Britta Persson: Sweden’s next global pop sensation?

Swedish singer-songwriter Britta Persson is hardly a newcomer, but following the success of her latest album, she may soon find her name added to the growing list of Swedish music exports, contributor Russell Parton explains.

Britta Persson: Sweden's next global pop sensation?

Despite its relatively small population, Sweden has long served as a breeding ground for new music that resonates beyond its borders. Over the past decade, the likes of the Cardigans, Peter Bjorn and John, and Robyn have enjoyed huge success worldwide, and the steady stream of quality acts from Sweden looking to gain recognition abroad shows little sign of letting up in 2011.

One name to look out for in the new year is that of Britta Persson. Uppsala-born and currently residing in Stockholm, the 29-year-old songwriter this autumn released her new album, Current Affair Medium Rare, to a rapturous reception from critics and fans.

And on Monday, she was nominated for a Swedish Grammis award in the category of Best Female Artist.

Persson has been plying her trade in Sweden since 2004, starting out as a solo artist selling her demo CD through her website. In an age where Myspace and MP3s have long been the norm for getting your music out there, it sounds prehistoric that Persson actually burned the CDs, packaged them and sent them in the post – each with a handwritten set-list included.

Once word of mouth spread, she became a one woman production line – sending two thousand copies of the demo in total. That must have been a lot of trips to the post office.

“It was a period when I was in my own little bubble’, she told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper in a recent interview.

“I wouldn’t want to do it again, but in some ways it was quite nice. I think I was good at it.”

Britta’s big break came when she contacted singer-songwriter Kristofer Åström. Claiming that their “musical language and voices fit together”, Persson proposed a collaboration.

“He wrote ‘Prove it!’ and invited me to the studio where he was recording the album Loupita.”

The meet up proved a success, and Persson ended up singing on Åström’s album and even opening for him on tour. The former Fireside and Hidden Truck singer later produced Top Quality Bones and a Little Terrorist, Persson’s 2006 debut album. She describes it as a “pure homemade recording”, cut in Åström’s kitchen with “two microphones, a guitar and a computer.”

Four years later and Persson is now a seasoned pro – both in the studio and as a live performer. Together with what she calls her ‘genius band’, Persson has made album number three, Current Affair Medium Rare.

“The album sums up not many years of my life, but is an excerpt of what it is right now,” she writes on her blog.

“But I think you can chew on it for a long time. There are quite a few layers to the album and goodies to discover after the thirtieth listening too.”

On 2008’s Kill Hollywood Me, the album’s immediate predecessor, Persson was writing wryly humorous songs about the ups and downs of romance. While the new album’s no less witty, it’s more about human relationships in a general sense, focusing more on building expansive arrangements and creating experimental sounds than on summery pop melodies.

“Nowadays I find the production as important as the songs,” she tells The Local via email.

It’s certainly a million miles from the early days of recording her vocals through a lampshade.

“This time I‘ve had much higher ambitions,” she continues.

“I kept thinking that I was going to make the world’s best record and that there shouldn’t be a minute that is useless on this disc. These are ten very-good songs.”

November saw Persson tour throughout Sweden, and she’s due to play Stockholm’s Södra Teatern later this Thursday, December 16th. It’ll be her last gig of the year, and she is looking forward to it.

“It’s a whole new thing with this album and this band, much easier and more fun live,” she insists.

Of course, it’s full steam ahead for 2011, with Current Affair Medium Rare released in the rest of Europe early in the new year, after a trip in January to play at the Eurosonic festival in the Netherlands.

As for why Sweden bursts at the seams with great music, Persson proposes a couple of theories.

“I think one of the reasons is that we’re a bunch of spoiled kids!” she quips, before getting serious.

“It might be that we Swedes have developed some kind of collective self-confidence in pop music. If all your friends are making music, it’s not hard to think you can do it yourself.”

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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.