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Jessica Pilnäs - "Ups and downs of love and life"

She is from Sweden and she has an expressive voice—something that might not yet be sufficient to make Jessica Plinäs stand out among all the other young aspiring female Scandinavian singers. However, the unpretentious air of her voice, her relaxed composure, the melancholic and laid-back way she sings cause everybody to listen attentively.

Jessica Pilnäs

On ACT Records Jessica Plinäs recently published her debut "Bitter & Sweet"—and the titel describes very well the mood of the whole CD…

Carina Prange talked to Jessica Pilnäs for Jazzdimensions

Carina: "Bitter & Sweet" is the title of one of the songs on the CD— why did you use it as the title of the CD, too?

Jessica: "Bitter & Sweet" felt like a suiting name for the whole album, illustrating the ups and downs of love and life itself. Sometimes it's sweet and sometimes it's bitter. The songs of the album include the very first feeling of falling in love in "the more I see" which is written by my husband Johan. We actually recorded it before we became a couple.

He asked me to come to his studio for some vocals on a new song that he'd just made, and during the first take I realized that the lyrics were about me and us. That was a very romantic moment! Now we're married and have three kids together… I can highly recommend it to every man who wants a woman to fall for him; write her a song and she's yours!

Then we have the bitter sides of love when it comes to "The winner takes it all" and "Just not today", illustrating the ending of a love story. In between there are the rest of the songs, for example "Man in a balloon" and "There must be an angel" with the good and happy sides of love and "Bridge over troubled water" which for me symbolizes the comfort and support you could get in a love relationship.

But it's not always that easy and can get complicated as you can hear in the Billie Holiday song "Don't explain" but also in "So I fell".

Jessica Pilnäs

Carina: The songs on the album have been written in a period from 2004 until today. That sounds like a long voyage. Did you collect things until everything did fit together? When did you feel the time had come to bring it out as an album?

Jessica: The songs have been recorded during a long period. I have been studying medicine but has also given birth to two children during these years. It's been intense and there's hasn't been any time left for me to do an album. (laughs)

But now when I've done my exam I feel the timing is right. I've been longing to do music again, Nils Landgren has been very supportive and tried to convince me to do some singing, and suddenly it all came in place.

Carina: Why did you want to have the Annie Lennox song "Angel" on the CD? Does it have a meaning for you, is a personal story connected with it? Or is it just "a nice song"?

Jessica: "There must be an angel" is to me a great song. With fantastic melody, harmonies and lyrics, hidden behind the arrangements of 1980's synthesizers…. I think of it as a challenge to discover a good song that people already know, and present it in a new way! In my way.

Jessica Pilnäs - "Bitter & Sweet"

Carina: The composer and guitarist John Norberg is also your husband. To mix the private and the profession, is that a good idea? Do you work together on musical projects since you know each other?

Jessica: Working with my husband as a producer is for me the easiest way of doing it. He's of course very talented, but he also knows me like nobody else. We don't have to explain everything to each other, and most of the time we know what the other is thinking without having to ask. That makes the work smooth and quick.

Carina: To come from a musical family, is that always a blessing? Were you drawn towards music from the beginning?

Jessica: Growing up with music is the only thing I know and it's so natural for me. I don't have anything else to compare with. It's never been a problem for me since I've always been able to do what I want, but I can imagine that it could be complicated for someone who doesn't want to do music and the parents keep pushing. But that goes for everything that parents dream about for their children…

Carina: What was it that triggered your love for Jazz? Do you remember the moment when you saw clearly that it could be a career to follow?

Jessica: I never thought of music as in different genres. For me it's just music— that I either like or don't like, just as simple as that. I went to a music school after graduating from "high school" for two years and there we mostly played jazz. Then I released the pop/r'n'b-album on Sony Music, and I realized that that kind of music or "industry" wasn't anything for me. I didn't feel comfortable. I longed for the "roots".

Carina: The development from the R'n'B album "Pretender" you recorded under the name "Isa" to your current album "Bitter & Sweet", how would you describe it? Was it inevitable that things moved this way - or could things have turned out completely different?

Jessica: The main reason for me moving in this direction, is that with the R'n'B-record, mostly I felt it was too much about what other people thought about the music, how I should dress and talk and move and so on…. The initiative was always someone else's. I was just 21 when the album was released and I went touring in Japan.

Today I feel I was way too young. This time it all comes from me, and my dreams and ideas about how the music should sound. I feel so much more secure and confident today. I am a grown up woman, a mother and a doctor. I'm doing this because I love it, and frankly I don't care what everybody else will think. (laughs)

Jessica Pilnäs

Carina: Who are your role models, your sources of inspiration?

Jessica: I can't really think of a "role model". I've been blessed with two healthy children and I have so much to be grateful for. And that is a source of inspiration for me.

Carina: Two of the songs, "Just Not Today" and "Bitter And Sweet" you have written completely on your own. What are the stories behind them?

Jessica: "Just not today" is the story about the end of a love affair. When you know there's no way back, but you want to hold on for just one more day. You just can't face the truth right now, you're too weak and need someone to hold you, and that someone is about to leave.

The feeling of being weak is something you can relate to also in other situations apart from love, of course. I think we all have days when we just want to stay in bed and be taken care of….

About "Bitter and sweet" … Hmm, there's a saying that you have to "take the good with the bad". The song is sort of an objection to that. Personally I've had times in my life where the bitter part has been way too big compared to the sweet. The song is sort of a lesson to anyone in that situation, not to make the same mistake.

Carina: This year you passed your exam as a medical doctor … Have you made a decision about which career to follow? Or will you try to do both, be a singer and a doctor?

Jessica: The fact that I'm now a medical doctor affects my music in many ways. I'm so grateful that I get to do both! For me it's been a long journey to finish my exam and the dream to do music again has always been in the back of my mind. But I really think it is useful in the music business to have something else to relate to. It widens your perspectives. And the other way around of course.

I can sometimes feel that many doctors get to "scientific" and lose hold of reality when they're talking to patients who don't know anything about how a cell is working. I feel I'm keeping a foot in real life, which makes it easier for me to relate to people I meet in the care units. And I'm thinking of calling myself "the singing doctor" — I could have a little show for my patients! (laughs) No, just joking….

We'll see what happens in the future. Right now I'm focusing on the album release. I'll always have my exam and can start working as a doctor whenever there is time for that.

Jessica Pilnäs

Carina: Do you have something like a philosophy for life?

Jessica: My philosophy of life? "Life is not a dress rehearsal!"

I don't know who said it first, but I think it's really good. I mean, you don't start living later when you've got a better job, or the kids are older, or you graduate from school or a million other things…. Life is now, all the time. I try to stay focused on "now"; aware of all the things I can be for in my life.

In our society today it's easy to always be ahead of everything, being somewhere else, making plans for the future. But this is the life you get; I try to make the best of it and appreciate it every day. Like John Lennon said: "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". I'd like to avoid feeling that, if it's possible.

Carina Prange

CD: Jessica Pilnäs - "Bitter & Sweet" (ACT Music EMO 4001-2)

Jessica Pilnäs im Internet: www.myspace.com/jessicapilnas

ACT Music im Internet: www.actmusic.com

Fotos: Pressefotos (Jörn Grosse-Geldermann)

© jazzdimensions 2011
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