Q+A: 5 minutes with Land Of Trees

Folksy songwriter Land Of Trees has released his new single ‘See The Fire Dancing’. The record is the latest addition to the banjo-strumming songwriter’s growing catalogue. Having released three full-length albums, including his debut LP titled Wild Wind, he is presently working on a fourth album.

Stream / Download: Land Of Trees – ‘See The Fire Dancing’

Listening to his music is like talking to an old friend about matters of the heart. The more we listened, the more we felt connected. Relatable and warm, his creations are human. A seemingly humble musician, Land Of Trees is comfortable placing himself in the background, letting go so that his music can do the talking. That said, we wanted to hear what he had to say, so we asked him some questions:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

It offers a world parallel to the insane reality that is our existence on this planet. Without it, I have no idea how I would deal with my thoughts, emotions and day-to-day situations. 

I’m not necessarily crazier than anyone else but knowing there’s always gonna be some kind of purpose in the expression of the human mind and soul calms me and gives me the hope and motivation I need to change what I can change, do what I can do and help those I can help with whatever I have to offer.

I believe the expression of arts is grossly overrated and that the well-needed untempered communication of our hearts is washed over with temporary solutions and dopamine-enticing traps to convince ourselves we are fine when we’re actually living in denial. 

This is where the arts give us an opportunity to not only deal with our broken hearts and wiry minds but actually share our experiences in order to grow as individuals as well as humans.

Why the arts? It’s not a choice for me. The atmosphere, importance and soul of art will always exist. For me, it’s a question of whether or not you’re ready to admit and embrace it and use your own, or someone else’s expression to make sense of it all. You can try to ignore it your entire life at your own loss. It’s up to you.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Is there a difference? To me, the first idea is always very vivid, and if I’m picturing a song idea it shapes around the melody that belongs to the tone of the lyrics and/or whatever I’m feeling at that particular moment. 

I guess I’d say the emotions come first. Then my influences, as well as my creativity, sets a mood for my ideas to be embedded in a sound. My creativity is fueled by influences, so I consider others’ art to be of great value.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

I appreciate the input and expression of my band as well as Gustav, our producer for this release. Gustav played the trombone on ‘See The Fire Dancing’, and it gave the song a magic touch as well as his artistic vision for the entire album. With that being said, he gave us so much breathing room in our individual visions of what the album could be that we all became our best selves. To me, the best collaboration results in a wholesome friendship.

What’s on your current playlist?

I recently bought LPs of Nick Drakes’ Pink Moon and Five Leaves Left and Ben Howards’ Old Pine. I’m not too pretentious to listen to music on my phone though, and I love the fact that my earphones have noise-cancelling technology because that means I can lose myself to Kristian Mattsson (The Tallest Man on Earth) or Micheal Kiwanukas’ amazing albums and find lesser-known geniuses, such as Sam Lynch, when I’m looking at the scenery outside as I ride the train or walk through town. 

That’s a small part of what influences my songwriting, but I also love listening to cinematic music when I’m strolling around, working out to old-school rap and hip hop, painting to the ever so genuine songs of Watchhouse and dancing to Blanco White’s Olalla.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I wish they got to answer this question but here it goes:

Since I started performing I’ve experienced incredible moments with fans. We have laughed and cried together, and I’m so amazed by how strong the connection has been looking into someone’s tearing eyes or having witty banter with someone who suddenly decides to be a part of the show. When I say “thank you” to my audience I mean it from the bottom of my heart because the atmosphere we share means just as much to me as it does to them; we’re in it together.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I haven’t studied music at all so whatever I do technique-wise is just made up, but then again I guess everything is. 

Open tunings have evolved the sound of Land Of Trees throughout the years, but I think my almost childish fascination with the mechanics of instruments such as pump organ and accordion will flavour my sound up ahead.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

For this album, I decided to bring everyone to Gustav’s studio, which is a super cosy cabin in the woods. We lived all together in that cabin during the recording of the album. The day would start with everyone cooking breakfast and as we were Christoffer would make up some silly song, and when Gustav arrived we’d already have a silly story to start his day in the studio and set the tone. 

After breakfast, I’d take a moment outside to warm up my vocals as the rest of the band finished their coffee and got settled into their individual rooms. Then we got down to business right away, recording 3 songs a day and all of them live. We recorded it in separate rooms to be able to mix every instrument individually and to still be able to keep the flow of the energy that comes with playing the songs together. 

After the first day, we went for a walk, looking for adventure, and found a farm with eccentric horses running around in the evening sun. On other days, we would all squeeze into a car and buy pizza at the nearest town a few miles away, and Maria experienced the unsettling feeling of losing to Christoffer being smug over his glorious Yatzy victory.

I think the time not recording was just as important to us. There’s no way of measuring it, but it felt different this time around.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I don’t think so. Music in its entirety has just continuously grown to take a bigger and bigger part in my life. 

Of course, I realized I wanted to actually write and perform my music somewhere along the line, but that moment is just a part of how the music grew to become a part of me as much as I wanted to become a part of it.

I remember listening to Ben Howards’ ‘Old Pine’ on a random surf playlist on Spotify when I was walking a boardwalk in Portugal and feeling the warm stones beneath my bare feet. But that’s just one of a million memories of how it felt to be so certain that I would end up doing what I am doing with my life.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Preferably someone close to me/us.  Like our drummer Johan said when Christoffers’ girlfriend was sitting in the front row at a recent show: 

“Thank god Michaela was sitting right by the stage!”

I think having a great front row helps us shine the light on the entire audience no matter the size, like a beam of light passing through glass making it a beautiful prism. Oh, and a capo. I need my capo.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Sam Lynch. I mentioned her earlier but to me that’s definitely a favourite. Her music is so genuine, so pure. It gets to me.

The best part about Sam is that she seems to be doing it for all the right reasons. Like she really loves music with all her heart. I really have no idea since I don’t know her, but I trust and love everything she does anyway. That’s rare nowadays, wouldn’t you say?

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I get creative when I feel like I have something to share. That might come from someone sharing something with me in any form as well: dancing, music, painting, film/photography, cooking etc. It’s all about the senses and how they’re moved. 

I really thrive on perspective as well. It can be the contrast of getting out of a rut or simply looking out a train window. 

Other times that perspective can be the reflection in a glass door turning the world the other way or getting out into the wild hiking; the further I can see the better!

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I have a sweet acoustic Gibson. It sounds better than my first guitar, a pretty basic Tanglewood, but nothing beats my first when it comes to play/feel.

Christoffer and I share my banjo on stage. We take turns and sometimes I bring my solid wood Les Paul to get a little dramatic. She comes with a Fender Blues jr. which I spiced up by changing the front to a fabric I bought in a back alley in Greece this summer. I bring the rest of my family of instruments when we record, so my mandolin and all the harmonicas get to come even though they don’t usually come to shows. 

Then there’s my camera: my LUMIX GH5s. I love it with all my heart and it sees the world in a way I just can’t. It helps me see the world from a better angle, and it’s always with me.

Any side projects you’re working on?

We have an ironic surf band called Wave 2 The Waves where every song is at least a little bit silly. It’s pretty much the same band. It’s just the part of us you shouldn’t have to experience so we play secret shows in random spots.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I want to believe so. I know better now what I want to do even if the plan has been the same since the beginning: write from the heart. 

I think I’ve learned what I love and why I love it on a deeper level, and so it helps me to express myself. I understand why I’m influenced by what gets to me, so it’s easier to navigate in my own creative expression. 

I believe my lyrics have evolved since I started, probably because the first song I wrote was the first song I released (Patient & Quiet), and so you have had the chance to see my entire evolution from the start. 

I’ve also learned to play new instruments and how to play them the way I want to instead of how someone might believe they’re “supposed” to be played.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Well, first off there’s this new album. It’s my best creation yet, and I intend to bring my band out on the road to spread the new tunes with as much hope, joy and inspiration as possible! 

We’re also planning a release party with forest hikes, storytelling with the trees and of course one hell of a release gig but that’s still a secret so shhh.

Famous last words?

Whatever you do, listen to your heart.

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 Image credit: Marie Wahlström