We had the opportunity to talk with Nana Jacobi about her relationship to nature, the music industry, her own creative process and how it all comes together in her newest single ‘Et Skib’.
Nana Jacobi is not unfamiliar with making moves in the music industry. Artist, gender equality advocate, music label founder, and much more, it’s to no one’s surprise that her newest single ‘Et Skib’ (The Ship) is another pulsating wave through the danish music scene.
A scene that she’s not unfamiliar with affecting as co-founder of the initiative HUN SOLO. HUN SOLO is a female-centric music community with a strong mission to display a diverse, competent, and strong range of female musicians, both in the format of collected solo shows and individual performances – with the overarching thread of making sure, that there is a stronger consciousness to the discussions of equality in the music industry.
Nana’s voice is as strong when it comes to the imbalances of her industry as it is in her creative work as a solo artist. Strong vocals, a cinematic soundscape, and waves of electronic finesse are just some of the many components of her newest single ‘Et Skib’ (The Ship). We talked a bit to Nana about her relationship to nature, her relationship to an ideal music industry, and about the emotional waves one feels, when being an artist dedicated to their work. But first, have a little listen to the single below.
We’re chatting right now because your newest single ‘Et Skib’ (The Ship) is premiering today. (Congrats!) We can’t help but notice several references to nature and the ocean in both the title and the lyrics. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with nature and how it plays into your life?
Yes, I see why you ask me that! My latest single ‘Sneblind’ had the North Sea and the West Coast of Jutland all over the music video, and now ‘Et Skib’ – with the sea-theme going on again. I grew up by the sea and I spent a lot of my childhood in nature. The landscapes up there are SO amazingly raw and elongated and beautiful. The western wind makes the trees all crooked, and the powerful North Sea is “eating its way” through the land, with buildings falling into the water masses. I often thought of that as a manifestation of how nature is stronger than humans.
Is there a difference in your creativity depending on whether you’re in nature vs. in the city? Is there a difference in the energy of your music depending on where you’re being inspired?
That’s an interesting question actually. I grew up by the sea, live by the forest but I have my studio in the city – and a lot of the work I am involved in happen there. I think most people who grew up in the countryside will recognize the thought of your childhood landscapes being “printed” inside of you. They become a part of you. And although my songs have always had elements of nature in them, my upcoming album will be the most electronic album I’ve ever made and it has a pretty urban vibe to it. And I mean, we have access to the whole world through the internet, so I am influenced by a lot of city elements. My state of mind is very affected by where I live. I do need nature close to me. Nature is kind of my religion.
Tell us about what the process was like, getting the track put together? Well I wrote the whole song by the piano, as I often do. I try to constantly change my songwriting methods but I’m often searching for good melodic material by the piano. At the time I had been through a period where I struggled with the artist-and-family-life balance. My husband and children had to develop an understanding of the fact that, me focusing on music, didn’t mean that they were not a focus too. But being a musician sometimes pulls you away from home – when you are touring obviously, but also mentally, when you are in the creative processes. ‘The Ship’ appeared as a metaphor for that. The ship calling me from the harbor, always laying there, waiting for me to “sail out to sea”. The song, and the whole album actually, is produced by the amazing young producer Kristoffer Søndergaard. I’ve been searching for a producer like him for a long time. I feel that he can amplify the wistful and cinematic tone of my songs, and at the same time add a contrast with some really cool, raw beats and rhythmically advanced arrangements.
There’s this unconfirmed idea that people tend to be more creative during times of crisis. What’s your opinion on that?
On a personal level I totally feel the truth of that. I think it is because when you are in pain, creativity is so soothing. The music becomes a space where you can project your feeling into. It can almost feel as if feelings leave your body and get a body of their own – the song, the piece of art, the poem, or whatever art you do. The need for creating is huge when you’re going through hard times.
I have actually spoken to quite a lot of artists, who have not been able to be creative in this Coronavirus period. My colleague and friend Annika Aakjær said it pretty clearly: “When you write songs, you look at the world and write about what you see. And right now you can only see the virus. And I don’t want to write about that”.
We know that you’re very outspoken about the inequality that exists in the music industry. Can you tell us a bit about how that became a passion point for you?
For many many years I never gave it a thought. I always played with male musicians and I loved that, but at one point, I started reflecting on the fact that I’d only met male “gatekeepers” in the music industry. I thought to myself: could this have an effect on an artist like me? Would my carrier in the danish music industry be different, if half of the gatekeepers had been female? Are men and women experiencing music in the EXACT same way? Or does gender have an influence on how we perceive art? I started to notice how often you would see only male artists on festival posters, in music magazines, at award shows, and so on. I wrote an opinion piece on that, and the discussion blew up all over Denmark. The whole thing actually ended up with minister for culture of Denmark wording three new initiatives on diversity in the future music plan. I remember thinking: “wow, democracy really works!!”
“The feminine age has begun”
Speaking of equality, we’re of course huge fans of the work that you do with HUN SOLO.How do you feel that the focus on representation has impacted the younger generations?
I’ve seen change happening throughout the four years that we’ve been doing our thing with HUN SOLO. I am certain that these changes will continue and I’m hopeful that the younger generations will grow up in a world that increasingly doesn’t accept sexism or gender inequalities. When we received ’Tak Rock Prisen’ at this year’s GAFFA awards, I started off our speech, with the words: “The feminine age has begun” and I really do believe that. The world has had thousands of years dominated by the patriarchy, now I sense a universal yearning for another way of living together on this same planet. A way driven by more feminine values.
What is your dream scenario for the danish music industry in the future?
It’s my dream that a lot of the women and girls of the future will find the space to have fun playing instruments, writing songs, performing them, and get motivated to do so, because they hear awesome female artists on the playlists they’re streaming, experience them on the festivals they’re attending, see them on TV, read about them in books, see them in great roles in films they watch and so on and so on. I have a dream that the future brings a world where music is for everybody.
Finally, what’s up next for you?
Well, we are working on the full album these days. So I will be sending out another single or two, and then the full album will be out in November. It’ll be my first ever album in Danish as I have a newfound crush on my mother tongue at the moment. I think our language has its own weird, angular poetry to it. And then I hope to be able to tour again before too long. During these times where we’ve lost all of our concerts, and a huge chunk of our income, I’m thinking of the future more than ever. On how to survive as an artist. I have some interesting ideas for this, but I can’t reveal them just yet. You’ll have to watch out for me…
We’d strongly recommend keeping an eye on Nana Jacobi and her future moves, she’s bound to rock the boat (or ship) in a place or two!