You might know her as the singer from The Cardigans, but while they’re on hiatus, Nina Persson has kept herself nice and busy, thank you very much. She upped sticks and moved to New York, where she now resides in what she’s dubbed Swedish Harlem with her husband, musician Nathan Larson, and their son Nils – or the two N’s in her alphabet, as she calls them.
Musically, she has lent her talents to a smörgåsbord of different projects (no, really the list is long), but her main focus has been her new band, A Camp, and now, finally, a proper solo album, Animal Heart, which was preceded by a wonderfully choreographed video for the title track. To be frank, we’re not really that fussed who she works with or in which capacity the music is released, we just bring out the bunting every time we get to hear her voice and enjoy her wonderful lyrics. Anyone who calls a song Burning Bridges For Fuel gets our thumbs-up. We had a quick chat with her ahead of her gig in Scala next week.
Are you always writing lyrics or is there usually a moment where you go: right, new album, let’s get cracking, where’s my pencil sharpener? Is paper even involved?
I’m not always writing, I always start when I’ve decided to make a record. I do write with pencil and paper until the lyrics are done, then I type them into my computer.
And what about the musical side of things? Did you have a clear idea that you wanted this record to be a bit more electronic or did that just happen?
From the beginning I didn’t have a clue what my record should sound like, I felt like I could do absolutely anything since I don’t have a sound or a history as a solo artist. So we just started writing and followed the songs in terms of production. My songs tend to always get quite folky sounding, so by using a lot of old synthesizers, they automatically got a bit different from the music from A Camp, for example.
We get tired just thinking about having to fly back and forth form Swedish Harlem to Actual Sweden, which I suppose you do regularly. Do you have any wisdom you could share about coping with intercontinental travel?
No, unfortunately, I wish I knew how to handle jet lag myself! You just need to be gentle with yourself and rest when you have to, but otherwise just dive right into the new time zone and get up when everyone else does and go to bed at a normal time. And there’s nothing I dread more than packing, I never get better at it!
Do you remember the first time you visited London?
I went there for the first time in 1988. I was on a language course in Torquay and we did a small trip to London. I remember buying things with smiley faces on and trying to get into the disco Hippodrome.
Do you feel you know London at all? What do you like doing here if you have any time off?
I know London okay. I never really learned to find my way, but I’ve spent a lot of time there, both working and in private. My best friend lives in Hackney, so lately I’ve mostly been in east London, and I love it. We just hang out there, shop for groceries, drink coffee and go to the Hackney City Farm with our kids.
You play Scala next week. Do you know the venue at all, and do you get excited about venues in general?
I don’t know the venue! But venues do matter to me, the experience from the stage does make a difference. The way the club looks can affect the sound and the lighting makes you feel great if it’s good. I’m excited to play there!
Nina Persson plays Scala on 5 March 2014. Her album Animal Heart is out now on Lojinx.