This week on Creatures Features, Swedish indie pop musician Victoria Bergsman walks us through her decades-long career and shares the latest Taken by Trees album with us.
Creatures Features: Tell us a little bit about yourself—where are you from and how did you end up in LA?
Victoria Bergsman: I was born in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2010 I moved to New York to try something else. My label at the time was based there as well. New York wasn’t for me. I still love visiting. But I found it hard to live there and be focused to write music, or focused in general. The pace was too fast for me and if you aren’t really rich it is kind of difficult to have a comfortable life there. I think the last straw was bedbugs and a break-in to my apartment. I was about to move back to Stockholm when a friend called me and suggested I move to LA. She said she knew of a small house with an orange tree I could rent for the same cost I was paying for my tiny room in a shared apartment in New York. It sounded amazing, so I went for it. I love living in LA—the weather, nature, the people. And I love being able to wake up in the morning and open up our bedroom door onto a garden with smells from different flowers in bloom.
CF: What originally interested you in being a musician?
VB: My love for music and the lack of female bands in the Stockholm indie scene. I started my first band The Concretes with two other girls I met in art school. We were especially into old girl groups like The Ronnettes, Supremes, and Shangri-Las.
CF: How do you think your background influences your songwriting?
VB: I think anyone’s background influences their songwriting. For me it was very playful in the beginning and then it turned serious. Now it is back to being more playful. But it has always been a way to create something beautiful, soothing, and inspiring. I had a pretty chaotic upbringing, so I wanted to create something that was the opposite to that.
CF: What usually sparks the idea for a song?
VB: A catchy melody. It usually comes to me while I am on the move — either walking, running, or driving my car. Then I form the lyrics and turn it into a song. It works best when I am on the move for some reason.
CF: Your single with Peter Bjorn and John was a huge hit. Can you tell us a little bit about how that collaboration came to be?
VB: We were all part of the same music scene in Stockholm and they had covered one of The Concretes’ songs. They were fans of the band. They called me and asked me if I would be into singing the part. I guess Nina Persson (The Cardigans) was who they were going to ask first, but they didn’t have her number.
CF: “Young Folks” was covered by many artists and Youtubers. As someone who also performs covers, did you have any favorite takes on the song?
VB: I like the Kanye version.
CF: When you do a cover, such as “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” what makes you choose a particular song? How do you decide what to add or subtract to make it your own?
VB: It needs to be a song or artist I am a fan of and I need to know that I can make something different from the original but still interesting and dignified. I would never want to do a cover of a song where the production is too perfect, or it feels like there is not more life in it, like it is done. I have another cover coming out this summer that I am very excited about.
CF: Stepping back, how did your experience in The Concretes influence what direction you wanted to go with Taken by Trees?
VB: Well things got a bit too crazy with The Concretes, too much too fast. We got signed by a major label and the playfulness and creativity went away for me. It was just a stressful time in my life. I was dealing with depression and wasn’t very good at taking care of myself, so I crashed. There was so much money involved, which stressed me out. The label kept pushing us to do more and more. I wasn’t that type of musician and still am not. I left and started my own thing on my own terms. It was a hard decision since The Concretes was like a family to me, but it got too toxic in the end.
CF: How has your music evolved since you founded Taken by Trees in 2007? What changes in sound and aesthetic have you made?
VB: It is more my vision now and not an 8-person vision like it was with The Concretes. I took to nature a lot when I started Taken By Trees, hence the name. Nature has always inspired me and been very soothing for me. There is something pure, innocent, and beautiful about it. I also started these destination albums, exploring different worlds in a way. I longed for something else than the Western sound. I travelled to Pakistan to record my second album; it was really eye-opening and it shocked me in a good way. It made me appreciate life and music in a new exciting way.
CF: Your latest album seems very visually driven, from the title to the Instagram promotion. How did you come up with Yellow to Blue?
VB: Music and color have always been very connected to me, maybe from my background in painting. I always have a color for music; if I hear something a color always comes along. This particular line Yellow To Blue comes from a lyric from the song "Vibrant Colors." It is me telling my son how I want to give him everything, the whole spectrum of colors from yellow to blue: “This is what I got for you, all things yellow to blue.”
CF: You recently relaunched your site and Instagram for the Yellow to Blue album. Why do you think Instagram is a good platform to promote the album? How has social media changed how you approach your audience?
VB: I hate social media. It is so hard for me. I am really bad at keeping up with it and I can’t stand selfies, ha! But Instagram is what people use now, so if I don’t do it I will not reach people. Spotify, too, is annoying me. It is so uninspiring. And all the rules—Spotify will not put you on a heavily-streamed playlist unless you have a certain number of followers. You need these playlists as an artist. That is how you get paid these days. And if your Instagram account doesn’t have a certain amount of followers, Spotify sees that and won’t put you on those playlists. It is a shitty system really.
CF: What do you want people to gain from the album? When someone is listening to your music, what do you hope they think or feel?
VB: I would like to make people feel hopeful, calm and inspired.
CF: If you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
VB: Todd Rundgren and Max Martin.
CF: What are your three favorite songs right now?
VB: No Tears Left To Cry – Ariana Grande
Hips Don’t Lie – Shakira
I Saw The Light – Todd Rundgren
CF: Yellow or Blue?
CF: Swedish pop or LA pop?
VB: Swedish Pop
CF: Mixtapes or vinyl?
CF: Spring or Summer?
VB: Lucca Slip On