Q&A: Mirel Wagner, tells it as it is!

Mirel Wagner is a well-kept secret, and her self titled debut album was one favorite album of this page back in 2012!

A great and folk, singer-songwriter album, with Mirels guitar plucking and dry and closely mixed vocals as main ingredient, released on a small record label. Feel free to revisit dark yet beautiful world of Mirel Wagner here!

 

Then all of a sudden a few weeks back I read that Mirel Wagner has signed to SubPop, and had to check out if she would like to do a Q&A interview, and she did answer me back.

Mirel Wagner
Photo taken from SubPop

Welcome to the Read & Hear Q&A and enter the dark secret world of Mirel Wagner

Q: What are your thoughts about the advantages of being signed to a major label like SubPop vs being a recording artist on a smaller indie label?

*A: I try not to think about things like that.

Q: Your self titled debut was a dark but still very beautiful recording. I tried to describe the sound of Mirel Wagner to my readers and ended up with fictional genres like; doom-soul, dark-folk, goth-blues, minimalist-folk. How would describe your own sound?

*A: I try not to describe my sound.

Q: The lyrics on your debut-album is quite dark and there is much death, suicide, even and a necrophilia love song. If we sum it up is it correct to say it’s a concept album about death? Why this obsession about death?

*A: I don’t know if I’m “obsessed” about darkness or death. I just find these aspects of life interesting.

Q: Your songs are recorded very intimate. When you sing we can hear every little sigh, the click of your tongue and every time your upper lip is separated from your lower lip before you sing. How do you record your vocal parts?

*A: I just sing into a microphone.

Q: I read somewhere that some artists record in the dark while laying in flat on the floor to get a true intimate authentic laid back sound. What is your trick?

*A: I don’t have one.

Q: Have you started working on your follow-up album? Or have you been waiting until you have larger company, like SubPop, to back you?

*A: The follow-up album has been recorded.

Q: What can we expect from a forthcoming album? Is there going to be a new sound? Or is it still as intimate and beautiful as before, just you and your acoustic guitar?

*A: I don’t like to describe my music. I find it pointless and possibly harmful. You’ll have to wait and listen it for yourself.

Q: I do compare your music to Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave – and female artist like Hope Sandoval, PJ Harvey and Liz Phair. Feel free to arrest me if I´m all wrong here. Is there any artists you are influenced by?

*A: Not really, not anymore.

Q: What made you wanna pick up the guitar, and start recording your own songs? Made you think I can do this, I can sing, and I can write songs?

*A: I have always felt that I need, want and can write songs. As long as I remember I have done it and enjoyed it.

Q: As always in my Q&A / Interviews I love to take a sneak into the artists record collection. What are your favorite albums? Feel free to mention as many as you lik

*A: I can’t think of anything

 

Thanks for your answers Mirel Wagner, great speaking with you, and look forward to hearing from you again when your second album is out!

The Helena Jesele Q&A: It´s the real deal!

As promised on this blogs Facebook– and Twitter account I was doing an interview or Q&A, as I choose to call it here on my blog, as a follow-up to the Helena Jesele blog post!

Now it´s ready – and here it is.  To quote Helen Jesele “It´s the real deal!”

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I read somewhere that you said your album “Sweet Sticky Fix” is a concept album – made to listen to in one piece. For new listeners; What´s the concept?

I suppose you could say that it’s a concept album in the sense that it tracks the story of a single relationship from beginning to end.

It’s funny actually as some reviewers have written that it’s an album where each song is about a different relationship! Obviously that’s not the case at all, the songs on this album tell of the developments of a particular relationship that I went through over 2 years which effected me deeply, both emotionally and spiritually. It resulted in heartbreak as you can hear on songs such as Lovesick Avenue and Girl in London. But I learnt a lot about myself as a result, so the final song the album – Sun Is Rising – is about finding the light at the end of the soul-searching tunnel. I like how the album ends on a high!

With this album, I wanted to create something where the listener could sit down and listen to it from start to finish and be taken on a journey of sorts. These days most albums jump all over the place and there is no cohesive pattern. I think that’s a shame, so hopefully I’ve succeeded in creating something that people will be able to listen to again and again.

This is your debut album, and you´ve worked with Paul o´Duffy, who also worked with the late-great Amy Winehouse. How was it to work with a man who worked with an artist that had so much respect – and has now become a legend after her much too soon death?

Well of course it was pretty intimidating to work with Paul!

In truth, I’m a little uncomfortable about the Amy comparisons I’ve been getting in the press, but I understand them too. My music is not a millions miles away from hers…however we are very different artists with very different voices! She was amazing though, and was a legend even before her death I think.

I would be extremely lucky if I could gain even half the respect she commanded with her incredible music. Working with Paul was such a wonderful experience, he taught me a great deal about how to structure my songwriting, but he also encouraged me to write from the heart and be unafraid to bear my soul in my songs. I owe him a lot for that.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration? And what are your all time favourite record(s) – mention several if you like

Ella Fitzgerald was my first musical love! I heard her voice for the first time when I was very young, maybe about 5, and in that instant my life was enriched and jazz became my ‘thing’… I still listen to Ella on a regular basis even now. There’s a special quality to her voice that transports to a happy place!

I have so many favorite records, but off the top of my head, Portishead’s Glory box is definitely a personal favorite.

Julie London’s version of Cry Me A River is certainly in my top 10.

And let’s not forget Ella’s recording of Ray Noble’s The Very Thought Of You, what a beautiful tune. That’s one I will never get bored of hearing.

This is your debut album – but have you released anything before? As a member of a band – or something like that ?

I did some amateur recordings a while back, but this album is my first fully professional effort. It’s the real deal!

I mentioned in my blog post, that I loved the simplicity of your album sleeve. Do you feel like your found inspiration on what people make on services like Instagram and such services?

Actually, no!

The album artwork was inspired by the classic photography and design of the 60’s and 70’s. When people used real cameras and captured moments in time in a unique way. These days we can all capture moments on our phones and make them look old school… but perhaps that waters the mystery down somewhat.

For the album, we wanted imagery that reflected the realness of the music.

Everything was recorded the old-fashioned way, in analogue, and all the musicianship is live and true, not computerized.

So far I have found your record only available on iTunes. Are you supposed to release it on streaming services like Spotify and – my prefered physical media – CD and vinyl?

Actually we cut the first single – Let The Game Begin – as a limited edition vinyl and will hopefully at some point be cutting the whole album to vinyl and CD too. For the time being it is a digital release on iTunes and Amazon.

It’s sad that is the way the music business is going… But we all have to play the game in one way or another I suppose!

Helene Jesele albumsleeve

The Helena Jesele “Sweet Sticky Fix” album can be bought here on iTunes and Amazon

Helena Jesele is – thank god – no cocky diva, as you can see in this Q&A.

She seems to be well reflected about the (lacking?) future of the music industry – and how hard it is to sell physical albums, but still she choose to record albums the old way – analogue – with real music by real people. For music listeners who enjoys a good album, with a classic love story, that can be played from start to end without getting boring!


To be frank;
Helena Jesele is making real music for real people!

The amazing rise of Rebekka Karijord!

Rebekka Karijords single “Use My Body While It´s Still Young” knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it. The song was her first single from her then forthcoming album “We Become Ourselves” – a two-part concept album about nature, and the relationship between men and women.

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The single is huge with it´s mix of massive bass line, hand claps, choir, church organ, and the  almost big beat / drum´n´bass beats. All instruments are performed by live instruments. Rebekka Karijords biggest instrument is without doubt, her strong and amazing voice. Think a mix between Björk, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush. “Use My Body While It´s Still Young” sounds like her answer to – and an updated version of – Björks “Play Dead” – but still, it´s not a rip-off, because Rebekka Karijord has her very own style and voice!

She has had a music career since 2003, but 2012 seems to be her real big breakthrough. Rebekka Karijord moved from Norway to Sweden almost 10 years ago, and has made Stockholm her home, and her career has been more successful in Sweden then in Norway. The A-listed the “Use My Body…” almost immediately after its release. She has toured the album a lot, which has made her a popular act, slowly but surely – she has taken bigger slices of the world during the late summer of 2012. Before her musical career took off she was starring in movies and TV-series, writing her own stage show for theaters, written an opera, made big success with her own circus show i Sweden, writing soundtracks and the list goes on.

Rebekka Karijord is now concentrating 100% on music which really seems so pay off these days.
She is a woman who follows her dreams and paths to reach her goal!

The album “We Became Ourselves” is a fantastic record, which let Rebekka show what an amazing artist she is. She plays lots of the instruments, keep it organic, her voice is out of this world – and the production is fabulous. You can, as earlier mentioned, hear Joni Michell in the slower songs, Bjørk in the more experimental and the adventurous productions of artists like Kate Bush and Tori Amos. The album is a adwenture out of this world.

The song “Multicoloured Hummingbird” even flirts with melody of Bruce Springsteens “I´m On Fire” – I dare to think it´s unintended

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You can listen to the “We Become Ourselves” album on Spotify HERE!

Check her wonderful Homepage and make sure you follow her on Facebook and Twitter, if you´d like to read, hear and follow the rise of Rebekka Karijord.

At the end of 2012, Rebekka Karijords “We Become Ourselves” became “World Album Of The Week” in the influential english magazine MOJO, album of the month (World) back in November, and is on MOJO TOP 10 ALBUMS FOR 2012 (World). I have to admit i would never sort Rebekkas music under the world music genre, because she´s more like an experimental epic singer songwriter.

This year it has been really amazing to follow the rise of Norwegian siren Rebecca Karijord and see and how she´s slowly becoming one of the most exiting artists on the musical map

Back in October, I happened to have my little Q&A session with Rebekka Karijord. And this was before she was being noted on “Best of 2012” lists. It’s really great to see how much her career has grown these last three months, and how influential she has become during 2012!

Q (me): I think I hear traces of both Björk and Kate Bush in you music, what are your biggest inspirations – who influences you most?

A (Rebekka): Björk has always inspired me, but I’m not a big Kate Bush fan I must admit. But in general, strong storytellers have always inspired me. I grew up with Patti Smith, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Neil Young- strong lyrics and loads of musical personality. These days I have a broad music taste, everything from instrumental music, jazz and even a lot of world music inspires me. Some inspiring artist are: Moondog, Robert Wyatt, Feist, Pj Harvey, Elliott Smith, Brian Eno, Radiohead, The National, Mari Boine, Kari Bremnes… I could go on forever. I’m also really influenced by books, poetry, films and articles in the news when I write songs.

Q: You´ve emigrated from Oslo to Stockholm – why did you choose to make Sweden your new home?

A: I studied here, and kind of ended up staying. I have fantastic friends and colleagues here, and my label, publisher etc are all here. Plus it’s a short trip to Norway, which is great!

Q: With your career now being noticed in several countries around the world, how does this feel?

A: Fantastic. I’m super grateful. But you know, when you’re on the inside of something it doesn’t seem as magical as on the outside. I don’t see myself as very successful, I’m still a very small fish in the big pond out there, trying to build something lasting and genuine.

Q: You´ve almost done it all, where to begin; put up your own opera, done theater, starred in movies and tv-series – and now putting all your cards in music – whats your next goal? or to push it even further whats your ultimate goal?

A: I don’t really have goals, or I don’t think of my life and work in those terms. I take one project at the time and try to have fun and keep curious and learn more. I guess that could be a goal; To stay hungry and curious, not get stuck in something I’m not happy in.

Q: Whats your top three favourite records of all time? Which one made you wanna start with music?

A: Ohhh, tricky one. There are so many amazing albums. But I guess I could say these three: Talk Talk’s “East of Eden” , Cat Powers “Moonpix” and Glenn Gould’s recording of the Goldberg Variations by Bach. I think all three of them together expresses a quite good combination of my influences. It’s all about the stories, the sound and the human body and heart, with all its flaws and bruises.

Thank you for this little talk Rebekka and for enriching me with a little insight in your life and influences – and for releasing one of the years greatest albums!

Rebekka Karijord is definitely one of the most exciting artists to follow. She has without doubt made one of the best albums of the year 2012.

“We Become Ourselves” is a classic album that will be discovered in years to come and it will still sound as fresh as it did back in 2012!

The Jem Warren pre- and post album release interviews

My first encounter with the music of singer-songwriter Jem Warren was through Twitter. I checked out his debut EP “Lifeblood To My Soul” and some clips through YouTube and checked out the Jem Warren homepage.

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I loved what I heard, took some time to get into him and the EP – but when he hit me he hit hard. References that fell into my mind was R.E.M, Talk Talk´s Mark Hollis, Marillions Steve Hogarth and a bit of James Blunt.

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Listen to “Lifeblood To My Soul” by clicking the album cover!

I loved it so much that I decided to send him a request if he´d like to do a Q&A interview with me on my blog. I wrote a blog in my native language, Norwegian – before i started the Read And Hear music blog.

Jem Warren wanted to do this – and since I´ve read on his homepage, i knew that he was working on his debut album. Many of my questions is about the coming album.

The Jem Warren pre-“Heart Knows How” album release Q&A

Q: I saw on YouTube, you played harmonica and guitar on your version og Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice…” Do you play any other instruments?
A: I dabble in keyboards and bass guitar, particularly when I’m writing at home

Q: You also do covers of John Mayer and Jack Johnson, amongst others; Is this like artists you are influenced by? Which other artists would you say you are influenced by?
A: The Police, Tracy Chapman, Fleetwood Mac, Jose Gonzales, Tom Petty

Q: Your coming record vs the EP you’ve already have released; Is the album more of the same or is there any large changes on the album?
A: The new album is very different from the EP. I wrote all the songs for “Lifeblood To My Soul” relatively recent with a very specific sound in mind. The new album, “Heart Knows How” is much different. It’s basically an accumulation of songs I’ve written over many years with no particular vision or theme for an album. I wrote them on the fly and felt the time had come to get them out there. The result is an album that’s somehow more americana rock´n´roll (and maybe a little bit more country too).

Q: After hearing your EP my mind is full of names and references I would like to mention in my upcoming blog post. So if you should say something like “If you like Jem Warren; You should also check out…” the rest is up to you…
A: Sun Kil Moon, Jose Gonzalez

Q: If you’d like to tell; Your homepage mention both your father and mother made music, are you influenced by them? Have they released any albums? Anything I could/or should check out?
A: My parents were both very musical but didn’t really go for it in a formal sense. They were great influences on me since they provided a rich musical environment, but never put out albums themselves…

Q: And the last one; My blog is quite new, with just under 20 posts so far, but so many drafts and thoughts and ideas about what I’d like to write about. I write in Norwegian, but the blog has a translate option. I write about mainly new music, that I like myself and feel most people should listen to. I feel have a fine sense about what become or should become a hit or more people should listen to.
…of all the blogs in the world why would like me to write about you!?
A: You seem pretty cool. Far be it from me to turn down anyone willing to write about my art. The honor is mine

CD Cover
Listen to Jem Warrens debut album by clicking the album cover!

The album that became his debut albums which he released march 2012 was named “Heart Knows How”. The Jem Warren debut was a large leap forward for the sound of Jem Warren i knew through the EP. He sounded more confident, he sings in a deeper tone, not so nasal as he was earlier. The band sounded groovy, more funky. They sounded like they had great fun while recording the album, you´ll also hear pop, americana – and wonderful timeless ballads. Jem is without doubt a singer-songwriter, he writes all his stuff himself, plays on all his songs. On the “Heart Knows How” I´ve heard references like The Black Sorrows, Hal Ketchum, The Waterboys´Mike Scott, Ryan Adams, John Mayer – but still no rip off  – Jem Warren has his own voice, his own sound – and writes songs with a meaning.

Listen to the playlist; “The Roots of Jem Warren” here!

A few months back I decided to hear if Jem Warren would like to do a follow-up Q&A and he liked the idea. Being a hard-working artist – who has spent most of the year on the road – it took some time before he´d answered the questions…but then he did…

The Jem Warren post-“Heart Knows How” album release Q&A

hey man. sorry it took so long. I appreciate the interest in my music and career, man.

Q: Since releasing your debut album “Heart Knows How” do you feel you life has changed?
A: i think when any artists creates and then puts out an album there’s an immediate sense of emotional release. I’m no different in that way. but like any artist you start thinking about the next album and what you want to express.
career wise, the album’s had a great affect. I’ve picked up a lot of new fans. I’m set to release 2 videos from the album in february

Q; I see you play a lot live these days, tell me whats the best things about being on the road?
A: i think the best thing about being on the road and performing live is the people of course. the energy that you get from an audience (cooperative or hostile) is invaluable as a writer. seeing and feeling the reaction of people from all walks of life is both telling and inspiring.

Q: Earlier you covered John Mayer and Bob Dylan and such, are you doing any playing any new covers while touring these days?
A: i actually was doing “teenage dream” by Katy Perry which always went over well because it was unexpected and my band rock the shit out of it! “the weight” by the band has been a staple in the set lately.

Q: Last but not least, have you started thinking or planning a follow-up to your album? Where do you see your self next time? Any plans about how it will sound?
A: yes, I have a couple of ideas for albums. i would like to return to the sound of my first ‘lifeblood to my soul.’ i have a lot songs in the works. i also want put a collection of mostly acoustic songs that i record and produce in my apartment which will be pretty experimental since I’m not a producer. but I’m curious to see how people would react to it.

thanks so much man!!

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I have lived with Jem Warrens great debut album for over a half-year – and have to say – Jem Warren is one of the best new singer-songwriter discoveries I´ve found in 2012.
“Heart Knows How” is a timeless album that will still live on years after we´d say goodbye to 2012.

I swear that the career of Jem Warren is being followed by me through social media like his Facebookpage/jemwarren, his Twitter/jemwarrenmusic. – and Jem Warren homepage.

As soon as I know more about his second album – I´d love to do another Q&A!

 

Kofi Stacks: The future of UK hip hop?!

It´s a brave thing to do your own version of one of last years greatest and biggest selling female artist and her greatest most well known ballad.

You have to make it work – and give it your own special touch – and still keeping it close to the original.

Kofi Stacks featuring Adele “Someone Like You”

A remake or a remix of the song has to be done with respect. And respect is what Kofi Stacks shows when they do their remix of the Adele classic “Someone Like You” from her already legendary bestseller album “21”. The song was also my first meeting with english rapper Kofi Stacks and his band The Mandem.

Kofi Stacks & the Mandem is an unsigned hip hop group – and using Adeles smash as a kickstart for their career is a great and smart career move – give people something they recognize. They use what sounds like a sample from the original song and speed it up slightly. Slow naked piano intro and Adeles vocals, hip hop beats, and then add Mr Kofi Stacks great vocals. He raps in UK-english, he has a strong, raw rap-flow, he is almost spitting out the lyrics. The lyrics of the song are now seen from the mans perspective.

Kofi Stacks has a cool look – the bearded hippy look and Bill Cosby´ish clothes – the rest of his band looks like a gang of mods or a brit-pop group. A fresh and unusual look for a rap group. Without doubt very English.
If you noticed the video. Was she, Adele, the worlds biggest female star – really working with them, a unsigned band? I had to find out about this…
When Kofi Stacks sent me his answers on the Q&A and started his answers like this; “Here are your answers bro”, I knew this was gonna be good!
Q: One of your best songs – and my absolute favorite of yours – is your Adele cover. I´ve seen the video to this! Did you remake the song with Adele – or are you just mixing clips of her video with your video? If first alternative; How was it to work with Adele?
A: Yeah it was crazy that song. It was one of my favourite of her album and I couldn’t stop singing along with it as its so relatable, then it hit me. I need to spin this. I need to deliver this from a males perspective. Within 30 minutes I had the track laid down. Her people heard what we did and liked it but at that stage her schedule was ridiculous with promotion as you can imagine and there was no way of connecting with her so we went ahead and shot a video around her. I work with a talented video production team who do all my stuff, www.futureproduction.co.uk check ’em out.
Q: I think you are one of the most exiting english rappers right now, is there any plans of a full album soon?
A: Thank you firstly for the compliment, it’s appreciated. Yeah I’m currently working on my EP, still untitled, but really sounding good, I think the fans and critics will enjoy something refreshingly different from what’s out there.
Q: Another one; the club-remix of “Hot Chic” is fantastic and made me think of the Basement Jaxx remix of Missy Elliots “4 My People” – were your inspired by this when you remixed your track?
A: Umm, not really no. That was done so long ago, wow. To be honest that was more of an experimental track, not at all the direction I wanted to go in back then, or even now. It was just about having some fun creatively in the studio, but if people like it then that can’t be too bad I guess.
Q: I think I see a lot of similarities with your sound and way of rapping with early Public Enemy and the harder side of 2Pac – almost militant. Who are you most influenced by?
A: Thanks. I mean those are some legendary names you’ve mentioned there. I grew up listening to them and a bunch of other great lyricist like Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z, Nas, Dre, you name them I probably was in to them in some way. But my sound has changed so much from my earlier career, and is more steeped with reggae and ska influences, especially sonically. Lyrically and flow wise I’m still near enough the same just more mature and putting songs together instead of just freestyles. I feel that with the reggae/ ska movement, those artists had something to say, something relevant and tangible to the public. You look at Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Decker, Madness, The Specials. I mean I could go on but hopefully you understand what I mean. So as you mention Tupac, I’m glad as he had a message also in his music that he was trying to convey which made him one of the best rappers.
Q: If you should describe your way of rapping to new listeners – how would you describe yourselves?
A: Ummm, journey. I think my style takes you on a cool journey of who I am. My stories, my trial and tribulations, what makes me, me. I mean the flow itself is not convoluted, just right so lyrically you hear what i have to say and can really connect with it. You can kick back at home and listen to my music, be pumping it in your car or whatever. Ive got my band now, The Mandem, so I’m not just a solo act anymore. My live shows seem to go down well as the audience really do vibe with me. I mean it’s not a doom and gloom sound, there are some real catchy uptempo tracks on my upcoming EP, but the message I’m portraying still gets heard while you’re able to jam to it and shake a leg, LOL. I’m trying to reintroduce that live sound of old in to modern day hip hop but with my own twist.
**Bonus question**
Q: You sample and remake soft-rock songs and artist like Billy Joel “Uptown Girl” and “Work Hard For The Money” could you name your guilty pleasure if you have any!
A:
Again, those tracks were experimental and fun to jump on. My guilty pleasure.. Probably listening to Magic FM late night, LOL, the songs they play are the classics and so timeless, and it’s not the sort of radio station you’d expect me to really be listening to on a daily. Adele’s made it on there with three songs I think. I’ve always said if I get to hear myself on magic, I know I’ve won.
Lovely to have this chat with you Koffi! Thank you for your answers bro´!

It´s amazing to think about that Kofi Stacks & The Mandem still hasn´t released a official album, but they are these days working on their first EP. But did you know they has released over 22 different songs through services like webservices Soundcloud and Reverbnation to download for free?
Hey! Heres an idea! Compile your own unique Kofi Stacks & The Mandem album / or playlist, by downloading your favourite songs from their Soundcloud and Reverbnation page!
One last thing; Did you know Kofi Stacks & The Mandem is one of the bands in this years MTV Brand New Unsigned 2012 competition?
If you like what you hear; you know who to vote for!
You can follow and read and hear more about Kofi Stack & The Mandem on the following social media services:
Homepage KofisKonondrum on tumblr
Facebook Kofi Stacks
Twitter @KofiStacks
Soundcloud KofiStacks
Reverbnation KofiStacks
YouTube Kofi Stacks TV
Record Company 89 Arrogance Recordings
Now it´s up to you, listen to the bands music, and if you like – send me some words about your favourite tracks from Kofi Stacks & The Mandem!