Emiliana Torrini – The call of confidence

November 20, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: Sydney Morning Herald, Metro, November 14, 2008.

PUBLIC recognition and renown mean little sometimes. Record sales and four-star reviews aren’t the salve for internal strife. Icelandic singer-songwriter Emiliana Torrini knows this all too well; the success of her second internationally released album – 2005’s beauteously austere ode to grief and passing, Fisherman’s Woman – did little to ease the pain or put to rest the memories that were its inspiration.

“After that record, I basically just had to make the decision that I would either do music differently or just have to stop altogether,” she says.

“There was just too much anxiety involved in making records and writing music, you know? I just didn’t want to go through some kind of self-torture each time.”

Torrini, chatting over the phone while on tour in Paris, is referring to the loss of her boyfriend in a car accident soon after she had relocated to Britain from Iceland in the early 2000s. The stunning folk hues of Fisherman’s Woman were woven with his memory.

“It was a very important thing for me to do and something that needed to be done right at that moment,” says the 31-year-old of the album. “Those kind of things let you see what’s happening very deep inside your sub-consciousness. It’s kind of like gaining an understanding of what such an experience like that is going to turn you into.”

It’s not a side of Torrini to which the public is often privy. While her pop-flecked songs have always resonated with an introspective quality, her music has been offset by her decidedly chirpy personality.

Indeed, despite some serious themes, today’s interview is sprinkled with her endearingly corny jokes and impersonations (even an operatically vocalised Superman makes an appearance at one point).

Torrini’s success in the recording industry has also worked to obscure her inner difficulties. Aside from Fisherman’s Woman – which went on to win three gongs at the 2006 Iceland Music Awards – and her brilliant 1999 record, Love In The Time Of Science, she was selected by director Peter Jackson to sing Gollum’s Song, the end theme to Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers.

In 2003 she and songwriting partner Dan Carey penned Kylie Minogue’s worldwide smash Slow.

Torrini, who lives for most of the year in Brighton, England, says writing has always been a means of personal release.

“The only thing that interested me in school was when we had to write a story or something,” she says. “It just seemed so natural and necessary.

“I was always going to be a writer; I wrote a lot of poetry and when I was really young I used to write these hilarious little books.”

While not quite hilarious, her wonderfully diverse new album, Me And Armini, sees Torrini writing with a kind of newfound energy and confidence. Cuts such as Gun and Dead Dog pulse with a kind of sinister, electrified undertone, but songs such as Big Jumps and Jungle Drum shimmer with joyous pop melodies and unabashed playfulness.

“I was just having more fun and allowing myself to put out there whatever wanted to happen,” she says. “I just let everything come out and tried not to worry about it.

“I used to worry that certain songs were too happy or something but I’ve really learned to just let them be what they are.”

Interestingly, Torrini – who, with Carey, writes in an entirely improvisational manner – puts much of the album’s joy down to its backdrop. As she goes on to explain, much of the album was tracked back home in Iceland.

“Being back in Iceland and writing for five days was just so amazing,” she says. “It’s just somewhere that’s so ingrained in me and makes me so happy.

“To me,” she says before pausing, “Iceland is the queen bee.”

EMILIANA TORRINI
Monday 7.30pm, Metro Theatre, city, 9550 3666, $46.

There’s no place for self-doubt in the music of Icelandic songstress Emiliana Torrini. Dan Rule reports.

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