She was born in Copenhagen, now she lives in Berlin. Her first album, Philharmonics, went quintuple platinum and made her famous not only in her native Denmark. Also the second album, Aventine, excited the audience. It is not surprising because Agnes Obel is composing beautiful, soft music and her Polish fans will be able to hear it live at the concert, which is taking place in Warsaw in January 2014. Before you meet up with Agnes Obel in Palladium (January, 11) read the interview below.
musicis.pl: What made you start composing music? How did it start?
Agnes Obel: I think I’ve started making melodies on piano because I was very good as a child in reading sheets so I would just make a melody when I wanted to play something. I didn’t consider it as something special, I just did it for fun. And then, I think it was just a sort of a feeling of playing piano and making something that sounds beautiful and you didn’t have to explain anything, just making what made you feel so very good.
musicis.pl: You were growing up in Copenhagen and now you live in Berlin. How does the place of living and the environment around you influence your music?
Agnes Obel: I guess Berlin is a bigger city than Copenhagen. I think that city was somehow mysterious to me and strange, and big. There were a lot of people from different countries living there so it had an international feeling and I liked that. I could do things without having to explain them to anybody. It’s sort of a great place for experiment. Copenhagen is a place where my family lives, where my friends live so it’s more for a proper living. So in a way it was liberating for me to move to Berlin.
musicis.pl: What are your songs based on? Where do you get the inspiration from?
Agnes Obel: It comes like a wave and you just have to follow it. I guess it’s like surfing. So the wave is coming, you take your board and then you have to jump on it.
musicis.pl: So it could be anything?
Agnes Obel: Yes, it could be anything. Basically, when you feel something very strongly then it’s just wonderful to look at it in a musical way. Sometimes it just appears by accident and I just follow it. It’s a wonderful feeling when you made something and you really like it. And you play it again, and again, and again because you like it so much and it’s almost a feeling of being in love with the melodies. It’s appealing to feel love for a piece of music, the atmosphere. It gives you an energy to finish it.
musicis.pl: Is there anything you want to show the world with your music?
Agnes Obel: Well, I don’t know because I am so blind to myself, and I am the worst to ask about it because I don’t know anything about myself. I’m still surprised that anybody want to listen to me. I make music and I like myself and then I’m surprised that anyone could also like that. I don’t think I have any message but I know what is meaningful and what’s not. So I only like to do what is meaningful but I can’t explain when it’s meaningful and when it’s not. Maybe when I get older and I have a life experience then I will know.
musicis.pl: What are your lyrics about from your perspective?
Agnes Obel: I write about different things. Sometimes I feel the melody of the song is a story so I just try to tell the story. Sometimes it is a story about something happening to some people so it has nothing to do with me. And then other times I really try to make a song about what’s in my own life, like feeling when something’s wonderful but also a feeling when something is falling apart and you want to get closer to those feelings and try to paint pictures with words. It’s very difficult but I try to do it.
musicis.pl: Do you want your listeners interpret your lyrics the same way you do?
Agnes Obel: This is just what it means to me. I don’t like to talk too much about it because I don’t want my experiences and stories to influence them too much. I think it’s cool that the song can have a new meaning for other people.
musicis.pl: Tracks from Aventine sound like they were recorded with full orchestra. Hearing all these structures it’s hard to believe that they were recorded just in a small room. How did you make it?
Agnes Obel: It’s just what I could do on my own. With some songs I started with my computer, with samples and then re-recorded them with cellos and violins. I used the microphone and recorded it like there was just the voice and just put it more at the top. In a small room everything is closer. I did that with few songs, like Aventine. It is the song constructed this way and re-recorded with wonderful musicians. And then other times I made all the piano and all the rhythms and made some kind of sessions with those musicians. We were putting other instruments together just to experiment on the track and see what works with it and to create this sound. With the whole orchestra I could not experiment. To do this I had fun and I could work with very good musicians.
musicis.pl: What about your musical dreams? Where would you like to get with your career?
Agnes Obel: I would love to make more albums. I love it very much. When I release an album I feel like I grow all over it. It’s wonderful to be able to make albums. I would love to be able to get to know more great musicians to work with and travel. But my biggest dream is to make new albums. I’m thinking about it all the time.