Interview: Ane Brun

ane2013 marks the tenth year since Ane Brun first burst onto the folk scene with her debut album Spending Time with Morgan back in May 2003. Ten years later and the Norwegian singer-songwriter has already accumulated an extensive catalogue of songs and toured most of the world. However, she’s still found time to create and release her latest project Songs 2003 – 2013 that’s already sitting snugly at Number Two in the Norwegian album chart.

After recording eight albums, one of which was a collection of duets, Ane set about putting together a collection of her greatest hits from each album whilst still generously throwing in some memorable live performance tracks, striking covers and new material on the thirty-two track album.

The album itself is a nostalgic journey for long-time fans of Ane's work as she includes early hits such as "My Lover Will Go" from the first album and the upbeat "Song No. 6" from A Temporary Dive, the second album that propelled her music further out and grasped the attention of the rest of the world. Her more recent work is a fine example of her evolution as an artist from the bolder tracks off It All Starts with One to the punchier, re-recording of "This Voice" eight years after its original debut.

To celebrate the release of Songs 2003-2013, Ane talks to DrunkenWerewolf about her aims for this latest project, how she went about selecting these tracks and why she enjoys experimenting with covers almost as much as writing her own songs.

Hi Ane, could you tell me about how the idea for this project came about? Was this something you had wanted to do for a while?

I must admit I didn't really think I'd do a collection of songs but then coincidence made it natural. I had a break from touring and wondered how to mark the occasion of it being ten years ago from the first album. We started talking about it and all the albums and all of a sudden, it felt fun to do this. There are songs that were released more independently and we wanted to bring them all together and to celebrate the ten years.

 The album features 32 songs, new and old, upbeat and slow, live and recorded. How did you go about choosing tracks for this project? How difficult was this?

It was a bit tricky; I had to remind myself that the other songs weren't going to disappear just because they weren't on this album. It was hard as we decided to make this album for the fans so we included all their favourite songs from different countries because there are certain songs that are bigger or more special in some countries or on the internet. It was about connecting all the favourites.

So it was primarily your decision but you also wanted to included what the fans wanted to create a good mix.

Yes, and of course some of my favourites and bring those that I know people like from gigs and songs that have mysteriously gone big.

I noticed, and really enjoyed the fact you included many tracks and live performances from album four Changing of the Seasons, was this a conscious decision?

I think we just went through everything and decided what we wanted and it turned out like that. There's a lot of strong songs on Changing of the Seasons and for me it's good to get a lot of good songs on there.

Looking back at the tracks from your first album, you started this project with "Humming One Of Your Songs" was it strange looking back and seeing how you had developed as an artist over this time?

I felt happy listening to it, I don't really listen to my older stuff and when I started doing it I felt quite  happy and proud to hear that I still liked it. Also, realizing the things I wasn't sure about at the time still feels the same way but now I know what I wasn't sure about.

Now you have a new insight on the older tracks.

Yes, I didn't have experience back then and now I can pick out what was wrong or what I didn't like and all the things I did like. It's good to see whether my tuition has been right all along. And also realizing I have learnt a lot as a singer and a musician and the things that I thought were brave back then now feel very normal.

You've also chosen to include your older covers such as "True Colors" and the more recent "Feeling Good" and" Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)". Is there a particular way you go about selecting and putting your own style on covers as well known as these? Or is it more the enjoyment of experimenting and playing around with tracks?

It's a mix of requests and also songs I have found on my own. "Big in Japan" and "True Colors" were both requests for a certain project and the Arcade Fire song and "Feeling Good" are more of my own choice. The act of actually doing a cover for me is very creative and I love that challenge of picking out the melody and making something new, it's almost as creative as making my own songs as it uses the same kind of intuitive process.

You immerse yourself in your live performances and have included some of these on your album. Is this your favourite part of your profession, having that immediate connection with the audience to feed off and seeing them responding?

It is very important to me but also the songwriting of course is a very strong favourite. But I think the live performances, songwriting and also the studio sessions are amazing. The live audience is special because you get those moments of everyone there listening and singing at the same time so that can be very special to do too.

Is there a certain song you know will always excite a good response in your live shows?

Yes, there are a few actually. Usually when I play "Changing of the Seasons" and quite a few of my ballads are popular. A song called "To Let Myself Go" from A Temporary Dive, when I start playing the riff everyone joins in.

You've mentioned before how collaborating with others has been a hugely enjoyable experience for you. Is there any duet on this particular album that holds fond memories and you knew that you had to include it?

I think that the José González duet is really special to me because I really wanted to do something with him for years. He's like a friend and colleague of mine and we've kind of been working the same amount of time. We started out in 2003 and I was actually one of the extras in his first video "Crosses". We were releasing at the same time and when we recorded "Worship" and finished the foundation of it, we wanted to have someone to sing and when we figured out it was going to be him, we just thought it would be perfect.

It made it extra special for you.

Yes, it was very special and then of course the Peter Gabriel duet as I didn't really know if I could put it on the collection but I am really happy I could do that. And that's a big part of my career doing those shows with him and was a very positive part of my career too.

Is there anyone you would love to duet with?

Well those kind of things happen naturally and when the songs comes, the person normally comes too. It's a lot about chemistry as well and there are a lot of voices in the world that I would love to try and sing with but it has to be in the right way.

I noticed that during your time at University you floated from one subject to another before settling on music, has music always been a big influence growing up?

Yes it has, it's definitely been important to me since I was a little girl. My mum is a musician and a music teacher and we had music at home all the time. They were very liberal and also through my teens I was a dancer, I did ballet, and I got in touch with so much music as well.

As a singer and a songwriter, which do you normally find you write first the music or the lyrics? Does it depend if it is a lighter or darker song?

For me, it's usually more of a puzzle and I have maybe some sketches of some sentences or some poetry in my phone and then I might have a riff like half done, and then I start putting them together. The rhythm of the words and the riff all merge and create each other in a way, it's more of a joint process.

 Is there a particular song you remember being easy to write, or one you struggled with?

I remember working quite hard with the "Balloon Ranger" that took me two or three years and I went in and out of it, trying to figure out how to make it perfect. Let's see, so many songs! I remember when I wrote "Where Friend Rhymes with End" in just an afternoon. Sometimes things just come really fast.

Two of my favourite tracks for their lyrics are "The Puzzle" and "Rubber & Soul". What is the most important element in your lyric writing?

Those are good examples of how I write, it's like I'm trying to create a world of poetic images and trying to explain a feeling or a situation. It's like translating my emotions into something different, something else. I think that all makes it quite universal quite often and people can put their own meanings into it.

I think that's why such a range of people enjoy your music, everyone can take something completely different away from a track.

Yes, and I realize that when I read reviews which aren't always really what I was putting into it, but it doesn't matter, it's more important that someone takes something away from it.

I want to ask you about your new version of "This Voice" after its original release in 2005. Previously, it was quite a soft, haunting song but now you've mixed in the percussion and strong rhythm and added another dimension to it. What was your aim with this track?

We recorded it in the studio because now this is the way we have done it on tour in the last two years. It's been an audience favourite because it has such power and energy, people have asked for it and I wanted to do it in the studio. I remember the first time we were going to do it with drums and I had this old recording on YouTube of Anita O'Day the jazz singer where she is singing just the vocals with the drums. I played this to my drummer and said I want to do something like this and then we started there and then the constant developing with all the backing vocals, and then another drummer. It's kind of been an ongoing process, building and getting bigger and bigger. The wailing started as me almost trying to sing backward.

And the dramatic layering of the voice sounds like a beating heart in the background, it is very effective.

Thank you and I really think it fits the lyrics.

You start your tour of Europe this autumn, is there a particular country or gig you look forward to the most?

It's actually going pretty well in the whole of Europe and it's really fun to play everywhere. I've done a couple of really nice gigs in London in the last year and Dublin is fun. And Amsterdam as it's already sold out. I can't really pinpoint anywhere as I've also learnt after ten years you never know which gig will be fun and it depends on the atmosphere and the feeling of that night

Who are you currently listening to or excited about?

I'm actually listening to Laura Marling at the moment. I've heard her for years so I've been listening to her new album.

Finally, apart from music what do you do to unwind?

Hang out with my friends, I like going to the movies during the day. Nobody else is there!

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