Interview by Scott Preston
Melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre; these are the traditional building blocks of pop music. Yet although you will find them in abundance on Hummingbird, Go!, the new album by Theresa Andersson hardly sounds like conventional pop. That’s because the New Orleans singer-songwriter chose to approach her craft from different perspectives before she even began composing. “I stopped thinking in terms of traditional songwriting,” Andersson explains. “I worked on shapes, forms, and textures, scents and colors. Elements which are more earthy and organic inspired me.” She would walk along the Mississippi River, or relax in her garden. As ideas emerged, she caught them in her butterfly net – or rather, on her laptop – and let them converge, then blossom.
Produced by Swedish songwriter and recording artist Tobias Fröberg (who also helmed The Last Tycoon for Peter Morén, of Peter Bjorn and John fame), and featuring lyrical contributions from poet Jessica Faust, Hummingbird, Go! evokes a distinctly unique universe via its inventive songs. From the funky backbeat, pizzicato plucking, and vocal leaps of “Birds Fly Away,” to the smoldering “Locusts Are Gossiping,” with its interwoven vocals – as haunting as any Bulgarian choir – and percussive clicking reminiscent of chattering insects, each cut vibrates with polychromatic detail.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your new album “Hummingbird Go”. Any collaborations? who produced it? How much of it was recorded in your kitchen?
Theresa Andersson: The making of “Hummingbird, Go!” was special. The process was different for me this time as I wrote the music more as one would make a collage piece of art. Finding inspiration in colors, forms and textures in my garden and along the Mississippi river. I handed finished songs to Jessica Faust who magically found just the right words. The entire record was then recorded in my kitchen with Tobias Froberg producing. Tobias and I both grew up on the Swedish island of Gotland. I never knew him then. We met the first time when he played a show in a small New Orleans club 1 1/2 years ago. Working with Tobias really tied my New Orleans influences together with my Swedish background. Tobias introduced me to the fantastic Norwegian artist Ane Brun who contributed her beautiful vocals on the only Swedish track on the album. Also my hero Allen Toussaint joined me on one song.
Cincy Groove: Who do you consider some of your influences?
Theresa Andersson: A lot of New Orleans retro R&B; Allen Toussaint, Betty Harris, Smokey Johnson. I love Leonard Cohen, Bobbie Gentry and Nina Simone. The Swedish singer/songwriter Cornelis Wreeswijk is awesome.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel the internet has affected the music industry?
Theresa Andersson: My personal experience is that it has opened up a lot of doors. There are a lot more avenues to reach potential listeners/fans.
Cincy Groove: What have been some of the ways you have created sound using out of the ordinary objects?
Theresa Andersson: I didn’t have a keyboard while I demoed my songs, so I used water filled wine and champagne glasses to create chords. I also put on a pair of high-heeled Nine West clogs to stomp out rhythms on my kitchen hard wood floor.
Cincy Groove: What were you feeling when you first moved to New Orleans?
Theresa Andersson: Tiny and scared, in awe of the sounds and smells of the city. I felt like a baby chick that can’t fly but wants to explore. I went in little circles from my house, afraid to get too far away and get lost. Gradually I kept expanding the circles. I still do.
Cincy Groove: What is your favorite venue in New Orleans to play at?
Theresa Andersson: I love the small uptown bar “Carrollton Station”. Another favorite is “Tipitina’s”.
Cincy Groove: What was your first performance in New Orleans like?
Theresa Andersson: I played with a band “Osborne Orchestra” (we had slide guitar, sousaphone, trombone, drums and me on violin) we opened for the New Orleans legend “Earl King” at Tipitina’s. It was amazing. I won a plush Ray Charles “raisinette” in the vending machine and I took that as a good sign since I never get anything out of those machines.
Cincy Groove: Who have been some of your most favorite collaborations?
Theresa Andersson: A dream came true when Allen Toussaint accepted the invitation to play on my record. I’ve also enjoyed my live performance duos with New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich and sometimes trios including George Porter on bass. Working with Tobias on my record was also incredibly inspiring.
Cincy Groove: Where did you get the idea to hand sew the CD jackets? How long did it take?
Theresa Andersson: I’ve been on the road all summer and I didn’t want to go out empty handed since the “Hummingbird, Go!” release isn’t until September 2nd. The new music is really inspired by texture and form, so I thought, what better prelude to the record than making my own covers out of Gotland wool. Back in March I went to mix the record on Gotland, Sweden where my mother has a spinnery. Using the wool from there we started making the CD jackets. It took a long time to finish. The last one was completed in June. A labor of love!
Cincy Groove: How many different instruments do you play?
Theresa Andersson: Hmm, I only play one or two really well, and about 19 others semi-well.
Cincy Groove: Was there a moment that made you decide to be a full time musician?
Theresa Andersson: When I didn’t get to carry the cross is Sunday school. Seriously, I was very young and too shy to speak up, but I knew I wanted to be up front. The next time that opportunity came up I was 4 and I stepped right up on that stage and sang my little heart out.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to do to relax when your not on the road?
Theresa Andersson: Gardening, yoga, cooking, sewing.
Cincy Groove: What was the first song you ever wrote? what was it about?
Theresa Andersson: It was for a school project. I wrote a song about the starving people in Africa and how we should share our excess. We performed the song in costumes. Half the band wearing rags and half the band wearing golden clothing.
Upcoming Theresa Andersson tour dates:
for complete show details visit http://www.myspace.com/theresaanderssonmusic
Aug 12 2008 Living Room New York, New York
Aug 13 2008 Living Room New York, New York
Aug 14 2008 Union Hall Brooklyn, New York
Aug 16 2008 Purple Fiddle Fest Davis, West Virginia
Aug 19 2008 Spiegelworld (sitting in with Laura Cantrell) New York, New York
Aug 20 2008 Haddon Heights Sundown Music Haddon Heights, New Jersey
Aug 21 2008 Sullivan Hall New York, New York
Aug 22 2008 Recher Theatre Towson, Maryland
Aug 23 2008 DC9 Washington, Washington DC
Aug 31 2008 Callaghan’s Irish Social Club Mobile, Alabama
Sep 5 2008 Republic (Aquarium Drunkard presents CD release party) New Orleans, Louisiana
Sep 9 2008 Rialto Theatre Tuscon, Arizona
Sep 11 2008 Hotel Cafe Los Angeles, California
Sep 15 2008 Wonder Ballroom Portland, Oregon
Sep 16 2008 The Showbox Seattle, Washington
Sep 25 2008 8 x 10 Baltimore, Maryland
Sep 26 2008 World Cafe Live Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sep 27 2008 Bowery Ballroom New York, New York
Oct 2 2008 Howlin’ Wolf (Indie Rock Collective CD Release) New Orleans, Louisiana
Oct 4 2008 Gretna Heritage Festival Gretna, Louisiana
Oct 24 2008 IOTA Club & Cafe Arlington, Virginia
Oct 25 2008 Attucks Theatre Norfolk, Virginia
Nov 1 2008 Schubas Chicago, Illinois