Fanni Risberg – In transit on England’s south coast

Swedish singer-songwriter and actress Fanni Risberg takes time out from recording her debut album to talk to Peter Vinthagen Simpson about celebrity, female solidarity and the importance of making choices.

Fanni Risberg – In transit on England's south coast

“When I left Sweden I didn’t think I would do any more acting,” says Fanni Risberg, when The Local catches up with her in the old English coastal resort of Brighton, her home for the past four and a half years.

“But when the role of Lena in “Upp Till Kamp” (Join The Struggle) came up I jumped at it,” she says, referring to her role as the politically astute young singer in Peter Birro’s four-part Sveriges Television (SVT) series about youth, revolution and change in late 1960s Gothenburg.

This role was followed up with a part as Cecilia Blanka in the film adaption of Jan Guillou’s Arn trilogy, which has re-established her as a face in Swedish film. But despite the resumption of her acting career after a seven-year hiatus, Fanni’s main driving force remains her music. But, she explains, that doesn’t mean she is a reluctant actor.

“No. It is like asking someone to choose between their mum and dad. Music and acting are both a part of me, part of my upbringing and equally essential to what I am doing today.”

When asked whether she saw a mission in her music like her character Lena in “Upp Till Kamp”, Risberg thinks for a moment and replies:

“Yes, but not politically, different, more abstract.”

“I hope we are heading for a revolution, though,” she adds.

Risberg’s idea of revolution would see people taking back the power over their lives and making choices. It would also see the artist placed back in the centre. But despite the dominance of money in the music industry and the struggle to get one’s message across, she is very positive about music today.

“It is chaotic at the moment. It is a very interesting time.”

File-sharing, TV talent shows, community web-sites and the sheer volume of music and musicians “makes it harder to make money but it is positive for the music,” she explains.

“You have to be able to do more yourself – a record label won’t touch you if you haven’t already developed a fan-base,” she says, adding that there is a creative virtue in this struggle, as these days almost nobody just gets ‘discovered.’

Fanni Risberg is busy juggling the school holidays (she has a seven-year-old daughter) with work in the recording studio on her debut album that is scheduled for release in April 2009.

The material for the album has been honed with frequent live performances in the UK, and across Europe in support of the Swedish band Mando Diao in the autumn of 2007.

Risberg’s music is folksy, reflective and personal, and she hopes that it will raise questions and thoughts, and afford her audience the scope to decide its message for themselves. But what does she think of being categorized as a “female singer-songwriter”, and does she feels any solidarity for others in her genre, such as Gillian Welch or Ane Brun?

“I feel connected to them, but yes there is competition,” she says, admitting with apparently genuine modesty that they may not think of her in the same way.

Many doubted the wisdom of Risberg’s decision to flee Sweden for England’s south coast, and music school, just as her acting career was considered to be on the verge of a major breakthrough. But she felt that she had little choice.

“I was shocked. I had always wanted to act and became a professional actress at 17 years of age. But it was too easy – I thought it would be more of a struggle. It consumed me, and when so young you don’t have that grounding in life to handle it.”

When asked if she felt this time was any different, she replies: “I am less afraid of success,” adding however that she has no intention of jumping back on the oscillating hot-air balloon that is celebrity.

Risberg decided to leave her roots in Stockholm and head for Brighton on a journey to separate herself from the role that she felt had been assigned her, and to escape the expectations of her surroundings and her background (she is the daughter of actors Angelica Lundqvist and Kenneth Risberg). England, the English language and adopting it for her music made it possible for her to start again.

“It is all fresh. If I learn a new word I can take it and use it for what it is. English has given me the freedom to create my own language,” she says.

Having grasped those newfound freedoms she admits to feeling some resistance to moving back to Sweden despite Stockholm’s thriving music scene.

“If I did move to Sweden, it would be moving on, not moving back,” she says.

There is a fluency in how this reflective, pensive and yet engagingly charming thirty-something describes her life and surroundings and one gets the distinct feeling that Brighton is no end game for her. In fact she recoils at the idea of having goals and destinations.

For the time being however she is relishing the “new creative vibe around Brighton.” With a huge number of venues and musicians plying their trade, there is no shortage of work or inspiration. This suits her lust to experiment with different sounds and find her voice as her album takes shape.

What makes the town so special for this exiled Swede is that many people have made a conscious choice to live here, she says, to change and to take power over their lives.

“Our lives are in transit,” she says, and laughs when she reflects on the fact that we are sitting in a café in the offices of a travel agency.

“That’s why I like this place so much, everybody’s always coming or going.”


What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.