Monday, June 10, 2013

Kickstart the Week: An Interview With Folk Singer Sofia Talvik

Back in 2008 or so, when Amie Street was a thing, I tripped up on a new album by a folk singer called Sofia Talvik. It was a new release of an album, Jonestown, and I instantly fell in love with the whole thing, and quickly sought out her back catalog. I've kept up with all the new releases since then, and I'm generally impatient as a fan for new music to come about.

This past week, Talvik launched a Kickstarter to fund a live album and book chronicling her year-long-plus tour around the United States. Hailing from Sweden, Talvik and her husband packed up shop, purchased an RV in Florida, and toured incessantly, visiting 37 states and performing hundreds of shows over the tour. As someone who was kicking himself for missing the tour, that there's a live chronicle of some of the moments is great, and that there's a book that will forever immortalize the experience is icing on the cake.

Sofia Talvik was kind enough to give us some of her time this week to talk about being an independent touring musician, about her experiences with crowdfunding, about the Kickstarter campaign, and plenty of other stuff. You can find her website here, and all her music is available as digital albums for the time being for only $5 (I personally recommend Street of Dreams and Florida, but they're all excellent), and she has a remix album available for free). You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+...if there's a website you can be on, she's on it. Thanks to Sofia Talvik again for talking with us!

Jeff: So, just for those who may not be as familiar, can you introduce yourself, give us a quick breakdown of who you are and what you do?

Sofia Talvik: Hi everyone, I’m a Swedish singer/songwriter and DIY extremist! I have released 5 solo albums since 2005 and just moved to Berlin, Germany after finishing a gigantic US tour which lasted for 16 months, 250+ gigs and 37 states.

J: When it comes to music and Sweden (and perhaps most Scandinavian countries, for a United States audience, at least), we tend to think more of pop music (Abba or Ace of Base, The Cardigans or Roxette). What was it that drew you to folky Americana instead of going the more poppy/electronic route?

ST: I think it was just my nature, what I like to listen to and what I grew up listening to. It’s a genre that fits my voice and the way I want to experience and express music. I’ve never been a huge pop or electronica fan. I love experimenting with it, but I always fall back to my own style. I think it’s really hard to transcend to other genres once you’ve found your niche and you risk becoming fake. Folk/Americana is true to me which means I will be true and genuine to my audience.

J: You did your RV tour last year, and while I know you’ve had some solid receptions in the States in the past, how did this tour go over for you on a whole?

ST: It was totally amazing. When we first got over to the US we didn’t know if it was going to work financially, work-wise or anything. But it worked! We didn’t get rich doing it but the wealth we received was in experiences, new friends and fans. I think this was an adventure of a lifetime and I learned so much.

J: You spent a crazy amount of time here touring and playing - what would you say was your best experience (performance or otherwise) and worst (that doesn’t involve an RV breakdown)?

ST: It’s really hard to say which gig was the best, there were many things that were great and that made some gigs extra memorable. Sometimes we thought a gig would be crap and then something happened that made it totally awesome. I must say that one of the most heartfelt experiences was a last minute gig in Mechanicsburg, PA. We had another gig planned that fell through and I just sent out some emails to venues in the area 3 days before the open date. A small cafĂ©/bookshop in Mechanicsburg replied and wanted to book us. Since it was such short notice I was prepared that no one would show up, but Ryckitta, the owner, managed to get more or less the whole town out. I was really moved by that. It was a great experience.

One of the worst experiences was actually when I played at The Folk Alliance International Conference. Not because of FAI, because it was a lovely festival, but because all our mic cables broke at the same time, so when we were about to showcase we couldn’t get any sound. I felt so unprofessional and ashamed even though it was just bad luck. After that we made sure to always have extra cables with us.

J: Of all the independent musicians I keep up with, you’re really the most active one on Twitter, Facebook, etc. by a longshot. Is there a trick to it for you? Has it lead to opportunities and successes that you wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to?

ST: Well I must confess I have some help. I always write everything (all the content, tweets and so forth) myself, but my husband is quite the whiz to find new platforms and ways to integrate my social media sites with my website etc. It makes it a whole lot easier if you’ve got everything aligned properly. And then I guess it helps, that I’m interested in being social with my fans.

Because of my online presence I have sometimes got offered to beta-test sites, and some sites that I use a lot, like, have featured me on their site. Being an artist today means you have to be so much more than just good at making music. You have to be able to get it out there, and that’s really the hardest part. You just have to try your best.

J: As of my writing this, it looks like you just crossed the goal for your Kickstarter. Congratulations on that! We have a few contributors here at the site who have had solid Kickstarter success with their board games, comics, etc. Obviously, the Kickstarter is a success for you, but how has the experience been for you in the first two days?

ST: Thank you! It’s mixed emotions. Obviously I get stupidly happy every time someone makes a pledge (especially for the book), but then I’ll be all concerned that not enough people will be interested in the project and that it will be a failure that way. Even though we reached the goal, and that is just amazing (thank you everyone!), the goal was just the bare minimum of what we needed to reach to be able to put out the products at all. If we can reach higher that means that I might be able to put some food on the table while I’m working on the book as well. The book is really a huge project to pull through. I’m writing everything, editing all the pictures and make the layout as well. And I have two months to complete it. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to do this, haha! That’s just like me though, I always have the best ideas and think it’s going to be a breeze and then I end up nearly working myself to death. I just can’t do anything half-assed, I guess it’s one of my personality flaws ;)

J: You’ve had some success with crowdfunding in the past with the first L.O.V.E. EP. You fully funded that one through Pledgemusic, any particular reason for the shift to Kickstarter for this release?

ST: I think Pledgemusic is a great platform, but it’s all music oriented. I also had a look at Indiegogo which has an appeal in that you don’t need to reach your goal to complete the project. I decided to try Kickstarter because it’s such a well known platform and because they have a good community that you might be able to tap into if you have a good product and some success. Some people just like to browse Kickstarter for fun projects to be a part of and I’m hoping for some new people to find my music that way as well. Many people already shop on Amazon and since Kickstarter is a part of Amazon it’s also easier for people to not have to register and put up an account on a new site. I just want to make it as easy as possible for people to support the project.

J: Have you found that crowdfunding for music feels different than the stories we hear for gadgets and games and such, or has it been pretty similar to what you’ve heard about before diving in?

ST: I think it’s harder for music projects. You are very dependent on your audience and your fans to make the project succeed. I think it’s easier to reach a bigger crowd with a gadget or a game. I also think it’s a thinner line to walk for the project creator if it’s music. The relationship with the fans is a delicate one and I don’t want to them to feel used or spammed or pushed into supporting me. If they do I’ll lose them. I think it’s probably easier to promote a gadget or a game in a more pushy manner because there’s not as much personal emotions involved in those things.

J: I was actually kind of surprised that you set the goal at $3000. Obviously, having done a lot of independent releases, you’ve got a pretty good grasp on your costs and such, but given your pace right now, do you have any feelings on what you might have done differently, or other ideas for the remainder of the campaign?

ST: Well the thing is that we make a really limited edition. The book will just be printed in as many copies as are pre-ordered via the project. That means that the printing costs might be quite high if you compare it to if I would have printed 2000 books, but on the other hand the only thing I really risk is my own time and labor. There’s other stuff that have fixed costs of course, like the album production. But as I said before, the goal that we set was the absolute minimum to cover printing and pressing costs. I hope, of course, that my fans will also reward me for the time and effort I put into the project and keep doing so by supporting me in the future. In the end I hope that the book and the album will be something desirable. Especially since you actually can’t get a copy of the book unless you support the project.

J: A few quick musical questions before we wrap this up: I loved the Street of Dreamix release, any plans to do another remix album?

ST: I put out remixes every now and then, there was one for “You Plate Your Heart With Gold” (that has a really cool video) from the Florida album and there’s a remix of my latest Christmas single, but I have no immediate plans on making another full remixed album.

J: Anything you’re listening to lately that’s in heavy rotation on your playlists?

ST: This might sound silly, but when we were on tour, we often stopped at Starbucks to use their free wifi for booking new shows or making promotion. I think they mostly play great music in Starbucks, so now that I’m working on the book I play different Starbucks playlists on Spotify. I like the mix. I need to listen more to The National’s new album though, I loved their last one but haven’t had time to really listen in to this one.

J: You’ve been fairly prolific, all things considered. After this live album is completed and released, what’s next?

ST: I just moved to Berlin, so the plan is to start touring Germany and the other European countries as soon as possible. I had some plans to record a Christmas album this summer too, but right now I’m not sure how I’ll be able to press that into my schedule.

J: Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time this week. Any final thoughts? Anything else you’d like to promote, toss out there, say?

ST: Well of course! Go to Kickstarter NOW! to get my new book. Who knows, it might inspire you to your own adventure. And you’ll get a free acoustic album for just $5 so at least get that! ;)

1 comment:

  1. Help fametune recreate the music industry as a fair and equitable marketplace for all.
    let the world know the music industry needs a better business model. Simply donate your social voice to us, and together
    we’ll help reshape the music industry as a place that benefits the artists and listeners too!
    Music promotion

    Also more details click here