May 24, 2024

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Interview with Erik Soderlind: The influences come from all directions: new jazz, old jazz and lots of other stuff as well: Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Erik Söderlind. An interview by email in writing. – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Erik Soderlind: – I grew up in Linköping, which by Swedish measures is a rather large and ancient town, today mostly known for its university and aerospace industries.

My own interest in music aroused from the kind of the music my parents were playing at home when I was a kid. I soon discovered my own favorites in their record collection, the artists had names like Wes Montgomery and Tal Farlow.

JBN: – What got you interested in picking up the guitar? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the guitar?

ES: – My mother had a nylon-stringed guitar (great Swedish brand Bjärton) that I picked up at the age of six. No one taught me how to play, but I was quite eager to learn and soon picked out both chords and melodies by ear.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

ES: – In lack of better ways to describe it: my sound comes from my way of playing fingerstyle! I call it a hybrid technique, between the classic guitar, which I studied for several years, and my own kind of technique that enables me to easily switch over to playing single notes. I can sound a bit like a guitarist playing with a pick when I use my acrylic strengthen nails.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

ES: – I always try to improve my timing and technique. The metronome  has been one way for me to practice, but the best thing by far is of course to play with a good rhythm section.

JBN: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

ES: – I have a penchant for harmonies, and I guess I’m a bit of a romantic in that sense. But at the same time I also like more harsh music, and I really love how Monk created his harmonies by ”breaking” the rules and turning wrong into right. After all these years he is still incredibly hip and modern!

My own songs are often based around a simple twist of harmony, with a strong focus on the melody. My most well known tune is a ballad called Grandmother’s Dream, it’s based around a harmony in a minor key with a melody that a lot of people say reminds them of folk music. One of Sweden’s most famous singers – Lisa Nilsson – wrote some lyrics and we recorded a new version together.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

ES: – My influences come from all directions: new jazz, old jazz and lots of other stuff as well. A couple of years ago I spent some time in Brazil and was really intrigued by meeting and playing with so many fantastic musicians over there. It really recharged my batteries, both musically and mentally.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

ES: – I would say the balance is 50/50 between my intellect and my subconscious!

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

ES: – You have to feel the atmosphere and what type of mood the audience is in. I don’t think it is wrong to play what the people want to hear. In fact, I think it’s fun to play requests.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

ES: – I have a lot of memories, but one special memory is a tour with the fabulous Frank Vignola some years ago. We had so many songs in our common archive and were able to pick new songs every night, and play them without notes and just letting the moment make the arrangements. The music was set free and felt new and … fresh.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

ES: – It would of course be great if we could see and hear more jazz on TV and radio. we need to change the attitude to jazz. It’s not an artform that belongs in ”The museum of music” or should be defined as a theoretical challenge that takes a Phd to understand. Just as the blues always seem be able to find a new audience, so should jazz.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

ES: – Playing music makes you happy, it has healing powers and lifts your soul. And when you feel tired and worn out, a fun gig will put you in a good mood again. That’s why keep on playing music …

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

ES: – Oh, it’s such a big question! But I’m pretty convinced that the world would be a better place if more people had the opportunity to play an instrument.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

ES: – I listen quite a lot to jazz and classic on Swedish NPR where I both discover new music and can hang on to the old idols like Grant Green, Charlie Parker and Wes. The list goes on …

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

ES: – The audience should feel what I feel: music without soul and groove is meaningless.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

ES: – I would like to do exactly what I’m doing now! The whole thing about music is to keep on developing yourself and your sound and meeting new musicians, and never get stuck or get too comfortable …

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

ES: – Someone who knows a good manager, ha ha?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. You know … Ha, ha 🙂

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

ES: – It’s a process! You must constantly be in a creative mood, no matter if it has to do with playing, fixing gigs or promoting yourself. It can be a bit frustrating at times, for sure. But it’s necessary to make it work. Everyday!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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