Right now I’m in the mountains in Norway. The sun is shining and it’s snowy and freezing outside. It’s very beautiful. I feel frustrated about the situation in the world, and in my life.
Since I’m healthy and am able to work with my music even though I can’t tour or play gigs I try my best to be grateful for my own situation. I think this whole year has been a crash course in mindfulness and acceptance. Perhaps the most precious thing I’ll get out of this experience.
Despite the exceptional and current situation, you have decided for something quite maverick: publish back-to-back two full-lengths albums. Let me start by asking you, how did you come up with such resolution?
I wrote the songs for these albums from 2016 to 2020. Most of them in the summer of 2019. My plan for 2020 was to release one album, and most foundations for the songs were first recorded live with a band in a two-week studio sessions in the fall of 2019, in Stockholm, where I’ve lived in the last 20 years. We worked intensively with producing the album in the next few months, until everything stopped in March 2020.
I ended up spending my lockdown time with my partner in Oslo, and we continued our work with the album remotely between Stockholm, London and Oslo. Originally, I didn’t plan to release two full albums because I was focussing making one album and it was going to sound like “After the Great Storm” . I saw it as standing on the shoulders of my albums starting from “When I’m Free” (2015), then looking over and beyond “Leave Me Breathless” (2017) and picking up the drama of the big strings from “Live at Berwaldhallen” (2018).
Indeed, my ambition was a large production, elaborate arrangements, beats and basslines. A few of the songs on “How Beauty…” were also first recorded with that in mind, but we rearranged a few the songs, because they didn’t fill their potential in such a big production. They found their right expression through whispers and an intimate arrangement.
That’s how the second album was created, through making decisions that many of the songs did benefit by “dressing down” sound-wise. You can have a big vision of a production, but in the end it’s always the song’s core character that decides how it should turn out.
And then when the year developed and we saw that we would probably not be able to tour in 2020 we decided to make it a double release plus 12 single releases throughout the year. It’s been a success and it’s kept me busy in a good way.
You successfully collaborate together with both coproducer Martin Hederos and sound technician Anton Sundell. How they helped you out in generate and work out on the entire musical concept of both two albums?
I had a vision of what I wanted to make and then I invited them in to co-produce with me. Then, the three of us first started filling up a playlist of songs and examples of production that we wanted to use as inspiration. We discussed drums and beats, put in tracks by S.I.R., Kendrick Lamar, Solange.
After this listening, we discussed how we could create an interesting hybrid of acoustic and digital sounds and make it big but still intimate, and we used examples such as Massive Attack and Unkle while we were inspired by electronic such as The Knife.
And in many ways I can hear those references in the sound, but at the same time so much was created during the process in the studio and in the post-production. We are a great production team. I’m the main producer when it comes to the ultimate vision and the final word, but Anton fills some irreplaceable roles as studio tech, mixer/sound and Martin as musician, arranger and even co-writer on a few of the songs.
I know that’s a terrible question to ask to an artist but for better understand, I was wondering to enquire, which are the main differences that distinguish “After the Great Storm” and “How Beauty Holds the Hands of Sorrow” for each other?
“How Beauty Holds the Hands of Sorrow” is the more traditional side of me which is acoustic, melancholic and intimate. The lyrics are empathic, and I sometimes joke that my friend told me I am “my own Echard Tolle or Buddha” in these songs. So, giving myself advice about how to be alive.
Instead, “After the Great Storm” is perhaps at times a bit darker, but still with a longing for something better, to be better, to be truthful. This album represents the more experimental side of me where I try to push my sound into new territories. And in many ways, this album reflects my own broad taste in music more than any of my previous work.
You stated in the press release that “Making an album always involved digging deep into myself”, how much difficult might be going through that process and how did work this time?
Actually, it’s not difficult. For me, it’s very therapeutic and I grow a lot from writing an album. It’s got a lot to do with making conclusions and analyzing situations and relationships inside and around me. Since I had lost my father, for these albums it took a while to start. Due to what happened, I didn’t feel ready to analyze and begin a new chapter.
I just wanted things to rest, and let my subconscious mind work in peace for a while before starting to dig into it. In the Summer of 2019, I finished 12 of 17 songs. It felt cathartic to go through all that which made me realize that I didn’t really need to write much in 2020. I think I’ll get there soon, I’m sure I’ll find the need to deal with all the things we’ve gone through.
Respectively from “After the Great Storm” and “How Beauty Holds the Hands of Sorrow” were published as singles “Honey”, “We Need A Mother” and “Crumbs”; while for the second one, we have “Closer” and “Last Breath”. Would you like to offer us an overview about the aforementioned songs in regards of the topic treated?
So, the first single “Honey” deal with my experience as a pen-pal. Indeed, I had a pen-pal for many years. We started writing to each other when we were about 13 and kept it going for about a decade. Unfortunately, the letters faded away as the age of emails took over. But those handwritten notes from our teens were long, intense and personal.
Then, in our thirties we decided to swap our old letters to each other. And after, a shoebox full of thick envelopes arrived in the mail. While reading through my own words, it opened up a lot of doors to memories I had long forgotten. In that same box, there was a cassette tape. Luckily, I had held on to my old Walkman, so I dug it out and excitedly pressed play.
There it was, the light, clear voice of when I was 18. As the tape rolled, my jaw dropped because her energy struck me. And, I was filled with love for this young, and in many ways innocent, version of myself. Indeed, this girl was talking non-stop in a boundless flow of words and emotions.
I was reminded of how I was back then, of how I dealt with things, and of how I’ve learned to do things differently. But it also reminded me of the lightness and the giggles that were such a big part of that time. And that for many years I had missed out on while mapping out my life as an adult.
While listening back, I realized that the woman I am today and immediately after, I had reconnected with the girl on the tape. And just that simple act had made me feel in some way more whole. Lastly, I decided to write a love song to my young self that day which it turned out to be “Honey”.
Musically speaking, we tried to bring in the 90’s, to the time when I actually wrote those letters, to the time when I was 18. The recording of “Honey” was mostly live at the Atlantis studio and it was inspired by the hit song “Fool’s Gold”. It was recorded live together Linnea Olsson who played the triangle, synth bass, and backing vocals. Other than that it was like a long happy jam, and the second part of the song is a long musical outro for a dance off, just like I used to do when I was at that age.
For “Crumbs“, I think many people can recognize a situation like this. It’s more common than you’d might like to think, that people get involved with someone who’s already in a relationship.
And how you end up eating the crumbs of a potential relationship, leaving you emotionally starving. When I wrote this song I kept thinking about Nina Simone‘s amazing rendition of “The Other Woman” by Jessie Mae Robinson.
While “We Need a Mother” has its origin in some thoughts about a lot of different aspects of society. But it was originally inspired by a corporate business conference that I attended. Where, in the opening speech, the importance of climate action was discussed.
Then, the night ended with enormous fireworks, costing millions, exploding over the water. All this reminded me of how we as individuals, businesses and societies so often practice double standards. When it comes to our values and priorities, myself included.
How hard it is to live a wholesome, sustainable life? And how we as grown-up humans can act like adolescents? Of course, it seems like we need mature leaders to keep us on the right track. After that evening, I felt so frustrated and upset. And when I woke up the next day I wrote this song. After I had finished, I felt relieved and calm.”
What follows next is “Last Breath” which is the song where I’ve found the album title. This is a song about the last goodbye. The last moments of someone’s life. And the amazing string arrangement performed by Johan Lindström, it always make me feel as I’m embracing the eternity.
Lastly, “Closer” is about the never-ending topic of how hardship can make you stronger. Or maybe, it can bring you closer to something truer to yourself. In this case, the expression “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger” is quite realistic. But I’m certain that there are exceptions to that rule.
What the future holds for you and how the pandemic impacted your original plan?
The plan was to play 50 gigs or more last year. Now, my only hope is that my European tour 2021 will go ahead. I’m trying to be positive about the current situation by keeping myself busy, with producing or writing more music.
But I haven’t felt the urge for that yet. Despite all, I am very happy about my 2020 releases. And I’m still kind of just enjoying the aftermath of that. I’ve discovered the joys of walking in nature, and I’ll continue to exploring that. I can’t wait to spend time with my friends again and meet new people, play music and feel spontaneous..
So, Ane, we’re almost at the end and with this please be free to say hi to your fans and your readers. Thank you so much for this interview.
Hi readers! I hope you’ll enjoy my two albums. And then, explore my other music that I’ve released on my own independent label since 2003.