... and how her training at the music conservatory influenced her.
AVIVA-Berlin: Your new album is called "The Den". Do you regard songwriting as a retreat?
Olivia Pedroli: It was important for me to do an album which is not an album with one song after the other. I wanted to create an album which has a line and a sound of its own. I spent a lot of time to develop the kind of sound I had in mind for this album.
Well, in this phase usually I work just by myself in my own room, creating my own music. I decided to call it "The Den" because this is a small place where one can just retire a little bit. "The Den" gives also a place for the imagination to go wild and crazy. So I thought the title is the best image I can give to the way I work but also to the music and the kind of atmosphere that I wanted to propose.
AVIVA-Berlin: For your third record you worked together with the Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurdsson. Why did you decide to jump from Switzerland to Iceland for the studio-producing?
Olivia Pedroli: I made two albums before this one, "Sugary and dry" and "The smell of wait", under the nickname Lole and in the standard setting for the indie community: bass, electric guitar and drums. These two albums were a good experience but then I wanted to do something which is much closer to who I really am. I have got these classical roots as I studied violin at the conservatory. So I had the idea to create something of my own which integrates progressive classic and experimental pop. My new producer Valgeir Sigurdsson is very experienced with these styles of music. I didn´t know him personally before but I´ve heard a lot of his work projects together with people I really love: Björk, Camille and Bonnie Prince Billy. And I saw his name appearing on many more different projects which I really liked. I sent him an email in which I presented my previous work and told him that I wanted to do something different and in which direction I want to go with my music. We met personally to find out if there is a connection between us on which we can start to work together. So I went to Iceland and we got along very well.
AVIVA-Berlin: How did you work together? What approach did he have in developing your music?
Olivia Pedroli: Because I knew I was working together with somebody who has got a lot of experience I had to be very sure of what I wanted. If a producer comes together with somebody who doesn´t really know what he wants the producer just does what he wants to do and then that´s it.
Before I started to record in the studio I was in Iceland for three weeks working on my project for myself. So later it was quite clear which direction it should take. His job was to give me clues and leads how we can elaborate the arrangements to get them more exciting and deeper in the architecture. It was really nice because it was all the time like a good conversation, a dialogue. We exchanged ideas, compared them, found out what are the best elements and we also had a lot of fun working together.
AVIVA-Berlin: Your lyrics are very poetic and deep. How do you bring text and music together during songwriting?
Olivia Pedroli: I usually write the music first. After that I look which kind of atmosphere or texture it initiates in myself, if there is a specific image which I can express in a word or a phrase. And then I work out these ideas and my feelings about the music to write my texts.
It´s important to me to create a text that is open to many different interpretations. My texts are not supposed to be just a story that one can understand and that´s it. Quite often I see my songs like dialogues with someone. I hope that my songs allow the listeners to make them their own, according what their life is about at the moment. And maybe a month later the same person can take the song from a different point of view.
It´s very important for me to use the voice as a connection between music and text. I focus on the textures of the voice to express what I´m trying to transfer with my songwriting. My intention is that a person who doesn´t speak a word of English can sense what I´m trying to say.
AVIVA-Berlin: How will you perform your songs on stage? Are you going to use all the instruments one can hear on the record? Which musicians will accompany you?
Olivia Pedroli: Yes, that was a big question mark after the record was done. How am I going to do all that on stage keeping the atmosphere of the album? Obviously I can´t tour with twenty five classical musicians. The album was already released one year ago in Switzerland and I toured with it there. We toured with seventeen musicians which is already quite a lot. It was important for me to keep the classical and the folk connection as well as the experimental touch: Two strings, two brass, someone doing programming, a piano, background vocals, myself singing and playing guitar and piano. Well, for other countries there is a financial limit so I´m going to tour with about five musicians: One cello, one brass, a xylophon, a saxophon, one person who plays the piano and does some percussion, one person who does programming and plays bigger percussion and myself. And it works out. We realized that we can create the atmosphere of the album just by being five. I´ve already done some concerts in this setting. I was invited to the Festival of Montreal. It was really nice, it was a good feedback because it was filmed so I could check it all after. And I was happy that it reflected the atmosphere of "The Den" very well.
AVIVA-Berlin: How important to you regard your classical music education for your songwriting and in general?
Olivia Pedroli: This education allows me to write my music in all the arrangements I use. If you use strings you have to know the rules on how to write an arrangement for them. So my study time at the music conservatory helps me a lot. When I finished at the conservatory I was eighteen and I left for New Zealand. I didn´t take my violin with me abroad. But when I put the violin aside the voice came. That was a very important moment for my later work. The violin is an instrument which is very close to the body. If you change the position of the head just one millimeter it will already create a different sound. With the voice, it´s exactly the same. If you´re relaxing or changing something with the body, the voice sounds different. The education I had with the violin and the discipline that was expected from me during my time at the conservatory helped me a lot to develop my voice.
At the end of my education at the conservatory I was a bit frustrated because I could play music but I couldn´t improvise. So I said "Well, I have studied for thirteen years and all I can do is playing music which is written." Probably that was the reason why I sat the violin aside. I enjoyed to sit at the fire with the guitar in the hands just singing the songs which I liked. At that point I started to improvise with my voice, playing with the different things I could do with it. I needed to explore the borders of classical music and once I did that I started to integrate the classical music education again. I´m really glad that I have these strong roots.
AVIVA-Berlin: Did you ever have dreams for a different career or did you always want to become a professional musicians?
Olivia Pedroli: I knew that I was always gonna play music. Forever. But I didn´t know if I wanted to do it as a professional or just to keep it as a hobby. When I was fifteen, I had to choose at the conservatory if I wanted to do violin professional or not. And I said "No, I just want to keep it as a passion." So I finished later at the conservatory as a unprofessional musician and left to travel for a longer time abroad. When I came back to Switzerland I trained to be a primary school teacher. It was to assure me that I have a degree just in case I need a job. But I´ve never worked as a teacher yet. Right after I did my training I started to write my own music and was getting the first invitations to perform in clubs. As soon I had finished my studies I went on a tour and started with professional songwriting. So I never stood before a class. Actually, it was quite late that I decided I want to earn my living with songwriting. It was never like a dream, me standing before the mirror as a teenager and trying to see me as a popstar.
AVIVA-Berlin: After you finished school. Why did you decide to go abroad for a longer time?
Olivia Pedroli: I was eighteen and I really wanted to travel, especially to learn English. I knew English from school but I wanted to speak it fluently. I love that language from the heart. I like the sound of it and to sing in it. England was too close for me and I didn´t fancy to go to the US. But I was very interested in New Zealand and that was good because it was so far away. When you´re young you want to go away from your parents and do all by yourself. It was a really nice experience. When I came back I yearned to go away again so I traveled through Australia and Thailand and did all the things you like when you´re at that age. I think it helped me to start songwriting later because I was so filled with the experiences I had abroad.
AVIVA-Berlin: You worked together for your first record with Simon Gerber from the Sophie Hunger’s band. How did you meet? How connected is the songwriting scene in Switzerland?
Olivia Pedroli: Switzerland is really small regarding that aspect.
It happened at my third concert on a festival in Wallis. There was this guy, who is a sound engineer. He heard my concert and recommended me to meet Simon Gerber because he could help me produce my first album. It worked out very well. We made two albums together. After the second album I thought it would be nice to have a change and to do an album without drums, without bass and with other arrangements. And in the meantime Simon had the proposition to work together with Sophie Hunger. So it was a good time to go different ways and it was fine for me to make experiences with other people.
Because Switzerland is rather small it is easy to get to know everyone soon in the music scene. But I don´t feel like having a lot of communication with other songwriters. If you come from Switzerland you have to get away from it because you can´t make a living with performing only in Switzerland. I know Sophie Hunger as well and she´s very nice. But I´m not that close with her.
More information about Olivia Pedroli at: www.oliviapedroli.com
Read also our review to "The Den".