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Amanda Mair - Sweden's Next Great Musical Export
Friday, August 24, 2012

The story of the emergence of 17 year old Swedish chanteuse Amanda Mair is the antithesis of everything people will tell you about being a recording artist in the internet age. When she was signed by Labrador Records she had no music online. None. Not a single song clip or YouTube video. While everyone else has been looking to go viral, she wasn’t even thinking about a career in music.

In 2008, Mair, who has been studying music for the majority of her life, was asked by her mother to record a few songs for fun. Just a few covers to send to relatives. She recorded those songs with Tom Steffensen, whom she met through the boyfriend of one of her sisters. Three years later Mair received a call from Steffensen, who had played the songs for Labrador Records owner Johan Angergård. A month later the two met and started discussing recording an album.

That album is Mair’s self-titled debut, which has already made an impact in her native Sweden, and will be available in the US later this summer. Musically, it has a vintage feel to it, and both the songwriting, and overall vibe, reveal a maturity that belies Mair’s age.

I caught up with Mair, who recently performed her first show in the US, to find out what influences helped her create her sound, how she’s handling her speedy rise in the music world, and what it’s like touring with her father.

Adam Bernard: You’re 17, and your success has happened very quickly. What aspects, if any, of what’s been going on around you have been overwhelming?

Amanda Mair: It all happened very fast. A year ago we started recording the first song for the album and I wasn’t expecting this at all, but it’s really fun.

Adam Bernard: Has any one particular thing taken you aback, or made you say “this is incredible, I can’t believe this is happening?”

Amanda Mair: Yeah, I think it was the time when I was in the newspaper in Sweden. In every newspaper I read, I was in it. It was really weird and I really couldn’t believe that I was reading about myself and what people thought about my album. Also when I went to New York it was like OK, I’m really going to New York.

Adam Bernard: Do you like reading about yourself, do you like reading your reviews, or do you avoid them?

Amanda Mair: I don’t read a lot (of them) just because I think it’s important to keep your own thoughts and your own opinions because it’s not always good things you read. I try not to read all of it.

Adam Bernard: Do your parents keep a scrapbook of all the good reviews?

Amanda Mair: Yes. My mom saves all the newspapers. It’s fun. I like it.

Adam Bernard: When many Americans think of Swedish musical acts they think of ABBA and Ace of Base. You sound NOTHING like those artists. What were you listening to when you were growing up that influenced you?

Amanda Mair: I have two bigger sisters and I started listening to what they were listening to. When I was very young I, of course, like every other girl, listened to a lot of the Spice Girls and then I started listening to Norah Jones and also Madonna, Coldplay.

Adam Bernard: I can definitely hear the Norah Jones, not so much so the Spice Girls in your work.

Amanda Mair: {laughs} Yeah. OK. Thank you!

Adam Bernard: I saw you at Pianos in NYC and there was a certain frailty to your performance. Is this a reflection of the music, or are you a shy person?

Amanda Mair: I think it’s both. I don’t want to say I’m a shy person, but maybe when I meet people for the first time people might think I’m shy, but then when I start talking I don’t think I’m shy. It also can be, like you said, with the music. I hadn’t been thinking about that so much.

Adam Bernard: That was your first performance in NYC. New York is a vast and interesting city. What else did you do during your time there? Did you see any sights, or pick up any souvenirs?

Amanda Mair: My dad was there with me and we had some free days and we did a lot of shopping, of course, and we went on the boat to go to the Statue of Liberty. We went to Central Park. I was in New York City five years ago and we went to the Empire State Building and saw everything that you have to see, so this time we just did things that we wanted to do.

Adam Bernard: What are some of the pros and cons of touring with a parent?

Amanda Mair: I was playing alone and I didn’t want to go alone. My friends are also 17 or 18 and they can’t go with me because they’re in school, so my dad was there and it’s good to have someone so you’re not alone. In the USA you have to be 21 to go out to clubs and so on, so I still have like three years left, so it was OK to have my dad with me there.

Adam Bernard: So he’s not holding you back from anything. You want him there.

Amanda Mair: Yeah. I can say “OK I don’t want you when I do this interview,” and he understands that. I think it was good to have him there.

Adam Bernard: Your self-titled debut album is only available in Sweden. What kind of plans do you, and Labrador, have in regards to a US release?

Amanda Mair: The album will be released June 5th.

Adam Bernard: For now we have your music on YouTube. When someone clicks play on one of your videos for the very first time and gets an introduction to you and your music, what do you hope they’ll feel?

Amanda Mair: I hope they feel something in their hearts and don’t just listen to a song because they’ve heard of it. I want to say something to people so that they can feel something, and can remember it. I think that the songs are... some of them are uptempo, but also a bit melancholic.

Adam Bernard: There is an old school, almost vintage, feel to a lot of your work. Do you know where that comes from? Is that the Norah Jones influence, or are you naturally kind of old school?

Amanda Mair: I studied classical piano when I was younger. Maybe it’s because of that. Also I’ve been taking singing lessons for many years. Maybe that’s why.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what’s been the most interesting thing you’ve seen, or experienced, because of music?

Amanda Mair: I’ve been growing as a person, and when I first met Johan (Angergård), who runs the record label, Labrador, I wasn’t thinking about releasing an album. I was just “OK, this is a fun thing to do and maybe I will record a song,” but I didn’t have any expectations at all. Then we started recording and it all happened very quickly. I’ve been through a lot, and met so many people, and also learned about a few things because I’m very new to this whole... record an album, release an album, be an artist, and I don’t see myself like an artist in that way. I don’t know why, but it feels kind of weird to say it. Oh my God, that was a hard question.

Adam Bernard: Sorry! It sounds like the whole process, this whole experience, has been interesting.

Amanda Mair: Yeah! The whole process. I have learned so much, and I’ve grown as a person, and it has been kind of hard sometimes, because sometimes I’m like “no one wants to listen to this,” and when you’re in the studio and you are recording a song for many hours, all day, sometimes you begin to feel like “I can’t sing, I’m not good at this,” and then you have to be strong. It’s the whole process.

Interview originally ran on SubstreamMusicPress.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:25 AM  
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