Theresa Andersson: The One-Woman Show That Stole Our Heart

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As soon as I got the one sheet on Theresa Andersson, I knew I wasn’t going to like this album. I’m not being a hater; I’m just not a fan of all the acts Theresa Andersson is compared to—Florence, Adele, Tracey Thorn. Plus, bigwig newspaper guy who only listens to U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay likes it. Anyway, I sucked it up and listened as subjectively as possible. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that Street Parade is an undeniable example of Theresa Andersson’s creativity, hard work and talent.

Objectively speaking, my initial perception was that Andersson’s work was a little too organic and folky for coverage in Magnetic and the electronic world. However, after listening and checking out her “weird chick in a kitchen” videos on Youtube, I realized that Andersson is just as much, if not more talented than some of the best EDM producers out there. Studio producers need Ableton Andersson needs her bare feet. She basically is a living version of Ableton that renders moving songs that make you move.

Andersson’s sound can best be described as psych-epic retro-pop, with elements of musical theater, jazz and even soul. The harmonies are impressive, only matched by haunting bridges and powerful choruses. Her sound is so full it seems like she brought in an orchestra, but she is the orchestra. Her powerful vocals can carry her through any weak spot of a composition, yet in turn her compositions don’t show any weakness. She is not an artist riding a trend; she’s creating music from her soul and life, and that type of authenticity is a refreshing change in this era of braggadocio and or fake irony.

Everything comes together and ultimately presents an artistic, original, cohesive, well produced and well-performed album. The acclaim and praise is well deserved, and while Theresa Andersson may be held in the same esteem as other modern day vocalists, her innovation, hard work and ability to improvise is what sets her apart.

I was so very young, impressionable and innocent, naive actually… New Orleans is where I ‘grew up’ musically. It has really influenced my approach to playing.

Street Parade was released yesterday on Basin Street Records. She sat down with us for a few moments to discuss her music, her new child and her ever-evolving life.

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What brought you to the To New Orleans?

I was in a relationship with a musician. I sang and played violin in his band. It brought me to New Orleans and I found myself head over heels in love with the city. I was so very young, impressionable and innocent, naive actually... New Orleans is where I “grew up” musically. It has really influenced my approach to playing.

What are you listening to?

I don’t stick to any one genre of music. I find many eras inspiring. It can be the New Orleans R&B recordings from the ‘60s or the 80’s pop bands. Brazilian music is timeless and right now I am listening to a lot of Swedish bands like Lykke Li, Peter Bjorn & John and JJ.

What are the inspirations for your music?

Well, for Street Parade I found it very inspiring to listen to the marching bands in New Orleans Mardi Gras parades and big band jazz from Gil Evans and Duke Ellington. I also listen to Milton Nascimento, Orchestral Manouvres In The Dark and the sounds of a Mardi Gras Indian practice.

I do collect sounds by long walks where ever I am. There’s a rhythm to everything around you. Traveling is great for this. My brain automatically starts playing loops of things I hear.

 How would you describe your live performance?

I am a very organic looper/a one-woman-show. Everything I do is performed live and nothing is perfect. I love the way things spill!

I stand on a white shag rug to protect my bare feet (shoeless is essential to my style of looping). To my left I have two mixers, one for the drums and one for the instruments and vocal. Also to my left are my drums. In front of me on the floor is a big, layered pedal board that holds my two RC-50 pedals and a host of stompboxes such as a tube screamer, octave pedal, delay and reverb plus a/b boxes and mutes. The mic stand holds two microphones, one for looping and one that goes straight to front of house. There’s a violin hanging from the mic stand and a slide and various picks and shakers... I also have a record player for sampling and a classical guitar.

The idea is to effortlessly switch between all the instruments to create a musical dance while playing the song!

How did you come up with the instrumentation and set up?

It all happened very organically. Little by little I would add elements as needed. For instance, when I first started I didn’t play drums but I wanted to add more rhythm so I learned....

For a one-woman band without any “formal” training, how do you make your sound so full and complete?

Trial and error. I just work the songs until they feel right. I try not to worry about what I don’t know and just go. If I need to learn something to make it right I just do. I had never written horn arrangements before Street Parade. I used my voice and the loop pedals to work out my ideas. At the same time I listened to a bunch of Duke Ellington and Gil Evans to study arrangements/instrument combinations, etc. Then it was just a matter of doing.

You’re working with Tobias Fröberg again on this album.  What is it about his style that you appreciate?

Tobias is awesome. He has great energy and we “flow” well together which is something that has been important to me. He set the tone for this recording by creating a unique drum sound that echoes “street.” I haven’t thought about whom I would like to work with on another project, but there are so many great producers out there that would be interesting. Perhaps I’ll search on a different continent for the next project.

There are a lot of comparisons of you to other prominent female musicians/vocalists.  What do you feel sets you apart from them?  Do you think the comparisons are based solely on gender or do you share similarities?

Nice. I am sure there’s some sort of similarity that sparks those comparisons. But that’s something very subjective. I don’t try to emulate a specific style or gender. I quit doing that when I wrote my last record.

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What is going on in the New Orleans music scene?  Has a mood shifted in songs since then?

We had a whole bunch of Katrina songs and documentaries that popped up and a lot of stories but I think that people have moved on.

I’ve been spending most of my time on the road and since I play by myself it has left me oddly detached from the local scene. There’s an indie coalition that started post Katrina and also several cool art/music interactive venues like the MusicBOX.

Do you have any remixes planned?

No remixes planned but that would be really cool. I would like to hear a Fever Ray remix of “Street Parade.”

How has having a child helped mold your identity as a musician?

The moment I found out I was pregnant I felt free. Free from fears of what I thought the industry might hold against me for becoming a mother.

In my mind the industry was a jealous beast that did not want me to split my focus on anything or anyone else. This beast was trying very hard to convince me that it would not be wise to make that move and that I might regret it...

I am happy now and much more focused. I always try to stay true to my heart and who I am. Being a mother is a huge part of that. The performer/musician is also there.

Theresa Andersson Tour Dates:
4/27 New Orleans, LA @ Cafe Istanbul
4/28 New Orleans, LA @ Preservation Hall
5/04 New Orleans, LA @ New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
5/04 New Orleans, LA @ Howlin' Wolf
5/05 New Orleans, LA @ Tipitina's (French Quarter)
5/30 Vancouver, CA @ Media Club
5/31 Seattle, WA @ Triple Door
6/02 Portland, OR @ The Mission Theater
6/04 San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall
6/07 Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
6/10 Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree
6/12 Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern
6/13 Harrisburg, PA @ The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co.
6/14 Brooklyn, NY @ The Bell House w/ Lucius
6/15 Philadelphia, PA @ Tin Angel w/ Lucius
6/16 Washington, DC @ The Hamilton w/ Lucius
6/17 Cambridge, MA @ TT the Bear's
6/19 Chicago, IL @ Schuba's
6/21 Knoxville, TN @ Relix Variety Theatre

So many fresh, emerging acts are coming from Scandinavia.  What is it about the environment that inspires creativity?

It’s dark and cold and there’s nothing else to do! Spending time over here now I notice that there are lots and lots of very interesting educational radio programs to listen to. I haven’t been bored once on a drive.

If you child comes to you at 18 and tell you that she wants to be a musician, what advice would you give her? Why?

I think a person has to find her own path and I will encourage that in my daughter. The important thing in whatever you choose to do is that you do it whole-heartedly.

What’s Next?

I am making a music video with Alicia Rose. Also I am playing a few band shows for fun. Then it’s a big solo tour around America and then back to Sweden for a summer tour.