"These songs are a lot more like dreams to me than anything really conscious" - hmv.com talks to Leif Vollebekk
As he releases his new album Twin Solitude, we speak to singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk about making it and why his lyrics are a strange business...
How did you want Twin Solitude to move on from what you’ve done before?
"I think with Twin Solitude, I wanted to make a record where the songs were a bit closer to the bone, but the sound of the record itself was both dark and warm, almost lush."
You self-produced the record, how did you find that process? Are you good at giving yourself deadlines and structures to work within?
"This time around, I had a clear idea of the sound I was looking for and I feel like we were able to achieve it. This record sounds like the one that was in my mind beforehand. Before going into the studio that first week, my ethos was It's worth it if we get one song. Recording shouldn't be about deadlines, it should be about the music."
What was the song on the album that took the longest to get right?
"I would say both 'Elegy' and 'Into the Ether'. They were written very quickly and had very simple parts, but I must have recorded 4 or 5 versions of each. In the end, what they needed was to be completely stripped down, just piano and drums. Then I added some bass and some strings. But for a while I thought I'd have to let them go. But they were persistent."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Telluride' was written in some sort of meditative state. It came very easily and I didn't change a word. The first time I played it for anybody is the time you hear on the record. I never thought it was gonna make the album - it was such a simple song. But I kept coming back to it."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Does it have a common theme?
"I don't really know, to be honest. There are a lot of images. Lyrically, I used to see things from a distance, with everything happening within a vast landscape. Then I saw things a little closer, as taking place within cities. On Twin Solitude, I sort of did away with this notion of place. Sometimes you're on the street, but often you're in your mind, in your deepest memories. These songs are a lot more like dreams to me than anything really conscious."
What lyricists do you look to for inspiration? Are they the same ones you grew up listening to?
"I, of course, have loved Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen & Leonard Cohen. But I'm also enamoured with songs where the lyrics are a bit more balanced with the music - insofar as they don't completely take over the imagination when they pass by. For instance, Kate Bush or Brandon Flowers or Prince. Growing up, I never listened to lyrics - they just didn't interest me. That came much later."
When did you settle on the title of Twin Solitude? And why?
"There are a lot of reasons for the name and that's why it stuck. I don't like it when things are tied down to one meaning - I find it unnatural or confining. The title reminds me of listening to a record where the artist lays it all out for me. When it's over and the silence comes over the room, I feel completely alone, and yet, in total communion with them, like we're sharing the same solitude."
Were there any other titles in contention?
"Well, I've been meaning to have a record that's named after one of the songs on it. It might seem lazy, but I like how it seems to say nothing and yet so much. It puts more weight on the song that bears its name and allows all the other songs to say, Ah but don't forget about me. Then again, Nashville Skyline was almost called Peggy Day and I'm really glad it isn't."
What are your plans to take the record out live?
"The aim is to keep things stripped down like on the record. Sometimes acoustic guitars and pianos don't come across live like they do in the studio, and so things might be a little more electric, but in essence, the songs should retain their heart. I'll be playing a lot in North America and Europe, and of course the UK."