Sofia Talvik crosses the Atlantic with her guitar in hand

Sofia Talvik crosses the Atlantic with her guitar in hand
On the eve what she hopes will be a breakthrough US tour, Swedish singer and songwriter Sofia Talvik tells Majsan Boström how the internet helped launch her career and land her a spot at one of the world’s biggest music festivals.

With just a couple of days left to get organized before heading to the US for a jam-packed 10-day tour, Swedish singer-song writer Sofia Talvik remains calm, cool, and collected.

“I’ve played a lot in Sweden so it’s going to be great to meet my American fans,” she says after wrapping up a last practice with her band, The Tallboys.

“This is huge for me.”

And huge is about the only way to describe the main gig on Talvik’s US itinerary: the Lollapalooza 2008 music festival in Chicago, which routinely draws more than 50,000 fans a day.

Only two other Swedish acts have performed at the “Lolla”– indie groups I’m from Barcelona and Peter Bjorn and John.

So how exactly did this unassuming songwriter from the outskirts of Sweden’s second-city of Gothenburg become the first female Swedish artist to take the stage at one of the world’s biggest musical festivals?

Talvik started writing songs shortly after receiving a red Marina guitar for her 18th birthday, but wasn’t yet set on seeking a life in show business.

“I had played the piano before that and wanted to try something new, so I started writing songs to learn how to play,” says the now 29-year-old singer.

But after one of her demos ended up on the radio in 2001, Talvik’s emerging fan base took to their computers, causing Talvik to take the prospect of a career in music more seriously.

“I started getting emails from people who wanted to hear more,” she explains.

“That’s when I realized I had something going for me.”

She then set out to give her internet-based fans a taste of the real thing, scheduling her first live performance at a venue in Stockholm.

Within a few months, Talvik’s meteoric rise on the Swedish music scene was capped off by a performance at Hultsfred – Sweden’s equivalent to Lollapollooza – and the country’s biggest music festival.

“I was really nervous,” she says.

But Talvik took it all in stride, next heading to the studio to record her first album, Blue Moon, which was released in 2005.

A second album, Street of Dreams, came out in 2007.

Talvik describes her style as a mix of folk and pop music, with lyrics that touch on feelings and observations from everyday life.

Her angelic voice travels well with the mix of crisp Nordic and soft electronic tunes. And the melodies, mostly carried out by Talvik’s acoustic guitar, are backed up by cellos, double bass and soft percussion.

Her current project, Jonestown, has more of a pop-feel and is much more upbeat than the earlier two, explains Talvik.

“I like the mix of the two genres and I also hope I can incorporate some kind of Scandinavian sound,” she adds.

Jonestown is set to be released on August 27th, coming shortly after her US tour and the Lollapalooza appearance.

Talvik explains that her upcoming appearance at the popular US music festival also came about in part because of the internet.

But instead of emails from Swedish fans, this time it was an online talent competition organized last year by Famecast, a US-based website which allows fans to vote for their favourite emerging artists.

Talvik was among the acts which received the most online votes, resulting in an invitation to perform live in front of a panel of US judges at Famecast headquarters in Austin, Texas.

“I made it to the finals as the only European act, and after that the Lollapalooza [people] contacted Famecast and wanted to book me,” she says.

So how does it feel to be days away from sharing the stage with some of the biggest acts in the music business like Radiohead, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails and Gnarles Barkely?

“I’m excited for sure, but I don’t get nervous until it’s time to enter the stage,” she says, adding that she’s also looking forward to simply being a music fan at Lollapalooza.

“It’s going to be awesome to see Radiohead’s gig.”

Self-confident, but humble, Talvik says her dream is to open for artists like Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega or Tori Amos.

But for the time being, she isn’t planning on quitting her day job as a freelance art director at in the magazine industry.

“It’s nice because it’s a creative job and I can incorporate it in my music career by making all my own artwork,” she says.

And as she ties up loose ends before her departure for the US, Talvik is left with what is perhaps the most difficult decision of all.

“I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bring my darling red Marina guitar, or if I’m going to bring my vintage Guild guitar,” she says.

“Other than that I don’t think I’ll bring much, I’m usually a light packer.”

Majsan Boström is a Sweden-based journalist and freelance translator. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Raleigh News & Observer, various Swedish websites, and on National Public Radio.