Gimme Your Answers 2: An Interview w/ Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel
Imagine if the legendary director David Lynch (Twin Peaks) makes a killer remix of your song? Let’s take a moment for that to sink in.

Agnes Obel is still starstruck by that hypothetical coming true. “It’s still a surprise that David Lynch did a remix of my track”, gushed the Danish songstress, speaking about Lynch’s remix of ‘Fuel to the Fire’. The track is included in the deluxe version of her sophomore release Aventine. She recently wrapped up a North American tour, wowing crowds with quaintly brilliant songs and her ethereal voice.

AMBY had the pleasure of sitting down with the thoughtful and soft-spoken Obel during her Toronto stop. We talked about finding isolation on the road, early tour memories, and odds of an ABBA cover.

AMBY: You seem to be someone who works best alone. Are you able to find moments of isolation while on tour?

Agnes Obel: No [laughs]. Right now, we are only 6 people in the bus. Usually, it’s 11. With touring, you are never alone. This (interview) might be the quietest moment today. We are touring and it’s just … you are never alone. This is the most quiet moment I am getting today.

AMBY: Is that something you miss?

Agnes Obel: Well, you have it in those moments when you are performing. There are moments of intense concentration. Because you are so focused, you feel sort of alone in there, along with everybody else who is focused on you. But, otherwise, it can get annoying sometimes when you don’t get to do what you want. It’s always moving around, set up your gear, do soundcheck and so it goes.

AMBY: Your music is the type that gives you goosebumps. My friends can attest to that, and am sure so can your fans. Can you remember a moment when you felt like that on stage?

Agnes Obel: I have been on tour for 14 months, so it can be a bit blur sometimes. I am not sure though. There are so many things in our live set that are technically difficult. My focus is always there to make sure everything works. But, I remember one night in Tour (France), I suddenly forgot about it and just enjoyed the moment. Also, last time in Canada, we played Blacksheep Inn (Wakefield, QC), I thought to myself, “I am so focused on technicality, that I am not even sure I feel the music anymore”. So, right then, I decided to just enjoy the evening and do it for myself. Sometimes it does happen.

AMBY: It’s rare but glad it does happen. Now, when you were recording Aventine, you got hurt trying to move pianos. So, delegating things is one of your weaknesses then right?

Agnes Obel: “Laughs”. In live situation, I delegate a lot. When I am recording, I am not sure where I am going. I might suddenly change my mind. So, I can’t delegate if I don’t know it, and often I don’t know it. In the case of pianos, I just wanted to move it a little away. I didn’t think it was that heavy, and I had seen them moved around before. I thought I could do it. But, its an instrument that weighs several hundred kilos. I felt a little pain while moving it. And suddenly, I couldn’t sit straight. So, I was in bed for a week. Couldn’t walk and had to go a chiropractor, which was horrible.

AMBY: That is awful. Although, bedrest does mean catching up on your reading. No one would guess that English isn’t your first language, based on your great lyricism. Have you ever considered writing songs in Danish?

Agnes Obel: Recently, I thought about doing a Danish or Swedish cover just for fun. Musically, I connect more with Sweden than Denmark. For me, its way more musical the way they speak. I listen to a lot of Swedish music, and used to hearing Sweden. I mostly associate 80s pop with Danish music. That doesn’t trigger my imagination. I think maybe Swedish would be the way to go.

AMBY: So, like an ABBA cover then?

AMBY and Agnes Obel: [laughs]

AMBY: On your current tour, seems that you are playing venues that are more suited to the mood of your music. Do you have early tour memories when that wasn’t the case?

Agnes Obel: I don’t think its always the room. It’s the people. Sometimes, you walk into a perfect room full of people not with the right mindset. And it could be vice versa. And it is something that I have always battled with, either with management or my inner voice. Like, playing festivals at 9 or 10 in the morning or at night. That might not feel so logical, but you never know where people are open to new kinds of music.

AMBY: That’s a great way of looking at it. So, can you think of situations where you thought it would go horrible, and ended up being a pleasant surprise?

Agnes Obel: So many strange memories! One of the early ones, we opened for a band in the UK. We didn’t really cross musically at that time. We went into Newcastle, and there were big bald men in the crowd looking at us. It felt so odd and didn’t seem like a good gig. But, then experience has taught me not to go with preconceived notions. Even the drunkest person may want a different musical experience. People are more open that you think.

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Thank you Agnes Obel, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Nilabjo Banerjee |

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