When it comes to Sofia Talvik’s new album (her 6th) Big Sky Country, there is just so much to say! Firstly, the music is stunningly beautiful. Beyond that, for us, it’s all about connections. Connections to other artists, connecting to feelings and emotions, and connections to physical places. This is an artist whose music reaches out and envelops you like a mother’s endless hug. It warms your spirit and gives hope for a bright future after a dark past. It’s a great album on it’s own, and it’s also part of a regional movement that is seeing amazing work coming from a diverse cadre of colleagues in art.
Two years ago, RUST Magazine awarded Little Lonely with our Critic’s Choice Award and Sofia Talvik is very much in a similar space with this rural-influenced folk rock album. Both of these artists have that special something that makes their music very personal and unique – something beyond technical ability. They both have a way of infusing their personality and soul into their music to the point where you really get the feeling that you know them and can relate to them. This is the ethereal human element of music, that emotional connection that makes music significant as an art, and Sofia Talvik has here mastered this elusive ability.
Last year, RUST Magazine awarded The Grahams with our Artist of the Year Award because they were truly living their art by taking a journey by rail through America to get inspiration for their next album. Similarly, Big Sky Country is a noir vintage Americana album, this time made by a Scandanavian native whose music echoes the places, spaces and feelings of her journey touring across this vast and diverse land. For both of these artists, the journey is what matters. They live their art fully immersed and completely giving of themselves in the motion of creation.
This year, without a doubt, the American west is where the “music scene” is, and Big Sky Country is just one of many great releases originating from the geographic and philosophical region. Several years ago, when the economy collapsed, there was almost a knee-jerk movement to revisit the Roy Orbison and Patsy Cline period, and several great bands like The Blueflowers continue to make great music in this space. This year, we have been getting amazing albums, and meeting phenomenal artists who seem to be wandering out of the desert en mass with visions of eternity sparkling in their eyes. John Statz’s Tulsa, Alectro’s School of Desire, Ryan Tree’s Illusions, Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray’s Lean Into The Wind, and Joe Taylors Sugar Dust in the Devil Wind are just a few of the truly great new albums that share this regional sound.
What this speaks to us about, as listeners, is the loneliness and searching that makes us special as a nation, and as individuals. If not physically, but mentally, we as a culture are again going west, and music like Sofia’s and Little Lonely’s and The Grahams are the new fireside songs of our culture.
The music that Sofia Talvik makes here speaks to us at this moment because she – like so many others who have experienced the recent times – has gone on a journey to find a way of living life on a more spiritual level and has found it in the west. The music of Big Sky Country was earned on the dusty back roads of this endless land and the value of the music she presents is multiplied and enhanced because of this journey.
Another amazing musician Sofia reminds us of is travelling world-citizen Michael Dustin Youree who left New York City a couple years ago with barely more than a guitar and has been on a journey of learning, loving and making beautiful music ever since. For both Sofia and Michael, the music in their albums is the artistic distillate of travel and change in both a physical and emotional way. They are the true vanguard poets of our time.
We were curious to see what Sofia had to say about these issues… so we asked her! Here she is in her own words:
RUST: Sofia, thank you for making such a beautiful album! We love it, how happy are you with it now that it is all done?
ST: The recording process is a strange thing for me, because I love the part where you hear the songs develop with the production and the time spent in the studio trying out sounds. When I get to the mixing part the songs always start to wear on me and I can’t hear them clearly anymore. It’s like all you hear are little things here and there, parts and pieces, and you can’t get the big picture anymore. After the album is finished I usually need a few months before I can listen to it and start appreciating it again. So right now I’m in that period where I have a hard time listening to it, but I am of course very happy to be finished with it and that it’s being so well received. It’s a great thing to come back to an album also, and to be able to listen to it with fresh ears.
RUST: Was it a different experience for you taking on this project instead of how you approached your previous albums?
ST: Not really. The songs came to me when they did, some on the tour, some after. It felt natural and I had a clear image from the start about how I wanted it to sound. I always get obsessed with one particular instrument, and for this album it was trumpets. Calexico did this Christmas song a few years ago called Green Grows The Holly, which had the most amazing trumpets so that was something I really wanted to feature on this album.
RUST: You say so much here, it’s so personal… Is there one particular memory from your trip that remains most vibrant in your mind?
ST: There are so many memories, I wouldn’t know where to begin. But you might have guessed that Idaho made a big impression on me since that is the main topic in the title song Big Sky Country. I was playing 4-5 shows a week, but in Idaho I had a whole week off and we were just out camping in the wilderness in the Sawtooth Mountains. The scenery there is so amazing. I hope I get to go back there again and spend some more time. It’s very serene.
RUST: Who are some of the people that helped with the album that deserve some appreciation?
ST: We were a small group of people working on the album and everyone involved deserves all the appreciation. My band of course who have been with me for years and somehow have become mind readers of how I want them to play. I’m always astounded of how they get it just right each time. The guest musicians that added that little extra, John Bullard on banjo, Jozsef Nemeth who played beautiful piano and David Floer on cello on the song Give Me A Home. Mathis Richter-Reichhelm who put in so much time in playing, mixing and mastering and feeding us decaf coffee and of course my husband Jonas, who was the one who kicked me in the butt to get started on the album in the first place.
RUST: When you’re not making music and travelling, what are some of the things you like to do? Do you like to sleep late and take all day to have a cup of coffee or do you like to get out and see art shows and such?
ST: I love cooking, so you’ll probably find me in the kitchen with a glass of wine cooking up something or another. That was one of the great things with touring in an RV, that I could cook my own food and didn’t have to rely on band food like pizza and burgers so much.
RUST: Thanks so much, last question – what’s next for you? Another journey? Maybe some quiet time?
ST: There is never any quiet time I’m afraid. Right now I’m planning an East Coast tour for the fall, and meanwhile I’m playing shows in Germany. There is also so much stuff left to do with the new album, like videos and other things. I’ll rest when I’m dead I guess, haha.