Sexton, who has played guitar with Dylan on and off for 15 years, stepped off a plane in chilly Luleå on Monday, along with fellow US artists and songwriters Lindsey Verril, Phoebe Hunt, and Michael Blair, who has worked with artists such as Tom Waits and Elvis Costello.
“The unique ice instruments can be compared to having an uninvited guest to a party,” said Blair.
“They liven things up and keep people on their toes. For this project it's the ice instruments themselves that we need to meet and get to know their special qualities better.”
Troy Campbell, Lindsey Verril, Charlie Sexton & Phoebe Hunt arrive in Luleå. Photo: Luleåfotograferna
The US musicians were joined by Anders Bo Eriksen of Denmark, along with local Luleå talents Olle Nyman and Rebecka Digervall as part of an ongoing collaboration between Luleå municipality and the city of Austin, Texas, known as the “live music capital of the world”.
Bringing the eclectic and talented group of musicians together to make music in the winter wonderland of Luleå is the first concrete expression of the Luleå-Austin partnership.
Appropriately called City of Songs, the project participants include Luleå's Ice Music and music incubator BD Pop, along with Austin-based House of Songs, a songwriting collaborative he founded by Austin-native Troy Campbell.
The US musicians barely had time to get a handle on the frozen landscape around Luleå before they hunkered down to get acquainted, not only with each other, but most importantly with the one-of-a-kind ice instruments they'll be playing.
“For us creating the music, the deal is to listen to the special sound of the ice instruments and adjust our music to that. And not the other way round,” Sexton explained.
Despite a storied musical career stretching back to the 1980s that has taken him around the world, Sexton was still taken aback by the majesty of Ice Music concert hall in Luleå's Gültzauudden Park.
IN PICTURES: Ice Music instruments and last year's igloo
“I'd only seen a few video clips of an Ice Music concert before entering the ice concert hall for the first time. And I only have one word for it. Magical,” he said.
Singer/songwriter Hunt, an Austin native, marveled at a plastic shield on the ice violin that would protect her breath from melting a hole in the instrument as she played.
“But I'm not going to worry about breaking it if I play as aggressively as I usually do,” she said.
The instrument that turned most heads, however, was an entirely new creation by Ice Music founder Tim Linhart he dubbed the Gravatone: a stringed instrument made largely of ice but which also boasts two tonnes of steel for added weight.
Anders Bo Eriksen inspects the Gravatone. Photo: Luleåfotograferna
“It's the strangest instrument I've ever seen,” said Eriksen.
And if learning to tune and play ice instruments in temperatures of -5C weren't enough, this newly-minted musical collective has also taken on the task of writing completely new music specifically tailored for instruments and a stage made of ice.
The new compositions will only be played at the weekend's two sold-out Ice Music concerts on Friday, February 27th and Saturday, February 28th. But music fans who can't make it what's sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime show need not despair: the entire project, including practice sessions and the performance, is being recorded for a documentary-style film that will be released later this year.
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Luleå municipality and Ice Music.