Ida Long has released two albums and an EP under her own name in her native Sweden and mainland Europe and on 1st January her second album, ‘Rainbows and Tears’ was released in the UK. She has a penchant for the atmospheric, the dramatic and the emotional and is influenced by styles as diverse as hip-hop, funk, alternative electronica and by cinematic scores as well as being an accomplished dancer. Many attempts have been made to label her, from Kate Bush to Feist, to Portishead and to Lykke Li from her homeland, while for many she defies any classification.
Ida, thanks for sparing some time to talk to us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work in the music business?
I´m a singer and songwriter who loves photo and video making. I love directing and choreographing and I´m in love with the emotional and poetic arts. I got ”discovered” and encouraged to sing and perform at the age of 10 and I released my first album with (my other band) Baron Bane at 19. Since then I/we´ve released five albums and two EPs, toured Europe and made like a million videos… although I collaborate and work with a lot of talented people I´m very D.I.Y. I like learning how to do things. The worst thing is having a creative idea and not knowing how to do it. Or not knowing how to discuss the idea with someone who is genius at it. It´s a longer road of making myself as an artist but it´s kind of exciting too to see where it leads.
I have never found it easy to pin down your ‘style’ or ‘genre’; it seems to me that there are very few easy comparisons. How would you describe yourself? What are you attempting to convey in your songs?
I don´t really try to make a certain genre or aspire to sound like someone in particular. I want to make good songs and music that moves me, feels good and thrilling. There´s lots of different music that inspires me. And it changes as I´m changing. I`m happy if my music is ”it´s own”. (Not so good when you´re trying to tell someone who doesn´t really care what you do…but that´s annoying either way.) But I´d love for the listener to get drawn into another world. (To get) the feeling of being awake in a dream. And I think a deeper soulful connection in music is more interesting. I want to feel it. So I hope you do, too.
’Rainbows & Tears’ trailer:
Music reviewers and critics haven’t been shy to compare you with a variety of artists though, from Kate Bush to Portishead – which seems quite reasonable – also Feist and Björk, and even to Abba, which is a bit of a stretch! You are similar to Kate Bush in your live performances but how does an artist handle analogies like this? Do they inspire you or do you wish they’d go away and leave you to be Ida Long?
No, it´s an honour! They are all MAGICAL artists so I´m happy being joined in that league. If it was someone I thought was shit then it would be another thing. Or if I sounded exactly like them and tried to act like I didn´t. But I mean, Kate Bush… you´re insane if you don´t take that as a compliment.
You’ve said that the song ‘We Got’ on ‘Rainbows & Tears’ is the first “happy song” that you’ve written. Do you tend to see the dark side of things? Which predominates – rainbows or tears? Or are we to make our minds up about that?
I was dealing with a lot of sadness during this album. But also love. Love, sadness and grief deepen you which I think is a good thing. Makes you feel everything. And I was thinking a lot about love and death and how life really is two-sided. How it´s tremendously sad. And perhaps needs to be. As well as the greatest high. And somehow I find it comforting to know that through the tears is how you´ll later see the rainbow.
I see beauty in the dark but I feel that you need a balance to endure. There has to be a light and a spark. I used to think happiness was shallow. But then I realised that´s a depressing view to have. So I started working on happiness. Sadness can sometimes feel like home and I think as a songwriter it´s important to write about things that make you a bit scared to share.
You are also a well-known professional dancer and choreographer and many of your videos, including the one of your take on Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’, feature dance routines. How important to you is dance in your work? When you are visualising a new song are you already thinking about how to incorporate dance interpretations? Will they feature increasingly in your live performances?
Usually, I get a visual idea after I´ve made the song. And the music always drives/directs the movement. And the visual idea usually comes from daydreaming. Suddenly the idea is there. So I can´t really force it either. And it decides if there´s movement or not. I love dancing and it´s so much fun to get people together and working on a piece but I feel you really have to use it right. Live right now I´m more drawn to the idea of being free in your body. To go up on stage, feel the music and vibe, let go and see what happens. For my next release, there´ll be more dancing in videos. We´ll see what happens on stage.
You rank cinema film scores among your influences. Do you have any ambitions to write one? If you did, what would be your preferred film genre?
Wow, have never thought about that! Drama would, of course, be my genre of choice. Something arty and weird for David Lynch would probably be a number one fantasy. Or a movie like the French masterpiece Amélie. I think the Drive soundtrack is really good. And Stranger Things. Makes you want to form an 80´s synthpop duo. But a movie with a lot of existential poetic thoughts about life, love and death would probably suit me best.
You live and work in Gävle, a fairly obscure medium-sized town north of Stockholm rather than in that city, which is acknowledged as a world capital of music. On the other hand, Gävle has built a reputation as a formidable music hub in its own right. What are the advantages and disadvantages of your choice of location insofar as it impacts on your writing?
Advantages are that it is small… and big enough. I’ve got a lot of artistic friends who do all sorts of art and music that inspire and push me. I know a lot of people so if I want to do a project and need a crew, location, gear- people are pretty generous and want to join in. Also, I´ve been spoiled with working with Rasmus and Petter Diamant who have a big and amazing studio complex. And I’ve got TIME to be alone and work on my own. The disadvantage is that it´s easy to become comfortable. And with comfort, there´s fear of losing comfort. So I really try to push myself to try new territories and get out into the world as much as I can. I don´t want to own too much stuff. Not to be dependent.
Also, there´s maybe more pressure being pushed into ”normal”. Buying a house, having kids…but I don´t mind being different, resisting conforming. I had a ”different” family growing up so weird is my normal.
You have collaborated with several of your peers, including mixers and producers Mintelligence, and more recently electronic experimentalist David Lehnberg, one of many to be based in Gävle. You are also the singer for the indietronic band Baron Bane, which you mentioned earlier. How will you reconcile these collaborations with your solo work in the future? If the opportunity arose to work with a globally famous artist who is not Swedish who would it be?
I think it´s great working with other people if it´s the right time and there´s a good vibe. Especially if it brings out other sides of your artistry. Everything we do and consume, think, forms us and we are ever-changing. Trying new things is good for the art I think.
If I could choose I´d like to work with the producers behind global artists. But I´m a big fan of Daniel Adams Ray, Florence and The Machine, Pharrell Williams, Woodkid, Röyksopp, Nine Inch Nails, Lana Del Rey, Agnes Obel, Lykke Li…
Is there any likelihood of you performing in the UK soon?
There are no confirmed plans right now. I’ve got yet another album coming later this year. So I´ll keep busy. And there´s so much music I want to do. But let´s hope so for the near future! Would be fun!
Finally, in your opinion who else should we be watching out for now on the Swedish indie scene?
Another great band from Gävle called Manno. Melancholic, epic indie-pop/soul.
Ida Long’s ‘Rainbows and Tears’ was released on 01-Jan-2017 in the UK on the Comedia label.