Artist Blog: Kristian Anttila - My Stay at The House of Songs / Austin / 2019
The following is an excerpt from our Fall 2019 Austin Artist in Residence, Kristian Anttila:
Recent years we have seen Kristian Anttila explore the extremes of geography. With a strong will to come closer to his audience he visits small Swedish cities above the polarcircle as often as he plays Stockholm and Gothenburg. He can be heard in small clubs in Hong Kong, Brazil and China where you’d last expect to see him. The concept is simple – a guitar, a voice and a collection of contemporary Swedish pop-classics. The stripped concerts show a new side of Anttila. More free and storytelling.
Winter 2016 Kristian released his seventh album “Rum 4 Avd. 81” that soon became hos most critically acclaimed and considered his best so far. The tour for the album has now reached over 300 shows and he was soon after chosen to compose for Volvo’s worldwide commercial and got the Ingmar Bergman-prize in 2018.
“After ten songs Anttila thought it was time to finish, but the audience didn’t agree. He was called back up on stage by an almost crazy crowd.” (Östersunds-Posten) 5/5
“The Master of dynamics!” (Corren) 5/5
Kristian Anttila made his debut in 2003 and has since released 7 albums through Universal Music as well as his own record label. He has had twenty singles on rotation on national radio (Sveriges Radio) and made over 800 gigs spread all over the world as well as collaborated with national heroes such as Sylvia Vrethammar, Olle Ljungström and El Perro Del Mar.
Hi there Konstnärsnämnden and The House of Songs! First off, I would like to send you both a warm and grateful big Thank You! This possibility and trip has been one of the most important of my life. Both musically and personally. CREATIVITY I went to Austin with the plan of finishing some songs I’ve had at home for a while, but with the hope to find new inspiration and write new material as well. Brought my old material not to feel any pressure coming up with new stuff. But I would never had expected the creativity flow that came; I can count to 27 songprojects on my laptop from this period. I tried the idea to write one song a day which is basically how it turned out. I actually developed a new method of writing music during this residency. I woke up, made a cup of coffee and then went back to bed, closed my eyes, and pressed ”play” on an internal jukebox I discovered I had. I just fantasized music, with no instrument present. There’s always something going on in my head. I can always transform my current mood to melodies and rhythm. If that particular beat or melody didn’t get me going I just moved on to the next track on the jukebox. Pressed forward. All intuitively. When I heard something that got be going I stayed there and started develop the song. First when the basics were clear in my head I sat down at the piano or with the guitar to find the melodies, and start programming the rhythms on my laptop. Writing this way doesn’t limit you to your old habits and chords on my guitar, which is the instrument I’ve usually used to write. I was amazed to discover there’s always music in my head. If I keep my mind clear, my schedule loose, I can find this space and jukebox every day. This new method made me so much more flexible and loose in the way I wrote. I ended up writing songs similar to Finnish tango, I wrote songs in waltz tempo which I’ve never done before. I did punk. I did modern pop. I did a music style called “Lonesome West” I discovered in Austin. I just did. Every day. I was released from writing for my limited artist identity. I just wrote because it was fun, magical and free. The trip was a fantastic reminder that you are a creative person your whole life. I haven’t really written any music the last years, due to what I thought was lack of inspiration. It wasn’t because of inspiration. I was due to the fact that I didn’t prioritize creativity. I have never given myself this opportunity before to fully focus on writing for a whole month. Neither financially or mentally. But now I know the worth of it. And I will start to prioritize differently in the future. I’ve understood what is important for me as a person, and what’s worth spending on. At the moment I’m not sure where all the songs will end up, it will need a lot of work and editing, but they will always be there when the time is right. Probably around 5-10 will be contestants in the process of making my next soloalbum. For other people visiting the House of Songs I would recommend the Austin Public Library. I stayed there a lot reading and writing. Lovely building. The staff were helpful to me get a library card so I could bring books home. You just have to prove your stay in Austin is at least 30days. Very helpful and knowledgeable librarians will help you find what books you’re looking for. THE HOUSE OF SONGS The stay at the House of Songs has all in all been a great experience. The house is located in a lovely quiet neighborhood, close to the highway. It’s situated a bit from downtown but with a bike you’re there in 15 minutes. The house was equipped with two pianos, a few guitars, amplifiers, a MIDI-keyboard and some basic recording equipment, microphones and a soundcard. All you need for making advanced demos on your laptop. You have a big kitchen and you can do your laundry in the house. All you need. Our host Samantha was very helpful on a daily basis, answering our questions and helped us with the practical issues that came up. She was also very friendly and invited us to social get-togethers to meet new people. I also shared the house with my Swedish fellow musician Frida Selander whom I knew briefly from touring in Sweden. I would say it worked well although we both were quite worried before having to live together. We had lovely late night discussions about life in general besides discussing music, and it was nice to have someone to share your experience with. We shared ideas about music, about writing, about how to take care of your voice, we shared books and tips of what to do and what to see. Thanks Frida! LIVE MUSIC SCENE The live music scene in Austin is something I’ve never seen or experienced before in my life. Especially compared to cities similar it’s size. Austin, ”The live music capital of the world”, I would have to agree. Every single day there was a vast number of venues arranging shows, with several artists on stage. There was always something to go listen to. Every day. Quite often with free entrance as well, or with free donations. From big names to the recently formed underground artists. Mainly guitar based music but still a great variety. Often this was a way of getting new ideas, both performance-wise, and musically, going to a show, get an idea, hop on my bike back home to make a demo of it. I got to know several artists and bands during my stay which I keep in touch with, with an ambition to go back to America, and hopefully do a çrosscountry-tour which has become a dream of mine. Perhaps some co-labs as well. Maybe start a new band, who knows? Everything feels possible and inviting in Austin. PERSONALLY One of the great unexpected experiences I would have to say is the people I met. The social culture in the US. I was amazed by how friendly, open and helpful people are. It’s totally ok to approach a stranger and start a conversation, exchange few phrases. I was a bit surprised in the beginning coming from Sweden, but bit by bit I did not just adapt to that social behaviour, I also started to see and feel how natural and wonderful it is. We are social creatures. It helped me a lot to ask for help when I needed it, approach people who were musicians or just talk to people who made me curious in general. After the residency I took the opportunity to do a roadtrip of the Southwest which has been a dream of mine for a long time. Visiting several National Park which was an amazing experience. Such raw, spectacular landscapes which also was an inspiration and continued my creative process in Austin, but in a more spiritual and lyrical manner.
... Wish you all a Happy New Year! All the best /Kristian