At Coachella 2014, I decided to forgo seeing Outkast and headed to the Yuma tent to see Dixon work his magic. Little did I know, I was about to experience something special. So, when Dixon chose a particularly deep cut, the song struck a very deep chord. The room seemed to light up and I knew I was exactly where I should be. To be honest, I can't really describe it in any way other than that is a moment I will never forget. This was my introduction to Sailor & I, with Âme's remix of his song "Turn Around."
Sailor & I, real name Alexander Sjödin, is a Swedish musician with a unique voice and the awe inspiring talent to make some of the most emotive music I have heard in years. He is the type of musician who prefers making his music with actual instruments to using plugin instruments. He began singing not out of a desire to be a singer, but he wasn't hearing the emotion or stories out of the singers he sought to collaborate with, so he took it on himself to sing. Sailor & I is an artist who has to express himself and the end result is that the world sounds that much better.
Recently signing to the Windish Agency and already touring all over the world, he is about to boom in the electronic music scene with a few more releases, with notable remixers I might add, a Lost In Translation inspired music video and an album on the horizon. His latest EP 'Sweat' is true to form Sailor & I excellence. Also, I have heard a little bit of what is to come with his next EP and I can barely contain my excitement.
With much adulation, I share with you my interview with the humble and focused artist Sailor & I!
I believe being creative is about finding new ways of doing the things you’ve done over and over again...
What is new for Sailor & I?
Alexander Sjödin: “I just came back from Japan, where I played two shows and shot a video for my next single called ’Leave The Light On’. We spent about a week in Tokyo and from there we went with the bullet train to Kyoto, which was a truly magical experience. Now I’m back in the studio, finishing my album and doing some writing and producing for other artists. This spring I’ve been working on and developing a small live show setup, so finally I feel ready to start spending the same amount of time performing as I do writing & producing.”
Your new EP 'Sweat' is true to your usual form, meaning it's great! Can you tell me a bit more about this release?
Alexander Sjödin: “I recorded the EP last fall. I had just fallen in love with a couple of old instruments that were laying around in a studio called Fashionpolice Studios, Stockholm (Arp Solina, Juno 106, Casio CZ5000), some synths at a friends place (Roland JX10, Minimoog) and my neighbors fantastic upright Steinway piano. I didn’t have a big recording budget, so I decided to do a quick recording session at three different locations and then go home and create this EP with the ideas collected from each of these three sessions. It was tempting to bring some string musicians for a session, but when I put everything together it felt right to keep it simple.”
What other releases can we get excited for this year coming from Sailor & I?
Alexander Sjödin: “My next single is called 'Leave The Light On’, a song I’m really excited to be releasing as a follow-up single to 'Sweat’. Even though it’s a very personal song, inspired by my own personal experiences I believe many people will be able to relate to the message of the song. 'Leave The Light On’ is more tempo driven than 'Sweat', recorded with an old acoustic piano and a Roland Juno 106, quite a dark track, as always. The single comes with a remix by Joris Voorn and a original b-side called 'A Tiger In My Hands’. The b-side turned into a 10 minute electronically piece of music with many different influences. I can’t really describe what it is musically other then that it’s kind of an odd song compared to most music you hear now a days, but even though it’s a long track the form feels very natural to me – and it’s the first song I’m releasing that has a happy feel.”
There’s a big difference between having a great voice and being a great singer. A great voice is just a great voice, but without the ability to tell a story in a personal way, the message never gets through to the listener.
Who is Sailor & I? What is this project all about?
Alexander Sjödin: “Sailor & I is the sum of different sides of my personality. The whole project is about my journey exploring that, trying to understand the past of my life and why certain things turned out certain ways, a deep dive into my inner emotions. It’s also a great escape away from things I’m afraid of, because working with creativity can sometimes make you feel almighty, and you suddenly forget about your fears. This project has become so much more than just writing songs and recording them, it’s a life project where I fill the void with sounds and where the sounds create emotions in return.”
You seem to be the go-to for some big names when it comes to remixing. How are you so lucky? Or are they just drawn to your amazing talent?
Alexander Sjödin: “I have no idea about that and to be honest I haven’t thought about why. I work with people who do interesting music, who they are is less important to me.”
Is there a Sailor & I creative philosophy?
Alexander Sjödin: “Yes, I try to keep things very simple. Some time ago I decided to not use the computer plugin instruments to create music. Instead I only use plugin fx’s when to transform an already existing sound I’ve recorded, into a something completely different and more exciting sound, something that would not be possible to create from scratch with a real instrument. I’m always very open-minded to ideas, possible new directions to take on etcetera. I believe being creative is about finding new ways of doing the things you’ve done over and over again, until you stumble upon something interesting and manage to transform that into a bigger context.”
When did you start singing?
Alexander Sjödin: “I started to sing when it became too complicated to get vocalists to sing my songs the way I wanted them to sing it. Many times I felt that the message of the song got lost when I asked someone to sing it for me. So me singing was never a plan of mine, it was a desperate action to make my songs come alive. I really hated to sing at the beginning and many people tried to convince me that I wasn’t a proper singer and should let other people do that for me. At some point I decided to do whatever felt good to me and not listen too much to what other people felt because in the end, I’m the one who’s responsible for my own project.
Things like this can be very sensitive, very personal. Especially when you record with someone who believes that they’re a great singer just because they can sing with perfect pitch. There’s a big difference between having a great voice and being a great singer. A great voice is just a great voice, but without the ability to tell a story in a personal way, the message never gets through to the listener. A great singer on the other hand, can sing out of pitch, out of time and still transform a message and make people feel something. I don’t consider myself having a great voice, but I know how to express what I want to express and that does the job for me.”
What are some milestones that you have achieved to date?
Alexander Sjödin: “Being an performing artist outside my home country is definitely a milestone, due to the fact that I haven’t been releasing an album. My recent performances and confirmed bookings have been in countries like Japan, Turkey, Romania, Germany, France, Brussels, UK, US and still very low activity in Scandinavia, even though the activity abroad doesn’t seem to slow down anytime soon.”
Following up, what else would you like to achieve with this project?
Alexander Sjödin: “There are so many things I’d like to achieve. First thing I think of is that I’d like to create a live experience together with visual artists and a bunch of great musicians from different musical backgrounds, if we could add a symphonic string orchestra on top of that, then there wouldn’t be much else to ask for. Other than that it’s more about getting the opportunity to work and meet interesting people. I’ve done a lot of that this year, nothing I can talk about officially just yet, but it’s been an eye opener in many ways to meet other musicians with different angles on creating music.”
What inspires you?
Alexander Sjödin: “People and their stories. I watch a lot of documentaries at night, all genres. Just the fact that people take their time to document all these different stories, high and low, to tell the rest of the world about it gives me hope.”
What is one deep thought you have been having lately?
Alexander Sjödin: “‘We all have two lives. The second one starts when we realize we only have one.’ – Some quote I read somewhere.”
Any parting words of wisdom?
Alexander Sjödin: “Do YOUR thing and good things will follow eventually.”