While the human race will share in having pandemic experiences on which to reflect when this moment in history finally passes, there remain plenty of individual perspectives and understandings between people – especially people residing in countries different from one another. Such is the case when connecting with Ane Brun, a prolific Norwegian musician and songwriter currently making her artistic mark on the world from Stockholm, Sweden, a nation with a vastly different cultural life and daily rhythm than that of the U.S.
Brun’s latest projects, After the Great Storm and How Beauty Holds The Hand of Sorrow – a set of records initially meant as a double album, subsequently split into unique releases – touch on an assortment of emotive topics that Brun concludes are “about being human.” The latter, which was just released at the end of last month, exudes a contemplative vibe like its October predecessor. However, musically, Brun grouped together songs that encourage deliberation: deliberate thought, deliberate listening and, perhaps most importantly, deliberate processing of the many emotions that have come to the surface during this most trying year.
Driven by an ethereal sonic style and tempo more conducive to a ponderous experience, “How Beauty” continues Brun’s exploration of a challenging emotional palette by way of a comforting voice and supportive soundscape. Today, American Songwriter is excited to premiere the music video for the single “Crumbs,” a more energetic but no less seriously minded track from How Beauty Holds The Hand of Sorrow. Stian Andersen, who directed the video and who has worked with Brun once before, came onto the project with fast enthusiasm after hearing the song.
“I immediately felt connected to the track,” Andersen says. “The melody has an epic cinematic quality to it and the lyrics are both personal and strong. I am so proud of the amazing cast (Mariama Fatou, Slåttøy Oswald, and Amoa Eliiza Kuol), the cinematography, and also the costumes that plays a significant role in the video. Fun fact: the feathers in the pink dress in the video are from the movie “Blade Runner.”
Speaking on the phone from her residence in Norway, Brun spoke with American Songwriter ahead of today’s premiereabout how the events of this year impacted both her music making process and daily life, what thoughts and feelings steered her toward the decision of releasing two albums, the artistic vision behind the music video for “Crumbs,” and more.
American Songwriter: How did your routine change when pandemic hit Stockholm, and not just for you as a musician but as a person in general?
Ane Brun: So I was in Oslo and it just shut down. Even Norway shut the borders. So I kind of just stayed in Norway. And then time just passed by and I’ve been in Norway almost the whole year because of the quarantine and the travel restrictions. So, it’s been quite a big change in my life because I haven’t haven’t been a Norway’s for this long since I was in my 20s. So this has been – it’s been good – it’s been nice to kind of reconnect with my own country, and, and also kind of moved in with my boyfriend, which was not a plan.
And I think that what happened was that I was kind of finishing the production of what was supposed to be one album and we had recorded a lot of music. We were in the mixing process and there were like, a few songs I wasn’t completely happy with so. So I sat down, and also when everything just shut down, and I had lots of time to listen to (the recordings) and I made some really important decisions. I rearranged a few of the songs I had. So through a year, I’ve done a lot of work with content and videos, and we’ve released 12 singles, and I’ve just been trying to do the best I can out of a very strange situation. And somehow the work with the album’s and the songs have been silver lining of this is here. Anyway. So I’m very blessed that I had that to focus on.
AS: Can you speak a little more din-depth about some of the thoughts and realizations you had during the early stages of the pandemic, that led to you feeling like two records was a better choice than one?
AB: My plan was to make an album that sounds a lot like After the Great Storm, the (previous) record that came out. So I had a bunch of songs that were rearranged in that (kind of) bigger (and) bigger production that I actually just changed into intimate versions because, that was what they––those songs wanted that. And all of a sudden, I saw I had two different albums that had one intimate album and one more bigger production. So in that process where I had all this time during the lockdown, like I could kind of reorganize and decide that we’re releasing two albums.
This is something that I kind of realized, I think afterwards is that the songs that I stripped down, they wanted to be stripped down because of what they were, you know? They were kind of…I kind of see a pattern, when I look at the two albums, this second, the slow, there’s intimate elements or comforting elements. There’s a lot of comfort and kind of self-healing and that kind of thing. And it almost demands some kind of whispering mode. So I think that when I decided to strip these songs down, it was because they wanted to be a whisper and I hadn’t really thought about that before. So that’s it; it kind of ended up like that just because of their character, I think. And the other songs on After the (Great) Storm, I could, feel that their message came through in the big production but these other ones, maybe kind of lost their message in a bigger production (setting). So that’s why they had to be stripped down. And I feel it was kind of like, a bit like the same process I have when I do my covers. It’s like, ‘How can I present these lyrics and this melody in a way that and moves me in that way that I want the song to move me?
So I think I went very intuitively on that, listening to what the song wanted to be. And, going into this process of making a new album in 2020, I wanted to move forward from…I wasn’t planning to make a singer-songwriter album, like an acoustic, downplayed to kind of album. I was intending to make a big album because that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to challenge myself. But if the song doesn’t want that, you can’t force it. So that’s that’s how it ended up being like that. And I think maybe even being in the lockdown, being in that very like, silence and how the tempo just slowed down. Somehow, coming from a quite stressful commute between Oslo and Stockholm and working with the album, maybe I even got time to feel the songs in a better way. So it was clear to me what they should be.
AS: What prompted you to depict the visual narrative of “Crumbs” through a frame of implied adultery as opposed to perhaps just emotional unavailability, as the lyrics alone imply?
AB: I think that “Crumbs,” the song, is inspired by a triangle situation, like the one in the video. So it’s inspired by that but it’s about that feeling where you are in a relationship and you don’t get what you want, when you don’t get what you need, and you’re still staying there, you know? That’s, it’s an interesting human default for something that we do sometimes: that we stay in a relationship where the other person is not actually there. But you just stay and it’s like, you’re hungry, and you’re trying to, to get food all the time but, you never really get full.
I’ve been there myself and I have a lot of friends have been there. And this particular song was inspired by someone I was observing. And I also related to my own experiences. So when I talked to the director (Stian Andersen), because usually, my videos are very much a collab(oration) with a visual artist, where I kind of give them a song and (ask) them, ‘What do you want to do with this?’ (and) let them kind of think first. And both me and the director wanted to tell the story about this kind of situation because it’s really normal. There’s so many people (who) end up in these stories and we can get stuck for quite a while. And it kind of eats up your life in a way. And I feel that, many times when you when you keep – when you stay on and in a relationship like this – you can actually end up being quite, what would I say? You kind of you lose self esteem. You lose self worth because you kind of let yourself be in a situation. It’s like, nobody’s forcing you but, you’re kind of staying in there. So I wanted somehow to just kind of illustrate something that I think a lot of people have been through. And this kind of triangle is a type of relationship where you where you don’t get fulfilled, you know?
And it could have been just two people (in the video) as well. We could just show maybe, the protagonists like the other woman, what you would call it, and the man. And that maybe would be enough. But it’s hard with the context. And so it was just (that) we had a vision to show that, the other woman situation, where you really have…it’s a very… what would you call it? We are very poor in love in that situation. You want people to tell you, you know? That’s what the song is for. It’s like, ‘Okay, okay, I’m going to tell you – this is the harsh truth. This is where you are in this situation and you’re not going to get more, you know?’ And so the song was kind of like that talk you want to do. Take, you know, your friend, call him up and say, ‘Hey, this is not good.’ Because I myself had experienced it, that I would’ve want(ed) people to just kind of slap me in the face like, ‘Hello, it’s not good for you.’
AS: The visual direction of the song, with its dim lighting and actors’ brooding expressions, fits the cloudy, uncertain implications of the song quite well. What led you to choosing the specific colors, actions, and images – the disco ball fencers for example – that you used for the video’s supposed intermittent moments of clarity and-or redemption?
AB: The imagery is definitely the director’s imagery, but it’s, I think we wanted it to be a bit poetic, you know? Like, we didn’t want it to be completely straightforward. So his vision of the fencing scene is, of course, I think that when you’re in a situation like that – you’re the the woman or the person outside of the kind of established life – you tend to feel like you’re competing with the other life and you tend to feel that you are worth less or whatever and you’re romanticizing what you have. And there’s a lot of like, projections going on.
So, I think the poetic part of the video is kind of in the protagonist head, you know, what what she’s experiencing and so those scenes, I think even the whole video is a bit like it’s in her mind. What I mean, what she sees in her mind (of) the different lives that she’s just not a part of, and what she is a part of. I’m not talking for Stian, the director, but we talked so much about this, I think I can talk (about it). So all the scenes and all the ideas of how things, how they should look, is Stian’s work. I’ve been talking to him a lot about concept and what story line is going to be. But all the visuals and all the ideas are his work. So I can only speak to what we’ve talked about. I think that those images (of the fencers in the video, of the flowing pink dress at the end for example), it’s the poetry of the film. It’s like, trying to show how (the protagonist) feels.
QUESTION: Who is most meant to learn something or in need of personal growth from the narrative built into “Crumbs”? The person about whom you’re singing or the man who is “suffering”?
AB: This (song) is mostly for the person (who) doesn’t get full. And it’s mostly for the, in this case, the woman that’s outside, like, on the outside. But I think also that it can be, I’ve talked to other people who have related to it in different ways. (T)hey recognize other roles in this in this situation, too. It’s a lot of people I know, even men who have felt that they relate to (the song) in the sense that the other person is emotionally unavailable. So they can kind of relate to it even though it’s not about a woman or a man. It’s just relatable (through) the feeling of never being full, you know, with someone.
(W)hen I write songs, I usually try to write them in (a way) so that they have this effect on people that you put in what you need to hear, right? I try to not write songs that are completely specific. I think that’s what art is about; it’s supposed to give you something, it’s supposed to make you round your own stock into it so you wake up, and you kind of get new thoughts and new perspectives of your own life. And so, making the video makes everything very specific but, I hope that people still have their own their own experience of the lyrics and can take in whatever they need from it.