Lydmor, the artist name of the Danish singer-songwriter Jenny Rossander (it means ‘Mother of Sound’) was well known in Denmark and, strangely, Asia before an internationally released album, ‘I told you I’d tell them our story’ in 2018, which chronicled events during a long spell when she lived in Shanghai.
Since then, and particularly since the middle of this year, she was catapulted into an extended round of festival appearances including Roskilde, Reeperbahn and Iceland Airwaves, gaining recognition for both her delicate, emotional ballads and her dramatic, highly visual electro-pop songs. Not to mention a fast-growing following throughout mainland Europe.
On the sidelines she is increasingly involved in writing music for, and performing in, theatrical stage productions.
She remains relatively unknown in the UK though, and hopefully this short interview will go some way to help redress the balance. She isn’t a lady who hangs around. Touring in Asia, she completed and returned this mailed interview in just nine hours and 13 minutes, from Vietnam.
GIITTV: Hi Jenny. When I first saw you perform live in the UK, last year I wrote a ‘summary’ of your characteristics as I saw them, which included, “A nice girl; a fun girl with an unconcealed joie de vivre; but one with just a hint of attitude. Thoughtful, intelligent, caring. Slightly bonkers.” In a paragraph, how do you see yourself?
L: “I either connect deeply or not at all” – Anais Nin
GIITTV: To seek inspiration for your first international album, ‘I told you I’d tell them our story’ you went to Shanghai in 2016 and that album certainly has some strong Chinese influences. Is it a place you could return to for further stimulation or might the next destination be Peru, or Botswana? Or Aarhus?
L: I will always love Shanghai, the way the city invaded me in 2016, it did so in a way that means it will never leave my body completely. I’ve been back there a few times since then and it is always a very moving experience. Going to Shanghai to make an album was a part of quite a big change for me, personally as well as artistically, a change that was brought about because I was in a bad place. Currently I am not in a bad place, so I feel more free to explore different kinds of inspiration sources. Cities in the world as well as poetry, emotion and personal development. Music comes quite easily to me right now. It’s nice!
GIITTV: One of your more mysterious songs is ‘Claudia’, one of those which arose out of your extended stay in Shanghai. The lyric goes – “You want Claudia. I’m not Claudia”. How did that song come about and are you able to share with us who Claudia is? Or is it really you?
L: I will never be able to tell you, or anyone, the real story of Claudia. She exists. There are many secrets involved with her, some of them mine, some of them someone else’s. There is of course another layer, as the end of your question implies, but as per usual in my life reality and fiction intertwine themselves in a series of symbols and signals and signs.
GIITTV: When I saw you play at Iceland Airwaves last month you performed two quite different sets within a couple of hours. The first comprised three gentle ballads sat at a piano in the Nordic Culture House, which seemed to be more ‘personal’ songs and somewhat in the style, if I may so say (again), of Fiona Apple. The second was your full-on electro-pop set with body paint and all the trimmings, in a city centre club. If I didn’t know you I would have thought you were two different artists. What is your preferred persona, if you have one, and which direction do you see your career taking? Or do you intend to stick with both of those personas, and perhaps develop some new ones as well?
L: I don’t feel like it is different personas per say. It is just me, doing different things. Playing the piano is a big joy for me, I love that instrument, but I don’t go into a different head space than when I play piano. It all draws from the same place inside me, the place that wants to connect, to swim in the ocean of music.
GIITTV: Your producer for ‘I told you I’d tell them our story’ was, I believe, Trond Bersu of Norwegian band Highasakite, who was quite new to production himself at the time. What did Trond bring to the process that attracted you?
L: Ooooh, Trond is such a special Talent. I love working with him. He has a beautiful intricate mind, and he is so soft to work with. I think it was absolutely perfect for the place I was at when making the Shanghai album. I was developing a whole new way of thinking about my music and working with it, and Trond was such a great partner in that journey because he is a great person and really cares about the ones he works with.
GIITTV: You’ve described yourself as ‘post-feminist’, which has a multitude of meanings and nuances. What is your interpretation of that term?
L: hahahaha I did?? Maybe it was part of that looooong genre description I made once that has sorta followed me around since then. I guess I just consider myself a feminist. I spend a lot of time thinking about gender, what it means, what it does inside of me, how it works in society. It is one of the most subtle yet powerful things that moves a lot of things in our civilisation without us knowing it.
GIITTV: You clearly love your audiences and they love you back. How important is it for an artist to get that positive crowd vibe and how hard is it to perform when an audience just doesn’t get it?
L: I feel like all shows are an equal interaction between me and the audience. I know that for some musicians it’s different, which I have complete respect for, but for me, the whole thing goes on in the connection. The beats, the sounds, the lights, are just tools in that process, tools that can create more intimacy or authenticity between me and them.
GIITTV: I’m intrigued by why you enter a venue dramatically and particularly how you exit the stage so abruptly once the performance ends, often straight through the audience. Is it part of the act or is driven by nerves or something else?
L: I always get really really shy RIGHT after the show ends. Like, when I run out of music, I feel suddenly extremely exposed, like I’ve just shown people every single cell in my body and suddenly I don’t have the art to hide behind, and I just want to get away from the stage as fast as possible. Therefore the running 😉
GIITTV: Do you have any role models in the business? Some of your stage antics make me think of St Vincent, for example
L: Hmmmm… I wouldn’t say role models per se. Not in the music industry. I am aware of what other people are doing, and find it cool and inspiring but I don’t like clinging on to a specific person when deciding what I’m gonna do. I think the closest I have to a role model right now would be the author Siri Hustvedt. She is so clever, yet sensitive and emotional, and I just feel like she has found the right balance in so many areas of her life.
GIITTV: If I understand your lyrics correctly you refer quite frequently to money in your songs and not in a positive way. Is it money itself that you distrust or its worship by other people, or how it can be abused, or again, something else?
L: I like writing about Money, as a concept, as something concrete and as a symbol. Money is so much more than money, it is power and it is used to control people. And that’s where it gets interesting. What is control? Is love a form of control? I think that when I use the word money in my songs, I am actually mostly singing about power, and the dangers in the wrong kinds of power. I feel like the patriarchy and the capitalist system are deeply related, and probably the reasons for 99% of the world’s problems. Human greed and power structures.
GIITTV: When you’re writing, how do most of your songs start life? A piano part? A chord? A melody? Does inspiration simply come, or do you have to seek it?
L: It’s really different! Sometimes it’s a whole song that arrives together, and sometimes I’m just playing around with sounds until something arises. I like to say I create “with a sledgehammer”. Because my process is messy and chaotic and I just throw everything I got at the stuff I work with, until it starts to do what I want it to.
GIITTV: To my mind, many of your lyrics are poetry set to music. Do you write poetry? Or prose?
L: I do. Both. Quite a lot. Might release a book some day, I’ve got soooo much text lying around on my computer. But it’s not something I am in a hurry to do. Right now my writing is just for me, and that’s fine.
GIITTV: I suppose one might describe you as ‘peripatetic’. Apart from the Chinese sojourn, you’ve travelled widely, including Latin America and you’re touring in Asia right now. But as far as permanent residence goes, are you happy to stay in Denmark or do you think you might settle in another country in the future? (On your Facebook page you describe Asia as your favourite place in the world).
L: I gotta say I am quite happy in Copenhagen (when I actually get to be there, the last few years my tour and work schedule has been quite crazy) these days. I have gotten a really wonderful circle of friends that are all doing really amazing things and that I have great inspiring conversations with. So I probably won’t leave for a while. But life is long, and of course I am gonna be living in other cities at some points. Next year I’m gonna spend two months in Oslo for the Shakespeare thing and I am quite excited about that.
GIITTV: You’ve already experimented with theatre, for example the video to the song LSD Heart and live performances of it, and you seem to enjoy your acting role with your audience, going amongst them during your shows. Earlier this year you were involved with the Greek tragedy Orestien in Aarhus as a composer and actor. Now it seems you will work with the Danish Royal Theatre dance troupe Corpus and score a Shakespearean work next year. That’s quite a dramatic move for someone who is still in their 20s. (Well, just!) (Incidentally, some of your facial expressions in performance remind me of Marilyn Monroe). Do you see yourself as a multimedia person in the future or do you think you have yet to identify where your real talents lie? Can you see yourself ever forsaking making music for the lure of the greasepaint?
L: Haha multimedia person. Funny expression. I mean, when I work with theatre I do it AS a composer, so it doesn’t really feel like forsaking music. Music is probably gonna be at the core of what I do for the next many years. It’s my favourite medium and it is where I am best. But I must admit the theatre world is really a place where I swim freely and feel extremely comfortable. Amanda Ginman (director, Denmark) and Runar Hodne (Director, Norway) are not only people I collaborate with regularly but also close friends that I spend a lot of time talking about creativity with, so it would feel weird not to keep working with them as well.
GIITTV: You’re very popular in Denmark right now and in other countries in mainland Europe like Germany, and of course across Asia. While they must be your priorities, are we likely to see you performing in the UK in 2020? (Hint – please say yes)
L: That all depends on how the album goes! I haven’t had a lot of success in the UK yet, and getting a more permanent audience in other territories has given me the freedom to not go where I am not wanted. But if it’s possible I would love to come back!
GIITTV: Which leads me to the next, obvious question. How would you personally measure ‘success’? By ‘breaking’ America? Or by having a million Facebook followers in Vietnam?
L: I honestly try not to think too much about “success”. It really does you no good in any way. I focus on creating my babies in the best way I can, and sending them out in the world in the most loving and caring way. The rest is up to the world, not me.
GIITTV: Are there any (musical) artists you would really like to collaborate with? Or producers?
L: I’d love to do something with Rezz at some point, I think she’s quite amazing.
GIITTV: Things are going very well for you now but a couple of years ago you were lamenting your bad luck on social media; broke, having to live in a small room in your mum’s house, confused, lonely and thinking everyone had forgotten you. With the benefit of hindsight from that experience what advice would you offer to other musicians who find themselves in the same position and who might even think of giving up?
L: Wow. Good question. Well, firstly realise that giving up is a legit and not-embarrassing course of action. This lifestyle is hardcore as fuck and if it’s not for you, then it’s not for you. If you don’t wanna do that, then my only advice is cling to your art. Forget everything. Focus on getting better, making more interesting things. Let your work become your anchor you’re everything. Read ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith. Learn new languages. Learn new instruments. Do online tutorials. Read poetry. At some point your output will become so undeniably interesting that the world will start to notice.
GIITTV: Your second album will be released next year. For some musicians it can be a ‘difficult’ one, while others just sail through it. What surprises can we expect from it, if any?
L: The album title is gonna be way shorter and easier to remember.
GIITTV: Have you ever yearned to represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest?
L: No. That’s really not something I am interested in, in any way.
GIITTV: If you weren’t a musician what would you be? Do you ever aspire to being ‘something else’ entirely (model, politician, footballer, train driver…?!)
L: I’d love to be in academia. Studying literature or philosophy. Becoming a professor. Spend my days reading and thinking. Maybe I’ll do that some day.
GIITTV: The environment. Whose viewpoint are you closest to? Donald Trump or Greta Thunberg? (I think I know the answer, but I’ll ask the question anyway…)
L: Hahahahahaha. Greta 4ever.
GIITTV: Sarah Lund or Saga Norén?
L: Marcel Proust.
GIITTV: Jenny, thanks for joining us from the other side of the world and enjoy the rest of your tour.
The next single from Lydmor will be released on 27th December and is titled ‘Guilty (Kill Me)’.
According to the PR, “The song showcases a more introspective side of her. Whereas the previous single ‘LSD Heart‘ had social commentary, Lydmor this time around turns the reflection onto herself…delving in soothing synth waves and showing a more pensive side of Lydmor than many concert goers have witnessed during her many intense live shows throughout 2019. A natural progression for her constant development as an artist.” She says, ”I don’t want to reveal too much of what the song is about – the lyrics are quite explanatory – but I think the song hints at the direction where I’m heading as an artist.”