Pushing the boundaries of her drawn-out melodies contrasted with a blend of rapid trip-hop electronica, Swedish songwriter Amanda Börjeson, aka Noomi, doesn’t hold back from experimenting with conventional genres to create a unique fusion of sounds in her musical compositions. Drawing from the UK music scene, the artist is curious, open mindedness and shows a willingness to experiment, fascinated by the notion of putting the pop formula into a different light.
Growing up feeling out of place in the music world only drove Noomi more. Using music as a space to formulate her own path and develop her own musical persona, the artist strives to view herself from an outer perspective to understand her inner world. This is just the beginning for Noomi. According to the artist, her upcoming EP Life Aqua, out 21st May, documents a period of her life, featuring dynamic shifts and an eclectic range of sounds. Here, we talk with Noomi about getting her break and creating her sound, being an artist in today’s era and her singles already released off the EP, Ride and Free at Least.
Your early inspiration is from Massive Attack, Four Tet and Radiohead - why is it particularly the UK music scene that has inspired you?
I have always been drawn to it. If I’m being honest I wasn’t really aware of them all being from the same scene until I grew older. It was just what I loved, and still love listening to. There is a curiosity, open mindedness and willingness to experiment in the UK scene that I really resonate with, and that I feel is missing in a lot of other contexts.
Would you say your home country, Sweden, still influences your music?
In every single way! I played a lot of Swedish traditional folk music on violin when I was younger and I think that still affects the way I think about melody. Whether I like it or not, it’s always going to be a part of me. It’s not something I flee from, but being brought up in a musical environment that I felt kind of misplaced in, made shaping my own path and creating my own musical persona very important to me.
Tell me, what was the process that led up to you getting signed to Universal Music Publishing?
I had been working on some songs for a while back in 2017, and I randomly texted a link showcasing a couple of them to my friend Paul one night. He sent them off to a bunch of publishers without my knowledge, but suddenly I was at a meeting with UMPG and they’ve been the best kind of music family I could ever wish for ever since!
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Where do you draw your inspiration from when songwriting?
In everything that attracts my interest. I collect ideas all the time but I never know what I’m going to write about until I’m actually in it, writing. I think following my intuition is the most important thing, because looking back, my songs are often more honest and truthful than my thoughts and apprehensions about myself or the events they spring from, if that makes sense? You shouldn’t outsmart yourself when writing, then it loses its whole purpose.
Your work features drawn-out melodies and soft vocals contrasted with a fusion of rapid trip-hop electronica, how did you develop your style? How has it evolved since you first began creating?
I’ve gathered a big amount of inspiration from instrumental and electronic music since I was a teenager. I find instrumental music communicates sound in a more emotional way than conventional pop music often does, and I’ve been obsessed with the idea of putting the pop formula in a different kind of light for such a long time.
Don’t get me wrong I 'love' pop but I want to let it shed some skin, get a bit grittier and daring, and I think now more than ever pop music can be just what you make it. What even is a genre? There are no do’s and don'ts, except don’t hold back. I’m constantly learning to push new boundaries and even if I don’t feel that I’m even close to being there yet. Ride was probably the first time that I felt I had hit it in the right spot.
You said your recent track Ride, came to you after you stopped trying so hard. Do you think, in this era, we put too much pressure on ourselves? What is the biggest challenge being an artist?
I think pressure can be an amazing tool if you learn to use it in the right way. It makes you better than your own preconceived notions about your ability, pushing all your senses to the absolute max. However, at its worst, it’s something that totally eats you up from inside, making it hard to even leave your bed some days. The balance between the two is something that I – just as so many other people, and women in particular – have struggled with all my life.
The amount of pressure that is put, especially on young girls from a really young age is insane, and leaves traces and bruises that hardly ever heal. It becomes a 'part of our DNA'. With that said, I’m a white woman who was brought up in a somewhat privileged home in Sweden, and I’m fully aware that the pressure I was under and still am experiencing is not even close to what non-caucasian women and transgender women are having to deal with every day.
I feel like people like to romanticise dysfunction as a fuel for creativity but there’s a thin line between being mentally ill and being able to make something out of it. My creative side is surely my most destructive one, and learning how to let it exist without slowly killing you meanwhile is definitely my biggest challenge as an artist but also as a human being.
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You have said you almost gave up on music after hitting so many creative dead ends, what motivated you to keep going during a period of frustration?
I’m an extremely stubborn person by nature. If I decide on something, I’ll push through until I get where I want to go. I guess it’s quite unhealthy at times but my body is not my temple. I’m also a firm believer that experiencing writing blocks only means that you’re developing and growing and therefore not settling with what you’re used to. What comes out of it is almost always a “leveling up,” so to speak. You’ll just have to hang in there!
Does Life Aqua provide a sort of introspective view into your world and how does it respond to the idea of the “outsider?”
I always try to look at myself from an outer perspective to understand myself and my actions better. I disappoint myself often but I believe daring to realise your mistakes is the only way to grow and learn from them.
The music video for Ride, directed by Daniel Skoglund, places you in a surreal world consumed with standstill pedestrians and sports cars. What was the inspiration behind the video?
We wanted to capture the feeling of standing from the outside looking in – but at yourself – where you'll eventually learn that how you act and what you really yearn for is not in tune with one another, and how that realisation is the only way to finally be true to your desires. It takes place in the void between the thought and action of what feels like a surreal but nonetheless long awaited future. I wanted a little bit of Karma Police, a little bit of Ray of Light, those kinds of 90’s aesthetics but in a new shape (and with a kick ass sports car of course!). Daniel transformed that into something truly amazing. The energy on set was incredible. I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life!
Are there any current music trends catching your attention? Who are some artists you can’t take your eyes off of?
I’ve been following Smerz ever since they released their first EP and loved everything so far, but they've completely outdone themselves on their new album! Such an honest and raw documentation of their friendship. I’ve also felt the need to find guidance in strong female figures lately and listening to Kate Bush, Caroline Polachek, Björk and Arca has helped me alot. They all have a fearlessness about them that I really look up to.
So you’ve released your first two tracks off the EP, giving fans a sneak preview. Tell us more about your latest release, Free at Least.
Free at Least is a more soft, intimate, sexually liberating song that was written from a place of ambivalence. It’s an emotional tug-of-war between letting in or pushing away, between anxiety and excitement, between wanting to but not daring to. It has a special place in my heart and I really hope it finds its way into others'.
And what can we expect from the full EP?
A lot of great tunes! It is a document of a period in my life with big dynamic shifts through and through. It’s a bit eclectic, but so am I and that’s how I like it.
Where are you hoping to take your listeners with your music? What’s next for your career and what should we watch out for?
I feel like talking too much about how you want your music to make people feel sort of undermines them and the music itself. The whole point of creating is to put the emotions we can’t talk about into another more fathomable format, and everyone has to make their own interpretation of it. I’m hoping that the ones who are listening to what I do feel they can connect and relate in some way. I don’t know much about the future except that the music is getting better and bolder, and I feel very very ready to let it lead the way.
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