Song-by-Song: ‘Space To Feel’ by Malin Andersson

Malin Andersson. Photo: Alex Simpson
Malin Andersson. Photo: Alex Simpson

Malin Andersson: “I allow the feeling and flow of the song, and often even the lyrics, to dictate what’s needed in the soundscape.” Photo: Alex Simpson

Filtered through her sensitive prism, life’s vivid palette is brought to life by the Swedish singer-songwriter on her new album

Malin Andersson is an alt-folk songwriter of vivid emotions. Hailing from the Swedish village of Tibro, she began making music when she was just eight. Drawing inspiration from Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and Anna Ternheim, as well as the Swedish poets Edith Södergran and Karin Boye, her journey has taken her to London, the city she now calls home and has enabled her to play at iconic venues such as The Lexington and Union Chapel.

Listening to Andersson’s new album, Space To Feel, is to join her as she transitions from them tranquil landscapes of her early upbringing through to the vibrant tapestry of urban life. Ten songs that reflect her struggles and triumphs – both personal and facing the bigger picture, all seen through her lens of sensitivity – it’s a poignant testament to her life as an artist. Here, she dives a little deeper into the meaning behind each track…

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SHIPS IN THE NIGHT

I’ve always had a feeling in me of being “too late” or “too soon”, constantly wondering if I’m in the right place at the right time. I often reflect on the interplay between life’s clock and the celestial constellations – if it is up to me to make the big decisions, or rather leaving it up to some higher power. The song grew from these initial thoughts and was later finalised, together with LA-based producer and songwriter Ben Alleman, at a songwriting camp in Sweden.

Ben later recorded and produced the full song in his studio back in LA. I was tracking the guitar and vocals in London at Colibri Sound Recorders, where later the whole record was also mixed and mastered by Mo Hausler.

AVALON

Avalon is a reminder to myself and a message to other empaths and highly sensitives that, no matter how strongly you can feel and relate to someone else’s mental struggles and feelings, you don’t have to internalise them as your own problems to fix. You can only be there to listen and often that is more than enough for them.

For Avalon, I wanted a warm sound centred around my acoustic guitar pattern. I produced this song myself and primarily recorded it at Colibri in London. Drums were played by Felix Matthews, upright bass by Samer Al-Sharawi, and cello by Charlie Valena. The piano and Mellotron was later added by Anders Rane at Vintage Loft Studio in Sweden.

EARTH

This is my contemplation on the environmental crises and climate change, considering the collective sense of powerlessness in the face of these challenges. There is uncertainty about how to address our shared concerns, all while pondering the human tendency to selectively perceive, acknowledging that as a collective, we often see only what we want to see.

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Tom Cameron played the piano, synthesisers and added backing vocals. Drums were played by Felix Matthews and bass by Samer Al-Sharawi.

Malin Andersson

Malin Andersson: “I remember having to pause vocal recordings when the parakeets were around due to their loudness.”

REEF

Reef is the first one of many songs I’ve written on being highly sensitive. This one came from a place of overwhelmed feelings and worries about the environmental crisis we are facing. I tried putting words to the feeling of being out of control, that also often comes with being a Highly Sensitive Person. This song is dedicated to nature’s great barrier; the reef, symbolising humanity’s misdirection, asking ourselves how we can find our way back to harmony with nature and find peace within ourselves.

Produced in collaboration with Anders Rane, Reef stands out as the most atmospheric track on the album. Anders, renowned for his analog synth landscapes, contributed keyboards, synthesisers, and electric guitar. Felix Matthews provided drums and percussion, while for the backing vocals, I had the pleasure of featuring special guest artist Lyla Foy.

SIGNS

Signs delves into the timeless theme of human transformation. It tells the story of outgrowing a community that once provided a sense of belonging. With personal growth, the awareness emerges that fitting into their past perception of you is no longer feasible. It’s a story about recognising signs, bravely letting go of relationships that no longer align with your journey, and trusting that you’ll find stability, regardless of the outcome.
In the recording process, drums were played by Felix Matthews, upright bass by Samer Al-Sharawi, and cello by Charlie Valena. Additionally, the track features a Papuan rainforest sample from the Greenpeace Climate Sample pack, supporting Climate Action & Greenpeace.

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ISLAND

A song about the experience of feeling emotions with deep intensity. It explores the longing for that person that could hold you when the overwhelm becomes too big and the waves of emotions seem uncontrollable.

I think Island was my favourite track of the album to produce. I started building it around my acoustic guitar, playing with a sparse instrumentation, before enlisting the talents of my friends and fellow musicians: Tom Cameron and Samer Al-Sharawi. I recorded backing vocals and electric guitar soundscapes with Tom at my home studio, while Samer added the electric bass, showcasing some fantastic harmonics heard at the song’s outset.

Sometimes, I enjoy working in a somewhat reverse manner with production, as you might typically incorporate bass earlier in the process. However, in this case, and often in others, I allow the feeling and flow of the song, and often even the lyrics, to dictate what’s needed in the soundscape.

HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO FEEL

How It’s Supposed To Feel is a moving portrayal of how quickly our emotions can shift from one moment to the next. The song captures the disorienting experience when someone close to you disappears from your life without a trace, leaving you with only questions and no answers.

This track features the most minimal production on the album, with a simple acoustic guitar pattern performed by myself, accompanied by a beautiful piano arrangement by Anders Rane.

Malin Andersson. Photo: Alex Simpson

Malin Andersson: “I felt as if I had surrendered my good luck and the ability to manifest my desires.” Photo: Alex Simpson

GOODLUCK

This one is about when I had constant neck pain for nearly a year. The discomfort not only hindered my sleep but also deprived me of the joy of playing the guitar. The song reflects on my tendency to blame myself for neglecting self-care, leading to a loss of faith in the possibility of positive things coming my way.

I felt as if I had surrendered my good luck and the ability to manifest my desires. Seeking solace in nature, I was reminded of the pointlessness of trying to force outcomes. In the end I rediscovered my own rhythm and needs and, along with treatment, lots of yoga & meditation, miraculously, the pain subsided.

At the time, I lived in a flat in Clapton with a backyard filled with trees, often bustling with various birds. I remember having to pause vocal recordings when the parakeets were around due to their loudness. One day, I decided to record just the birds using a microphone placed outside the window, later using that track to accompany this song.

During the songwriting process, the backyard was also frequented by ladybirds. They even made their way indoors, crawling onto my desk and monitor speakers as I worked on the song. Eventually, the ladybird became the inspiration and symbol for the entire song. It felt somewhat ironic, as ladybirds symbolise good fortune, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling of having no luck at all.

ENOUGH

Enough delves into the apprehensions that come with beginning a new relationship, navigating the process of getting to know someone, and gradually allowing them into your life. It explores the self-doubt that arises when faced with the question of whether I could measure up for this extraordinary person I had met, especially during a phase when I didn’t even feel good enough for myself.

I wrote this song on my nylon guitar and decided to use the nylon sound for the recording. I aimed for a soft and intimate ambiance, keeping the song very sparse. I was fortunate to collaborate with the very talented Lydia Alonso, who arranged and played the cello. Drums were recorded by my friend Felix Matthews, and that was all it needed.

EVERY DAY HOLDS A PROMISE

This song is a tribute to my grandma, who sadly passed away in spring 2020. She was not just a grandmother but also one of my closest friends. Our conversations delved deep into life, and she imparted wisdom on how to approach challenges with a positive mindset. One of her enduring sayings was, ‘You shouldn’t grieve the day that hasn’t yet come,’ conveying the idea of not worrying about future sorrows. I transformed her wisdom into the phrase, ‘Every day holds a promise,’ emphasising the idea that each day brings something new and unforeseen, encouraging a positive outlook on the unknown possibilities of the present.

This song is again built around my guitar playing, sticking to the nylon guitar as when I wrote it. I added a piano and lead guitar, and later recorded drums played by Felix Matthews and the upright bass by Samer Al-Sharawi.

Space To Feel, the new album by Malin Andersson, is out now. You’ll find music and more at malinanderssonmusic.com



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