“Peaks” Performance: Swedish Singer/Songwriter Sofia Talvik, August 3 at Cool Beanz Coffeehouse Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 06:00
Sofia Talvik, photo by Kirk StaufferIf you’re a fellow fan of Twin Peaks – David Lynch’s 1990-91 cult favorite in which Special Agent Dale Cooper investigated the murder of high-schooler Laura Palmer – you can listen to folk singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik’s latest CD thinking that the Swedish musician sounds, sometimes uncannily, like that TV series’ resident chanteuse, Julee Cruise. With her light, airy soprano and haunting, faraway melancholy, it’s easy to imagine Talvik herself hypnotizing crowds in a small-town biker bar, right before vanishing into the ether and being replaced by a cryptic bald giant. (It was that kind of show, bless its demented heart.)

But if Talvik’s vocals weren’t enough to put you in a Twin Peaks frame of mind, you can’t help but be in one when you learn that her new album is titled The Owls Are Not What They Seem, which, as any of the show’s admirers will tell you, is less a famous phrase from that program than its mantra.

So just how big of a Twin Peaks zealot is Talvik?

“Let me put it like this,” says the 33-year-old during our recent phone interview. “When I was a teenager, the first poster of a guy that I had on my bedroom wall was Agent Cooper.”

In an August 3 set at Rock Island’s Cool Beanz Coffeehouse – an area performance happening in conjunction with her Daytrotter.com recording session – Talvik will treat her audience to numerous songs from The Owls Are Not What They Seem, an album praised by MusicalDiscoveries.com for its artist’s “crystalline vocals and lovely backing harmonies” and “powerful acoustic-guitar-based arrangements.” If any of her listeners are also Twin Peaks fans, they’ll quickly realize that her CD’s title isn’t just a blithe nod to David Lynch’s creation.

“I first had the idea for the album cover,” Talvik says, “which has me wearing, like, an owl mask. But when I was producing the songs, I felt like they could almost fit into the TV show somehow. Even though they’re love songs, they have a little bit of a mystic dark side to them. It’s a little bit like the role that the owls play in the series – you don’t know if they’re bad or they’re good – and so I kind of felt like there was a connection there. Plus, it’s just such a great expression: The owls are not what they seem. It’s really beautiful.”

Sofia Talvik, photo by Gustaf WaesterbergRanging from the soothing catchiness of “Delusional” to the low-key yet up-tempo “7 Miles Wide” to the wistful seascape dreaminess of “Bitter Sweet Bliss” (a song that I picture Twin Peaks Audrey Horne swooning to, alone, in the Double R Diner), the album’s excellent tracks suggest why Talvik was, in 2008, the first Swedish female soloist to play the Lollapalooza festival. They also suggest why Talvik says, with a good-natured laugh, “I’m very much an original artist.”

Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the child of two visual-artist parents, Talvik says of her beginnings in music, “I played the piano since I was a kid, but when I turned 18, I just felt like I needed a change of interest. So I got a guitar, and I started writing songs just to learn how to play the guitar.” From the start, she says, “covers were not my thing, but I wanted something to sing and play, and it turned out I had a lot of stuff to write about. When I was younger, I could write several songs a day.”

In 2001, Talvik sent one of those songs, titled “Ghosts,” to a local radio show. “And they actually picked it up,” she says. “It actually went straight to the top of the show’s [request] list, and people started e-mailing me about it, and it was an eye-opener. I was like, ‘Really? People want to hear my music?’”

She laughs and adds, “I never wanted to be, like, a pop star, and never had any thoughts about becoming a musician or an artist or anything like that, so it was all kind of a surprise to me.”

After the success of “Ghosts,” says Talvik, “I just started putting my songs online. I had a little Web site and I put them online for download, and then started playing whatever venues I could.” Her public performances, in turn, led to the release of the first of Talvik’s five albums to date: 2005’s Blue Moon.

“I had played live for a few years,” she says, “and I really wanted to capture what I sounded like live. So me and my backing band just went into the studio and basically did one take of the songs, recording all the instruments at once. It was a very hectic process. I think we finished the whole album in 40 hours or something. One week.

Sofia Talvik, photo by Gustaf Waesterberg“And actually, for The Owls, I did almost the same thing,” Talvik continues. “I wanted to go back to that organic feel that you get when you play live. So all of the songs – the vocals and the main instruments like the guitar and the piano – were recorded, like, one-take-live in my bedroom, and I just added other instruments afterwards, like the flute and cello and stuff like that.”

Unlike Blue Moon, however, Talvik’s latest CD, and the three that came before it, were released under the artist’s own label, Makai Music, which she formed with her husband in 2006. “After my first album,” she says with a laugh, “I just felt, ‘Hey! I can do this by myself!’ I had so many ideas and there was so much I wanted to do, and even though it’s a lot of work, the best thing about it is I get to decide everything for myself, you know? No one can say to me, ‘Well, let’s wait a couple months to do that’ or ‘You should probably rework this song’ or whatever. I just do whatever I feel like doing.”

And what Talvik felt like doing last year was embarking on a tour of the United States, which the musician began in December, and which now finds her booked in the Quad Cities prior to upcoming stops in Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah – all before Labor Day.

“We’ve been on the road for seven months and have done over 100 shows so far,” says Talvik, “and we’re gonna play our way to California. So the plan is to tour for two years. Or, at least, until I or the RV breaks down.”

 

Sofia Talvik performs at Cool Beanz Coffeehouse (1325 30th Street, Rock Island) at 7 p.m. on August 3, and more information on the singer-songwriter is available at SofiaTalvik.com.


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