Brave New Music: An Interview with Frida Hyvonen

Frida Hyvonen

Frida Hyvonen has been playing piano and writing music from a very early age, which perhaps is why her music is filled with confidence and command. While her confrontational word choice and sweeping, feminine voice are most often alluded to, the true achievement here is her story-telling ability, the power to convince and move without relying on drama and cliche to do so. After listening to her new album, Silence is Wild, set to release on Secretly Canadian in November, it is impossible not to feel that Frida has genuinely revealed herself, leaving the listener feeling slightly awkward, and highly impressed.

Was the piano your first instrument? How young were you when you wrote your first song?

Yes. The first song, I was seven. It was a simple instrumental piece in D minor.

What music did you grow up listening to? Do you feel that your sound now incorporates the music of your upbringing, or denounces it?

I grew up with mostly live music at home, singing folk and rock and musical tunes by the piano, and traditional Swedish folk music. As for pop music, I could mention Madonna´s Like a Virgin on cassette, a Christmas gift from my slightly idolized five-years-older cousin, Alexandra, on my seventh Christmas. Neneh Cherry’s Raw Like Sushi, on vinyl from the local store, and Michael Jackson’s BAD, which I stole from my brother. You had to learn to dance really smoothly to it or the vinyl would skip. I’m sure someone could find traces of all of those early loves in my music, and not least in the way I dance.

It’s almost impossible to listen to your music without the lyrics arresting the attention. Your voice and the stories you tell are easy to follow, which is not necessarily the norm in music. Do you make a conscious effort to enunciate and keep the words unhidden by other sounds?

I do. I work a lot with that, trying to be as clear as possible without killing form or beauty.

This album seems influenced by the shoop-shoop harmonies of the ’60s and the folk songwriting of the ’70s. What past decade would you say was the greatest for music?

Oh, I’d have to say it gets better and better, since it all adds up. Live, I would be thrilled to go and see Billie Holiday in the ’30s.

May I ask if "Dirty Dancing" is a true episode from your life? It’s really heart-breaking and has so many particular details, it feels like looking into someone’s dream…

The story was heavily inspired by actual events.

In fact, all of the songs feel like real snapshots coming from a very real woman. Do you keep detailed journals or notes that you use later in your songs?

I do. But I also forget to write, and misinterpret notes that I myself have written. It’s a hilarious dabbling in the outskirts of chaos…

You have said that Swedish is a great language for written word, but not to write music in. Do you feel that the languages of Swedish and English have innately different sensibilities or structure that inspire different moods?

I feel more like they both have possibilities to describe a whole self-sufficient spectra, but their whole spectras are shaped differently, and have different texture.

What are three things that you love?

Art, as in paintings. Two of my favourite contemporary painters are Linn Fernström and Suzanne M. Falk.

The sauna/champagne combination.

Horseback riding.

What makes you unhappy?

The afternoon.

What recent albums or artists are you enjoying?

I almost only listen to Billie Holiday and Kathleen Ferrier records at the moment. But I went to see Jenny Lewis play the other night, she and her band were very fantastic. And that man Benji she had brought had a voice I loved.

Visit Frida Hyvonen on MySpace.

Identity Theory’s recommended listening: "Enemy Within" and "Dirty Dancing" by Frida Hyvonen

Image courtesy of Frida Hyvonen

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