By MIKE CHAIKEN
Sofia Talvik is from Sweden. But the singer has seen large swathes of America from the ground up, traveling to and fro in an RV.
Her travels bring her to Bristol next when she performs April 11 at the Bristol Public Library.
“Meeting people is always the most interesting part (of traveling across the country in an RV),” said Sofia in an email interview while she was touring in Germany. “There is a lot of great nature to be experienced but the best thing is to get to know people and to hear their stories.”
“One interesting place that we ended up in was Slab City in California,” said Sofia. “I’m not sure how we heard about it, but it’s featured into the movie ‘Into the Wild,” which has an amazing soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.”
“Slab City is an old army base close to Salton Sea, with nothing but the concrete slabs remaining,” explained Sofia. “People go there with their RVs to boondock— camp without hook-ups. There are also a bunch of people who live there year round. They have some amazing art installations. One is called Salvation Mountain and it’s basically a mountain built and painted by this guy Leonard Knight, who lived there.”
“We went there for a day, and sitting in our RV we turned on the local pirate radio station, and suddenly they started playing this obscure Swedish singer/songwriter,” said Sofia, (meaning herself). “So I grabbed some of my CDs and headed over to the trailer where they broadcasted from to give them. Hopefully I will get the chance to play at their music venue ‘The Range,’ when I tour through California this fall.”
As for how the travels influenced her songwriting, Sofia said, “When I was younger and single, I had more heartbreak songs to write. Now I think my songs are more reflections, or experience based. You pick up inspiration where you can find it and you get a lot of impressions when you’re on the road.”
“Finding the time to write it down is the hard part, between driving, playing and booking shows,” said Sofia.
“My music has definitely taken on a more American tinge, but I hope I will always keep my Nordic heritage, shining through in the songs,” said Sofia.
When Americans think of Scandinavia, their thoughts often turn to pop music—thanks to ABBA. Heavy metal also may rise to their consciousness. But the Americana/ folk sounds of Sofia are atypical for American ears.
“Even though the more acoustic music in Sweden might not be as heavily exported doesn’t mean it’s not there,” said Sofia. “We have a strong traditional folk music tradition, as well as what we call ‘visa,’ which basically means ‘song’ and is more contemporary folk, usually sung in Swedish.”
“Then, of course,” Sofia explained, “we grow up with radio and TV playing artists from all over the world. For example, I listened a lot to Suzanne Vega when I was younger. After all my tours in the USA I guess my style has started to lean more towards Americana, and some of my favorite artists are Neko Case and Jason Isbell.”
“As an artist,” said Sofia, “you get inspired and influenced by your surroundings and having traveled through 45 states I’ve gotten to see a lot of the USA, and have heard my fair share of country radio,” said Sofia.
Folk music and the singer-songwriter style offers the opportunity for an artist to be honest with the listener.
“Lyrics have always been important for me whether the music style has been folk or rock,” said Sofia. “I like The Killers, because they also have great lyrics. The song doesn’t have to tell a story but I think it’s important that it speaks to you.”
“When you’re performing solo, as I mostly do, you also have to be personal between the songs,” said Sofia. “You have to connect with the audience, and I think being open and honest is the best way to do that. I might not tell you every little detail about my life, but I’m not afraid to share some of my hopes or fears.”
As for the artists she admires, Sofia said, “I’ve always been a big fan of Aimee Mann, because she’s so independent. She was amongst the first big artists to start her own label, taking control of her career. Now it’s not so unusual anymore, but 10 to 15 years ago that was very inspirational to me. Growing up I was a big fan of Janis Joplin. So, I guess, you can say I have some strong women as heroes.”
Playing in smaller venues like the library “comes down to connecting,” said Sofia. “In smaller venues, you can see your audience and you can tell if they’re into it or not.”
“I think smaller venues, concert series and house concerts are the new big thing for touring solo artists,” said Sofia. “It’s great because you know that people will come out, even if you might not yet have a big fan base in that city.
And when fans arrive to see Sofia Talvik perform, she said, “I hope they will cry a little and laugh a lot. I hope they leave feeling like they got to know me some through my songs. And if I get into the mood I might even sing them an old Swedish folk song or two as well.”
Sofia Talvik performs at the Bristol Public Library, 5 High St., Bristol on Tuesday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. The show is free but RSVP by going to: www.eventbrite.com/e/sofia-talvik-live-at-the-library-coffee-house-tickets-31646049185