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MUSIC

Southern Skyline shines in country spotlight

Swedish musicians have made their mark in just about every popular musical genre around the world - except country. Stockholm's Southern Skyline hopes to change that, writes Emy Gelb.

Southern Skyline shines in country spotlight
Southern Skyline

It is no secret that Sweden is the third-largest music exporter in the world after the US and UK, raking in $800 million in revenue in 2007.

Bands like ABBA and Ace of Base have come and gone, paving the way for fans across the world to become acquainted with the catchy sounds of bands such as Peter, Bjorn (without the umlaut) and John, The Hives and The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Electro, pop, punk, garage, folk, hip-hop, rap, heavy metal – Swedish musicians are at the forefront of the international music scene, in addition to local weaknesses for more distinctly Swedish genres such as dansband and raggare.

However, there is one genre that has not caught on quite yet, both with Swedish artists and listeners: country music. Southern Skyline, a Swedish country western band, is hoping to change that and are making good progress so far.

“Never before have I heard a Swedish band who manages to deliver the raw, naked and deserted feeling this kind of music demands, a craft few can master,” raved Kjell Wärneval, program director of the Scandinavian Country Music Festival.

The Stockholm-based band is surprisingly fresh, their sound, sunny, soulful and contemporary.

However, singer-guitarist Henric Hammarbäck, guitarist Jonas Öhlund, bassist Alexander Skylvik, keyboardist Björn Kanrell and drummer Johan Salomonsson continue to draw strong influences from honky-tonk legends such as Hank Williams, Gram Parsons and Willie Nelson.

All the same, their goal is not to replicate the classic country-western style, but to develop something unique, inspired by their own heartbreaks, dancehall dramas and whiskey-soaked nights.

“We’re trying to come up with a completely new sound,” explained Hammarbäck. “Country music will always be our thing. But our goal is to come up with a new, modern, popular sound. Not just for the country people, but for a global audience.”

International fame follows real talent. The band, which formed three years ago, has toured across the US, Canada and Europe and developed a loyal following among many loving and dedicated fans.

Perhaps said best by Karen Nash, an American alt-country singer, Southern Skyline is “the best old-school country I’ve heard for a long time.”

Hammarbäck told the Calgary Sun, where country is king and the last stop on their first-ever five-city western Canadian tour, earlier this month that he would eventually like to relocate to North America, where most of his musical idols come from. However, like many independent musicians, he’s stuck with a day job.

“We just need a hit song and then we’ll move, but we’re not there yet,” he told Sun.

The band have an upcoming album release early next year, with two MP3s from the record available for download online. They have also made a number of Sweden media appearances.

Southern Skyline will perform at Piteå Dansar och Ler next Thursday, followed by a concert on August 4th at Lomtjärnsparken in Älvsbyn in northern Sweden and the Hålogaland International Country Festival in Harstad in northern Norway on August 6th.

The Scandinavian Country Music Festival takes place from August 12th to 14th in Furuviksparken in Gävle on the east coast north of Stockholm and Uppsala with bands from the US and Sweden.

Emy Gelb

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MUSIC

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.

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