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#RealTalk | Q&A: Ulli Mattsson


It's rare to find a musician as well-versed and down-to-earth as Ulli Mattsson. This genuine folk artist has a major talent and we were thrilled to discover her single Blue Whales from the debut album Feral!

Born in Sweden, Ulli Mattsson is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, bass player, and recording engineer. Not only that, Ulli also restores ships and has lived most of her life aboard old vessels she's 'brought back to life.' Though she didn't pick up her first instrument until after moving to London during her college years, she's quickly merged her career as an artist and musician to create incredibly profound and inspiring music.

Following the recent release of her first album Feral, we caught up with Ulli Mattsson to learn a bit more about her musical background. We were grateful that she took some time to speak with us, especially as she's been busy hosting three evenings of album launch parties aboard her 100 year old barge in East London.

The Beatforest Music Blog (TBF): When were you first introduced to music? Do your musical roots lie mostly in Swedish/ Scandinavian folk music?

Ulli: My influence and roots in music from Sweden mostly come from the landscape in the north: the space and the silence. I was taught to listen and watch at an early age, as I spent a large part of my childhood outdoors fishing and hunting. I didn't start to play music until I moved to England and went to college for art. A friend was in need of a bass player for their band and I picked up a cheap fretless bass from a junk shop and joined them. Music soon took priority.

TBF: When did you begin restoring ships and how has this influenced your path as a musician?

Ulli: I have a love for old things; there is such a story and beauty in used things. I have a passion for restoring and reusing all sorts of objects. Having refurbished my first boat a few years ago, I found there a silence and peace in the process that inspired me to write music in a different way.

"Mattsson sailed north up the River Lea and out of London last summer to start recording Feral, mooring up far from the noise of the city, with only her dog for company. Her recording sessions were dependent on solar panels, and in the evenings when the batteries lost their charge, she would go down to the lake to swim."

TBF: I loved reading your bio and learning about the process of recording Feral! You recorded the album on your ship and used solar panels to power your equipment, yes? What instruments did you perform on Feral and who accompanied you?

Ulli: There's great acoustics on-board a ship as there is alot of wood and the occasional added sound such as birds and boats passing by, which I like. Feral was partly recorded on a couple of different boats and also in my barge's studio. I sing and mostly play a nylon string guitar on the record. I also play a steel-string and electric guitar on a couple of songs, in addition to fretless bass, drums, percussion, keyboard, and even the broom. Lena Nyberg sings backing vocals, plays violin, harmonica and drums; Emma Ringqvist plays rhodes and sings backing vocals; Janette Pierechod sings backing vocals; Jacob Carey plays lead guitar on Mother and Wandering Lights; and Amir Shoat engineered the album and did some sound-effects on a song or two. Beth, my dog, is even heard snoring on quite a few tracks!

TBF: Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process?

Ulli: I regularly gather beautiful objects, sounds, and stories around me. I read, listen and watch often. I come up with short riffs that I record on my phone and, somehow at some point, a few of those riffs and the words I've been gathering become a song. The music goes round and round in my head and I feel like I'm subconsciously working all the time.

TBF: Could you share a bit about your launch parties and performances for Feral? Do you have any other upcoming performances planned?

Ulli: It was amazing and so much fun! We did a three night event on my 100 year old barge on the River Lea in Hackney Wick. I've spent the last two years restoring her so it was partly a celebration of De Drie Gebroeders getting a facelift and a new lease of life, as well as launching the album in the environment it was produced. There's a fantastic community on the river and lots of friends helped and took part. One boat became a bar, serving foraged cocktails through the hatch while being moored up close to the back deck of my boat. Another became the dressing room and kitchen, catering for everyone taking part. Adam Weymouth helped me organize the launch and also took part by sharing folklore. The band Fjorden also performed and Debbie Porter danced and performed on the roof of Drie before and in-between sets. The launch is the beginning of a very slow tour that will move along the River Lea during the next couple of months. We haven't decided when the next date will be yet, but follow me on @ullimattsson or on Facebook, as I will post dates as soon as they're scheduled.

"Feral has no clear influences. It is born of nights by the fire, of stillness, of the radio in the background, of a cheap nylon string guitar. “Float my home on the river,” it begins. “When I have a sail I go to sea.” There is water running through the album, an imagery of calm and space, but also of tenacity and force. It is an album that seems distant from the city that she now calls home, but enabled by the river that flows through it, a river she describes as a lung. Feral is the story of her journey to the river and the voice it has given her"

Be sure to listen to Blue Whales from Ulli Mattsson's debut album in the Soundcloud player at the top of this post and purchase a copy of Feral as a 12" or digital download in the Bandcamp player below!

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