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Nina Persson: Solo But Far From Alone

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Huw Baines

At its core, ‘Animal Heart’ is a record born of comfort. Not in a pipe and slippers sense, but in terms of Nina Persson’s relationship with her music, her appreciation of past successes and also her family life, which has found the Cardigans vocalist adopted as a New Yorker in recent years.

It’s been over a decade since Persson first dipped a toe in solo waters by releasing A Camp’s self-titled debut, a diversion into Americana that followed the Cardigans’ ‘Gran Turismo’ album. This time, though, the name etched on the cover is her own, the real thing. Not that it fazes her.

“It doesn’t seem strange to me,” she said. “I had a lot of thoughts about it before I started working on the record. I was thinking that being so used to being in a band, that working solo would be frustrating and lonely, difficult to make decisions, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t very different in any way, at all. I still worked with people and was still surrounded with people I like a lot. All these things that are great about being in a band, you can still create that kind of situation for yourself.”

If anyone is viewing A Camp as a buffer between Persson’s work with the Cardigans and her foray into solo territory, she certainly is not. The band may not have released an album since 2005's ‘Super Extra Gravity’, but they have enjoyed a couple of successful tours of late and Persson is more than happy to accept each twist in her career as part of the whole.

“I don’t think I’ve been thinking very strategically in those matters,” she said. “If I would have felt comfortable doing a solo record after a Cardigans record, without doing A Camp, that would have been so urgent that I would have dealt with other people. With the Cardigans, and A Camp now, for that matter, I can’t change anything that I’ve done.

“It can get tiresome to talk about, but it’s just up to me to steer the conversation into what I am doing. The Cardigans still is a big part of me and I have pretty good vibes around it right now. There have been periods when I’ve been really sick of it, or really frustrated at being connected to other things, but it’s all me. So, that’s for me to deal with.”

As with A Camp, Persson’s husband, Nathan Larson, the former guitarist of influential indie-rock band Shudder To Think and now a film composer and author, played a major role in making ‘Animal Heart’ a reality. The process, fittingly for such a family affair, was divided into sections that worked in tandem with their son’s school hours, with a mutual friend, Eric D Johnson of the Fruit Bats and the Shins, adding his own stamp on things.

“I’ve worked with Nathan for as long as we’ve been together, which is 16 years,” Persson said. “He’s been involved with almost everything I’ve done in some way or another. He is an extension of me when I work.

“We have this kid, and he’s in school. He needs to be picked up at a certain point, you know. We really had to have work days, start in the morning and be done by the time he needs to be picked up. Like people do when they work. It’s not been hard for Nathan and I to let go of the music when it’s time for family. With a three-year-old, they take up such a big space that you can’t think about anything else anyway.”

The writing process for the record followed a couple of paths. While Persson is quick to mention that she’s spent her life leaving things to the last minute, she also keeps note of myriad words, phrases and ideas. With Larson and Johnson adding their songwriting chops to the mix too, there was no shortage of options.

“I always keep a little log book where I write down words that I like, lines, scenes, inspirations,” Persson said. “I did have a couple of those beforehand. Usually for me it’s more about when we start to write a song, it’s usually very specific things that the song asks for, kind of. It can be a mood that leads you to think, you know, what would be appropriate to talk about in the song.

“Or they way that, vocally, words sound good. Usually we’ll try to let that process be. A couple of songs Eric had written on his own and he brought them to me. Then it’s the words that he sings. It’s very hard to shake them off. Usually, you at least take off from what he was singing. Whatever you sing at the moment of writing the song is very natural, in a way.”

Burning Bridges For Fuel is one of the album’s most effective songs, a rolling ballad underpinned by Persson’s distinctive vocals. It began life in her notebook, but came to define many of the themes that knit the record together.

“I knew that when I started to dig around in that title, I would find something,” Persson said. “It just felt urgent to me, somehow. When we wrote that song it was a matter of filling out the gaps. I knew what it was about, something that I think comes back in a couple of songs on the record: the necessity of moving forward and how to deal with sentimentality - what to keep and what to lose.”

Following the album’s release, Persson will head back to Europe for selected tour dates - including stops in London and Dublin - before returning to the States, where she’ll enjoy a homecoming of sorts at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right in April.

Nina Persson UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Wed March 05 2014 - LONDON Scala
Thu March 06 2014 - DUBLIN Button Factory

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