Swedish folk act Tallest Man On Earth was never meant to go places. Formed with the express aim of simply making something he enjoyed, and perhaps playing a little around his local scene, Kristian Matsson has instead found himself spending a chunk of his life living in New York, touring the world, and getting regular comparisons to Bob Dylan.
The Dylan comparison, by the by, he finds quite funny. “Journalists keep bringing it up, and it turns into this kind of cycle,” he says. “They often forget my female influences, like Joni Mitchell. But it’s very flattering, of course.” The point, I suppose, is that Matsson creates vocally distinctive folk music that almost seems to tell a story, and is rooted in tradition and place. There’s a new record on the way, Henry St, which is different, but will still take in all of those angles.
“It’s been done for a while,” he says of Henry St. “It’s a very special album for me. There are a bunch of people on it, which makes it the opposite of the album before it. For my last album, I was living in my apartment in New York in the Winter of 2018/ 19, and I decided to isolate there. I set up these rules, I was going to write and record everything in a month, and not see anyone. It’s quite funny in hindsight, with the pandemic.”
“I moved back to Sweden ten weeks into the pandemic, and I was just me in my solitude, and it wasn’t great for mental health. I was reminded of my own mortality all the time, and the playfulness disappeared. I couldn’t write. I just grew vegetables. When I was finally back, I went to North Carolina, and wrote eleven songs and invited a bunch of people.”
“I realised during the pandemic that the people around me were my life’s inspiration. Interactions, that’s what really inspires. There’s not a genius in this little shell, it’s when I’m with other people I get inspired. I invited super good musicians, and I built on these demos. I let people bring their own personality, and we recorded some of the songs live, as a band in the studio. It was literally a party, with a lot of the things we’d been missing, with dogs running around, high fiving, people visiting. It was lovely.”
“Some of the songs are sad sounding, but it was a beautiful piece of work produced with friends. It’s the first album where I come to the conclusion that you can’t just wallow in your own anxiety. There’s a hopefulness to the album, which is hard amongst war and injustice, but this is what the album is about.”
Touring, though – the act of communing on a stage – has always been Tallest Man On Earth’s main thing, his natural home. “I’m super happy to be coming back, doing proper shows again,” he says. “I did loads of shows and had to make up for all the cancelled ones, which was crazy. We did that into last summer, and loved it.”
“In the last six months, the winter, I had to deal with my personal life, moving, getting settled, stuff like that, and preparing for the album and getting a band together. The tour won’t have the exact people from the album, but two North Carolina musicians and a drummer from Sweden will make up a four piece, and they’re all very talented. We’re going to play new songs and band versions of old songs, and some parts that are just me. I can’t wait.”
Tallest Man On Earth plays Vicar Street on April 17th. New album Henry St is due for release on April 14th.
Photo: Kaitlin Scott
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