A Series of Fortunate Events
A sunny afternoon finds the girls are rocking the retro shades on a secret balcony at Bush Hall with Berlin based, Danish singer songwriter Agnes Obel. With no sign of pre-show nerves before her one and only London gig tonight, Obel is relaxed and happy to give an exclusive interview to our favourite women’s music website.
With stunning, classically laden piano forming the basis of her critically lauded debut, Philharmonics, the girls are had imagined Obel’s upbringing to have been that of a child prodigy, perhaps performing sonatas aged three to an audience of kings and queens in powdered wigs. So it was with a little disappointment that we find out that the artist’s path to future superstardom was ridiculously normal and the singer herself ludicrously modest and affable. “I started playing piano when I was little and basically kept on playing. I guess a lot of friends of mine, they played too, but they stopped at some point and I just kept on playing in bands, not because I wanted to be a musician, I had never really thought about it.”
Obel describes the process of self-producing the album as accidental; “I had learnt a lot about recording and being a music producer when I moved to Berlin. So, at some point I thought I should record something. I had written some songs and I was afraid I would forget them. It was only ever meant to be a personal project that I would get a producer to work on in the future, when I had some money to do so.”
Obel credits a further series of events as the beginning of her inevitable success, “a funny thing happened when I was recording the album. I had a song on Myspace (‘Just So’) that was picked up by a big company to use in a German TV ad, so while I was recording the rest of the album, I had all these offers for deals from massive record companies.” Surely the things musicians Cinderella type dreams are made of? “Yes, but I never expected it and I was quite sure when they heard the rest of the album, they wouldn’t like it anyway”
Almost a year went by before Obel signed to big indie label (PIAS) Recordings and it was this partnership that has undoubtedly given her the artistic freedom she clearly flourishes under.
Other self-producing women artists prove to be important to Obel’s work, citing Kate Bush and PJ Harvey as big influences, whilst not underestimating her love affair with Berlin, the city she now calls home and the inspiration behind the song, Riverside. “I love the city and always wanted to live there, ever since I went there for the first time I was looking for an excuse to move. People live creatively without the need for unnecessary purpose, they seek meaning and they enjoy what they do.”
Clearly artistic integrity and truth are key to Obel’s work and if you were to believe her version of events that led to her exceptional debut, you would be mistaken in thinking that her talent had nothing to do with it at all. Yet it is clear that Obel is a gifted composer and well deserving of her eventual recognition. So the next time she tries to tell the world that it was merely a happy accident that brought her to perform in front of this sold out, London crowd, don’t believe a word of it.
Agnes Obel will be touring Europe and the USA throughout 2011.