Interview: Theresa Andersson, the One-Woman Band
When Theresa Anderssonwas eighteen she left her native Sweden on a romantic whim and moved with her boyfriend to New Orleans to form a band. The romance fell apart, but by then Theresa had fallen in love with the city and it's vibrant music scene. A little more than a decade later Andersson has written her fifth studio album, Hummingbird, Go! to great critical acclaim with Rolling Stone calling her a "spacier, sultrier Feist."
A multi-talented musician, Theresa plays almost all of the instruments on the album. To make the demos for her the LP she set up her instruments in her kitchen. The producer liked it so much that he decided that the whole album should be recorded there. The studio recordings were put on YouTube and has become a huge underground hit (watch the video below). Theresa Andersson is bringing her one-woman band to the Hotel Cafe four times this January. She was kind enough to speak to us on Saturday.
Where did you come up with the title Hummingbird, Go!
Well it was kinda a name that I thought would suit the mood on the album. It was inspired by the birds that flew around my garden. I wrote most of this album outside either in my garden or walking along the Mississippi. I thought that hummingbirds would really be a good fit. They move really fast and appear as if staying absolutely still. That's kind of how I was playing all of these instruments on this album.
Did you write the song "Birds Fly Away" in your garden as well?
Yup, I like writing outdoors a lot. Sonically I draw a lot from New Orleans. I spent a lot of time collecting sounds from Mississippi River to the industrial areas as well as nature. The record was really inspired by a collage of colors and textures. A real bouquet of music. I would write a little piece of music and collect them in spice jars. Then I would go back and rearrange them and see where they fit together.
You play all the instruments by yourself. That's really very ambitious. Did you want your own band or did you want to do this album by yourself from the beginning?
In the past I had always co-written with other musicians. This time my own ideas. It's a little bit of an unconventional way of going about it, but it was a decision I made before I started writing.
I recorded it of course with me playing all the instruments in my kitchen. Then I sent it to Jessica [Faust] who wrote all the lyrics. Then I re-recorded it for Tobias [Froberg, producer on the record] to recreate what I was hearing in my head the best I could with what I had. So I was banging on kitchen tables, pots, pans, you know whatever I could find.Tobias heard the recording and he really liked the way it sounded. So he suggested to me to produce the album in my kitchen. I was like, "Let me ask my husband." I was all prepared to, you know, hire drummers and stuff, but we took over my kitchen for a month and recorded it there.
That sound exhausting.
It was great. I tried to take on the personalities of each instruments when I played. So it was not just me, me, me all the time.
Did your husband help out with the record?
Both my husband and my dog were very patient and helpful. We borrowed instruments from all of our friends. My dog, Ruby, is really old. She was like fourteen at the time and the poor thing has bad balance. So she was trying not to knock anything over in the kitchen.
Do they come with you on the road?
Oh yeah, we have a big fifteen passenger van. We took out the back seats and put in a dog luxury lounge in the back. It's got a lot of pillows. I love my little gypsy caravan on the road.
What was the worst show you ever played?
Oh I don’t know. It’s like when you have the flu or something. You try and forget about it immediately afterwords. I think the worst show I did was probably the first time I did my one woman show in public. I was performing at a big festival. It was awful. I was all over the place. But it's the kind of thing you have to do it for the first time and after that it gets better. You learn quickly when your are in a pressured situation.
What is your New Year's resolution?
Oh, I don’t believe in those. I set goals for myself all the time, but I don't need it to be New Year's. Right now my goal is to focus on my energy on the tour and writing the new album. Oh wait, I have one good goal that would be fun to be able to do.
I would love to do five pull ups this year in a row.
How many can you do now?
I can't do any either. Why do you want to be able to do pull ups?
Well, this show that I’ve been doing for a year in a half requires a lot of body-mind coordination. I needed dance lessons to make everything work. When I play I'm always balancing on one foot and pushing and pulling with the other, while singing and playing. It's not easy. I think pull ups would make me very strong and that would help with all the instruments I have to carry around.
What is your favorite thing about LA?
Oh, I'm so excited about spending some time in LA. Usually we just rush through a place, but I'm going to have some time to hang out. I plan on doing some record shopping. I want to go rollerblading in Venice. Oh and I have to find an outfit to wear on Conan!
You're going to be on Conan! Congratulations.
Thanks. I'm going on in February so now I need to find something to wear. Los Angeles is a great place for clothes. I'm hoping to run into some new young designers.
What album can you not live without?
Oh, that's tough. I think maybe Joni Mitchell's Blue Album. I carry it with me everywhere. When I was in Sweden I used to clean stairwells. That's how I made enough money to come to America.
Whose stairwells were you cleaning?
I worked for this company who specialized in cleaning marble stairwells in rental properties. They put this coating on it to protect the stairwells and it was my job to take off the old coating and put on the new. It was horrible. But the great thing about marble stairwells is that they have amazing acoustics. I would put Joni Mitchell on my Walkman and sing. It made everything better.
Why did you choose to stay in New Orleans?
It was the only place I had been in the US when I moved here. But after touring for awhile I realized it was where I wanted to be. New Orleans is affordable. It has tons of awesome culture, food, and architecture. The weather is a bit hot for a Swedish person, but I got used to it. I think New Orleans even after Katrina just has a very magic quality to it. You can’t find it anywhere else.
If you could meet one person alive or dead who would it be?
I'd love to hang out with Nina Simone! That would be the greatest adventure. She always changed her style but never tried to fit into any style or genre. She was just herself.
Do you have a musical guilty pleasure?
That’s an interesting question. I guess my guilty pleasure is that I like to sing with myself? Does that count?
Well I guess I don't then. I’m not into Barry Manilow or anything like that.
What question do you hate being asked?
I’m pretty open to most anything. If it’s any question I don’t have an answer to? Like your guilty pleasure question. I will call you if I think of anything. 1
Well, thanks so much for talking with me.
Be sure to check Theresa Andersson and her one-woman band all this month.
Jan 6th - Hotel Cafe
Jan16th - Hotel Cafe
Jan 17th - Amoeba Records
Jan 20th - Hotel Cafe
Jan 30th - Hotel Cafe
Photos by Miranda Penn Turin/Used with permission
1. Epilogue: Theresa called me back fifteen minutes later with a musical guilty pleasure. She said, "The soundtrack to the movie Dirty Dancing! I used to have that on LP. I love love love that movie!