Better late than never.
This is the idea behind Swedish songwriter Anders Jörnesten, who at 40-some years old decided to start writing his existentially-charged songs and putting them out into the world- or the universe. He’s since released multiple singles, an EP, and most recently his new album, Astrology.
Astrology was released on July 22, and features 10 songs, with three being previously released as singles. Jörnesten aspires to write simple folk and country-inspired acoustic music with deeper meanings, which he delivers in spades on the new album. The natural born songsmith infuses different subtle styles in his songs, such as his cowboy song “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the West African-inspired song “Flies on the Wall.”
We had the opportunity to talk with Jörnesten to learn more about his Nordic roots, the new album, and much more.
So who or what got you into making music?
I actually started to make music for the first time in my life about a year and a half ago during the pandemic. Now I’m 43 years old, so I guess I’m somewhat of a late bloomer. Sure, I’ve played the guitar for more or less my whole life. But working from home really pushed me into doing something creative, beside my ordinary work at an office. So, I decided to try to write a few songs, more or less as an experiment.
Among my really early, and not so good, songs were “Wild Wild Country.” When I was done with it, I felt like, “hey, this is pretty good.” That gave me the confidence to write more songs. I passed them around to a couple of friends that were very supportive. That made me decide to contact a studio and record “Wild Wild Country” together with another song called “People That I Love.” It became my first single, with an A and B-side, released in May 2021. After that, I released an EP and two more singles. And on July 22nd I released my debut album, Astrology.
What can you tell us about your geographical influence in Sweden?
I think living in Stockholm has had some effect on my music writing. It’s pretty cold and dark here in the winters and the summers are really nice. So as a Swede, you are really living with the four seasons, and it gives you perspectives on both nature and humans. The country itself is peripherally located in northern Europe. Sometimes it makes you long for something else, especially in the winter when combined with darkness and cold. The theme of longing for something else, to run away or escape, is a big part of my music. But at the same time, I love living in Sweden, and that duality is somewhat typical for Swedes, I guess.
I see some of your musical inspirations are Willie Nelson, Colter Wall, and Riddy Arman. How might they and others influence your own music?
There are so many good artists at the moment making some really great music. Beside the ones you mentioned above, I would also add Vincent Neil Emerson and John R. Miller, among others. Two more of my biggest inspirations, who are sadly not with us anymore, are the legends John Prine and Blaze Foley.
I just try to write music that I really like. The cowboy tune “Wanted Dead or Alive” on my latest album is directly inspired by the album Red Headed Stranger by Willie, and by some of Colter’s stuff. Usually, I start writing a song by sorting out the harmonic structure and then I put the lyrics onto that. But in this particular case, I really wanted to write a cowboy tune. So, I started with the title, then wrote the chorus and finally came up with a verse. It was almost the same thing when I wrote the song “Can I Call You My Friend?” That song is a celebration to the love ballads of the 70’s outlaw country era, and I really wanted to write a song in that particular style.
So let’s dive in and learn more about your new album, Astrology. What’s the influence and backstory behind this collection of songs?
Sadly, I think the main influence of the album is the current situation with a more divided and uncertain world we live in. On the one hand, the situation makes us feel more scared and insecure as humans. But on the other hand, it brings us closer to each other as human beings. It forces us to actually think and reflect about what’s important in life, such as love, care and kindness. That’s an important duality that I explore on the album. Another duality that’s important to the album is the feeling of loneliness in a world full of people. And last, as I said before, the duality of loving the place where you live, but still dreaming of escaping from it.
I think that these mixed feelings or emotions are what really makes us human beings. But due to the situation in the world at the moment, these mixed feelings increase. That’s really what I try to explore throughout the album.
And how did you come up with the idea for incorporating outer space in relation to the human condition and troubling times the world is facing?
Ha ha, now I’m starting to sound like some kind of new age priest. But I think outer space is a good metaphor for a lot of things related to human emotions. Among many things, it’s cold, empty and unexplored. Yet, it is something we dream about, relate to and are fascinated by. We put a lot of hope and effort into it, believing it’s a key to understanding ourselves. We live in and can see outer space, but we can’t get there. We look at the stars thinking they are telling us something. It’s almost the same thing with the human mind, that we know so little about. It’s enormous, and we can only grasp a really small part of it. We know it’s there, but can’t really say what it is. We believe it’s telling us things through our dreams and so on.
The outer space, and the mind also for that sake, are classic examples of perhaps the biggest paradox of them all: the more we learn and evolve, the more we know we don’t know.
Especially with an album like this, how important is the order of the songs for you, and was that a difficult process?
From the beginning I didn’t know if I wanted to make an album. It is convenient to release singles. Then you only need to make sure that the songs are good enough individually. But I noticed that the songs I was working on actually had a common theme. Then I decided to make them into an album. The order of the songs is an important part to create a context and a meaning to the album. So, I listened to the songs a lot and put them carefully in order to form the story of the album.
Was there a song on the album that was the most difficult to write/record for one reason or another?
I think it was “Wild Wild Country.” I have recorded it before as my first single and it’s my most streamed song. In the studio I re-recorded it for the album and wanted it to sound even better. It took me a while to get there, but I do believe that the new version actually is better.
When fans listen to this album, what kinds of messages or feelings do you hope to convey?
From my perspective, there are two types of songwriters. First, they are the ones who can write a good story. Then there are those who try more to capture a feeling or mood. The very best can combine a good story that also captures an emotion. I’m actually not good at telling stories. Instead, I try to capture different types of emotions and moods in my songs. But one day I hope to combine that with telling good stories. My hope is that listeners will recognize themselves in the moods and feelings I describe in the songs, feelings of the dualities and mixed emotions I described earlier.
If you could have coffee or another beverage with any present-day artist, who might it be and why?
I would love to drink Coors Light with Colter Wall. I’ve understood that he likes plain and simple beer, and I do too. It would also be great just to jam with him, I really like his music. Both his voice and his guitar picking.
What’s the country and folk scene currently like in Sweden? Do you ever contemplate a move to the U.S. or elsewhere to pursue your craft?
It’s catching up after Covid. I was about to go and see Ian Noe here in August, but sadly he has canceled the tour. Joshua Ray Walker is playing in Stockholm in August, and in September I’m going to see Vincent Neil Emerson here as well. So the scene in Stockholm is really good at the moment with some really great artists coming to perform regularly.
I would love to come to the U.S to perform, not to live there though. I like it too much here in Sweden. I also have a wife and two kids that I really wanna be with. But to go to the U.S for a couple of months to do some gigs and just travel around and meet some people would be amazing. I have only been to New York and Washington D.C. before. So I would like to experience other parts of the country, not least Nashville and its surroundings.
What are some goals – musically or otherwise – that you have set for yourself for the rest of the year?
I just wanna keep writing songs, and I’m already working on my next album. I would also wanna get more people to listen to my music. At the moment, I have to work really hard to get there. It’s just so much music being made, and it’s really hard to cut through all of it. My dream is to get enough fans, so that when I release my next record, I don’t have to work as hard to market the music all by myself. Then I could concentrate completely on the important thing- just making music.