When the global recession cost Summer Masuda – like so many others – her job in the United States in 2008, she never thought she would end up in Sweden seven years later.
But rather than being the end of her career, it was the beginning of a roller coaster ride of love, career opportunities, acting and music. Most of all music. And love. Maybe most of all love.
“I didn't feel at home in the US any more and thought to myself 'I'm almost 30, it's now or never' and so I moved to Australia. And would you believe I went all the way there only to end up dating a Swedish guy,” the 32-year-old Hawaiian tells The Local.
His name was Mats and he came from the small town of Motala in central Sweden. After years of a whirlwind long-distance romance – which included getting married and moving to Japan – they decided to relocate to Mats' hometown in order to be closer to family.
But despite the warm welcome the couple received from friends and Swedish relatives it was not an easy ride. Summer describes that feeling of being a fish out of water, which many of those living in a foreign country can relate to, when meeting the quiet Swedes in her partner's life.
“I remember only hearing my own voice and being the only one talking. I thought I was overwhelming people with my personality, wondering if I sounded fake to them. I started to question myself and I don't remember ever feeling like that before,” she says.
Summer Masuda, centre, and the band 'If I Ruled The World'. Photo: IIRTW
Today, living in Stockholm two-and-a-half years later, the Hawaii-born artist has fallen in love with her adopted country. But life has not slowed down – quite the opposite. She juggles her creative career as a musician and part-time actress with a day job as a pre-school teacher.
“Looking back, the consistent thing in my life has always been music, but I never thought it was going to be my career. I studied child development at university, so working with kids is what I'm trained for. Everything in my life is just layers of things I'm passionate about.”
Her most memorable project to date is the small part she landed on an episode of the second season of comedian Greg Poehler's US-Swedish sitcom 'Welcome to Sweden', which tells the story of an American love refugee following his partner to Stockholm.
“It's pretty much the story of my own life and I wanted to have this really meaningful conversation with Greg Poehler about it. He was so nice, but instead I just completely froze, my face turned red and I got completely starstruck,” laughs Summer.
However, at the moment her main focus is with the band 'If I Ruled The World' she plays in together with her husband Mats Lideborg, Kristoffer Asknes, Jonnie Andersson and Johan Edvardsson, who are set to release their pop-rock inspired debut album on October 10th. And once again for Summer, art mirrors reality.
“In our first year of marriage we were sitting in a tiny apartment in Japan and weren't sure if we had done the right thing. Mats wrote a song about it and that song is on the album. In a way it's the unofficial diary of my romance with him – all the ways we have tried to live this life with no money but a lot of love.”
Next up, the group will launch a two-week tour through Sweden and Norway. But Summer insists an artist's life is not as glamorous as it sounds. Her job at the pre-school, which she enjoys, remains necessary to bring in the money.
“We eat a lot of 'knäckebröd' [Swedish crisp bread], that's how we survive! Balancing an international life is tricky too, we go back to the US once a year to be with my family. But I would never complain. I find it so fortunate and interesting,” says Summer.
“I had to laugh when you asked me to be part of this feature, because you have so many driven foreign people who show up in Sweden with a career in mind. And me, I'm just this jack-of-all-trades, or jill-of-all-trades, drifting from one thing to the next,” she laughs, adding that once she becomes completely fluent in Swedish she may be more likely to adapt to a 9-5 job.
But for now, it is clear she is quite content to stay on her Swedish roller coaster ride.