This interview was taken from www.dn.se, a swedish news paper. The article has been translated by Daniel Westergren
Tomorrow Sophie Zelmanis fifth album is released. She is one of our most successful, and secret, artists. Her method: she does give interviews, but doesn't say anything. However, she does potting.
Sophie Zelmani turns the meaning of the word famous inside out. For twelve years she has been one of Sweden's most successful artists. The six albums she's released have sold in average of 100 000 copies.
Yet there is almost none of her listeners who knows anything about her person.
Timid authors like Thomas Pynchon and J D Salinger have tried to protext themselves by letting themselves be photographed or interviewed. But that has not dimished, but rather increased, the interest for their private lives.
Sophie Zelmani uses a more refined method. She gives interviews - but says nothing in them.
After the breakthrough in 1996 Sophie Zelmani was a guest in Tomas Tengby's then talk show on Swedish Television. According to the legend, now eternalized on the net encyclopedia Wikipedia, she only pronounced two words during the interview.
According to someone who worked on the show it is somewhat exaggerated. "She replied to all questions, but never more than one sentence." In any case, it gave the wished result: since then Sophie Zelmani has been left alone from TV.
Before her new album, "Memory loves you", that is released tomorrow, Sophie Zelmani hs given one interview for an English speaking fan site. Zelmani gets the question: "Would you please tell us about the new songs?". The reply is: "I am sorry, but I don't talk about my songs. They are in a way my secrets."
I did the very first interview with Sophie Zelmani. It was in 1995, Sophie had turned 23. She had not yet released any album, but I had heard the demo of a fantastic little song called "Always you", a song that became so popular that two years later it was used in the soundtrack for the Julia Roberts movie "My best friends wedding".
She told me then that she had never bought an album. But she has listened very much to the radio when growing up. Only when it was time to record an album her producer Lars Halapi introduced her to artists like Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, who quickly became her favourites.
- That's in a way how it still is, says Sophie Zelmani when we now meet again twelve years later.
- Cohen, Dylan and Springsteen was enough to listen to for many, many years. Otherwise I still mainly listen to the radio. Sometimes I discover something that I buy. The latest that I was deeply affected by was David Gray, the album "White ladder". I listened to that for two years in a row.
The interview starts with some confusion. We had been sitting and waiting for each other in two different hotel bars, both with the name Scandic, staring at our watches on each side of Humlegården. Sophie has, while waiting, read a car magazine that now sticks out of her purse.
Cars, it turns out, is one of her great interests. She has driven to the city in a little "doghouse", but has two Americans by the house outside Mariefred where she lives. Sophie Zelmanis songs sound like they are written at night, but the songs for the new album "Memory loves you" are written out there during daytime.
- It is the only time now that I have for myself. When I have left kids at school. But I can't write disciplined every day. I have to wait for the songs to come to me. If one comes usually several come.
What she instead keeps herself busy with during the days - except for everything that has to do with the home - turns out to be to make things of leather. And making pots.
- I make all kinds of things of leather. I send for leather from a retailer and make belts, armwrests, whatever inspires me. I haven't sold anything, but I give away a lot. I haven't taken any course in potting, but I have learnt by myself. I like the process.
When Sophie Zelmani talks about potting she could as well talk about her own song writing craft. Just like for example Leonard Cohen she seemingly makes the same thing over and over again - the same kind of clay clod that becomes a pot - but all the time with small changes in texture and form.
Her six albums, dispersed over a period of twelve years, become even more impressive when they are played after one another. Few artists address in such a direct way, which probably also is the explanation to her popularity.
Ever since the debut she has addressed the lyrics to a "you", a you that is another way to mask herself.
- I discovered early that it was easier to sing about myself if I addressed the lyrics to somebody. Sometimes I really sing to somebody else, but just as often it is myself that is "you" in the lyrics.
On the new album "Memory loves you" she has taken the personal address so far that she in several songs, like a young Alf Robertson, goes over to purely talked parts.
- That was another thing that just happened naturally.
It had been easier to categorize the artist Sophie Zelmani, born in 1972, if she didn't have an appearance that have world photographers to travel an extra thousand kilometres without demanding any pay. Anton Corbijn has, on his own initiative, photographed several of her album covers.
But she doesn't sound and live the way she looks. When she doesn't read car magazines she plays poker in an old barn near the house where she lives.
- What you mean is if I also feel like an old man? I have great difficulties to feel young, I really do. Or to even listen to younger musicians. What I'm touched by is life experience. What inspires my songs are people, feelings and situations.