After 10 million albums sold and 20 years on stage with the Cardigans, Swedish-born Nina Persson is celebrating the release of her first ever solo album, Animal Heart, with a gig at Mercury Lounge this Wednesday. We visited Persson in her Harlem brownstone and spoke to her about collaborating with husband Nathan Larson, being compared to Stevie Nicks, and the art of going solo.
It feels great. Not too different, really. I’m still surrounded by other musicians, I practice with my band and it’s really not that big of a deal. Had it been just me alone with a guitar or a piano on stage I might have felt different.
It’s great, it’s fun. I’m used to it by now. I’m kind of addicted to it, in a way. Nathan is very driven — he makes things happen and gives me a kick in the butt whenever I need it. He’s also more fearless than I am.
Yes, and we’ve always worked together. We actually met through work and that is probably one of the reasons we fell in love in the first place, the way we work well together. We worked and toured together with A Camp as well. But this time I’m going on tour alone and this whole thing becomes more mine.
Yes, but I wouldn’t say everything about was shitty, though — when you go through certain things it opens your eyes as regards to what’s important in life. I can’t say that I was miserable, but there was some resistance for sure.
I think I’ve led a pretty easy life in many ways and getting cancer made me realize that life’s not always going to be that easy. But it would’ve been way worse if I had, for instance, lost a loved one. That would have been truly sad.
It’s a pain in the ass to be sick, but that’s a whole other thing… It was very sad when we risked not being able to have a child. That’s sad to me. Everything ended well, but I still think about how I’d feel today had things turned out differently.
It is hard for sure, but I said from the get-go that I’d make this album first and decide whether or not I will tour later. This is actually the first time ever that I’m entitled to make certain demands. Earlier I’ve just had to accept that one becomes a serf after releasing an album, but this time around it’s all up to me. I make the rules and I’ve decided to tour, but never longer than three weeks at a time.
I do! I have already been touring a couple of weeks before. It does put more strain on Nathan since he’s staying at home alone with a wild three-year old, but there’s more pros than cons. Nils was becoming a mommy’s boy in a kind of annoying way, but that has changed. Nils and Nathan are super tight these days and they sometimes tell me to eff off, which is a relief, really. We’ve gotten more gender equal after I started to work again.
I’m sure that there might be certain expectations from Cardigans and A Camp fans… When it comes to the Cardigans, Peter (Svensson) wrote our songs and he’s more of a classically schooled songwriter and very unique in his songwriting, whereas I’m writing songs from a singer’s perspective. I want my melodies and harmonies.
On the surface it might seem pretty similar to my previous work, but I got to be all inside my own head this time around. Only I need to know what I’m singing about and it also feels nice to represent myself and not the Cardigans. I guess that’s why it was so easy to write the songs. I was totally fearless and whatever idea I initially had got to stay on the album. I can’t wrestle down my own ideas. This one’s all me.
I was at home a lot with Nils and I didn’t write any songs for quite some time. My creative process is not the kind where I write music all the time so in the beginning I was a little bit concerned that I might not find my way back to writing. But as soon as we got started, everything happened super fast. I was a bit hesitant about what I wanted to write about, especially since I refuse to sing about having kids — I think that would’ve been a bit weird.
I don’t know. Having Nils opened my eyes for Sweden again. It’s a good country to live and raise kids. When I think about the fact that we’re all going to die at some point and when picturing myself as an old lady I can’t see myself living here. And a move to Sweden wouldn’t be drastic in any way, especially since we still have an apartment in Malmö.
I don’t know. Maybe that people like listening to it. I got a super ego-boosting comment the other day when someone said that Animal Heart is like a new Stevie Nicks album. It was fantastic! Luckily I don’t feel the need to be best at what I do. I’ve never carried that kind of stress on my shoulders. I just want to move forward, not necessarily upwards, but definitely forward.