NINA Persson, lead singer of the Swedish perfectionist indie pop band The Cardigans, releases her debut album under her own name this week.
Persson devotees will know she had a solo side project as A Camp, issuing A Camp in 2001 and Colonia in 2009 while her band took a break, so how does Animal Heart differ from those records?
“I just felt comfortable to use my own name,” says Nina. “I was uncomfortable before, and there was nothing that attracted me to becoming a solo artist as such. With a different name, A Camp, it could be whatever I wanted, and I liked being in bands, I grew up in bands and loved it.”
However, it turns out releasing records as A Camp and Nina Persson is “not actually that different”. “I wrote and recorded the album with my husband [film composer, songwriter and novelist Nathan Larson] and Eric D Johnson as I had done before, and my role has been the same,” she says. “Having a band name, there is a layer of protection though, I suppose.”
As she prepares to promote Animal Heart, Nina admits to feeling “a little freaked out and stressed”, with a long list of things she needs to do. “I leave New York, where I live, to tour soon so I have a lot to get in beforehand,” she says.
“I am very excited too, excited to finish the preparations. There's so much computer work that needs to be done, admin basically, and all I want to do is release the album and play some live shows. Then it's real. I've had the album for six months so I want other people to hear it now.”
Given that The Cardigans have been on an extended recording break since 2005, Nina felt she had questions that could be best answered by making a solo record. “I had a few really mellow years, I had a kid and then I got very excited to work again, but I had to find out if I could still do my job with a child,” she says.
“I'd had a long career before I had a child, but I'd never had to think about anyone else before. There were no consequences for other people if I worked all the time and toured all year, but now that's different.
“That's when I decided doing a solo album was best, because it's a lot easier than trying to get a whole band together. Nathan and I can work whenever and it happens at a pace I can handle. I'm not waiting or trying to cram things in. The Cardigans all now live in different places and do different things, so another album will require me being in Sweden for six months, which is a halt for my normal life. I can't do that right now.”
Animal Heart is Nina’s first album in five years, a hiatus that has seen her priorities change. “I have recorded songs with the Manic Street Preachers and a collective I'm involved with here in New York called The Citizens Band, so I have been doing stuff, but it's not much, and it's not in the public eye,” she says.
“I like not having the urgency. I could live the rest of my life without working, I'm really good at it. Fame and glory aren't things I crave.”
Having a child has changed the way Nina works. “It’s had a huge impact, mainly in that I just have to get things done. I have only so many days to work, and limited time, so I can't walk around living my project or whatever, being some tortured artist, you have to punch out and be a mum,” she says.
“I just have a few hours to play with and they have to really count. I make decisions much more quickly than I used to, which is tough. I was a master of wallowing and over-thinking, so it's been good for me.”
Have marriage and motherhood influenced Nina’s lyrics? “I’ve been married 13 years now, and I’ve been writing more than ever about complications in relationships, sexuality and things, so that's not changed by getting married,” she says.
“I did wonder what having a child would do to me, especially after my life that's basically been without responsibility. When I started to write, I immediately picked up the thread where I'd dropped it. That was a relief because you get these artists who write songs about their kids and I didn't want to do that. It'd be like showing someone pictures of your kids all the time, it's boring for them.”
Should you be wondering what’s happened to The Cardigans, Nina says: “We played some shows last year. We had a long time when nothing new really happened, but the past two years we've done some shows and it's been enjoyable. I also kept them all very informed that I was starting this solo thing.”
Ah yes, but will there ever be another Cardigans album, Nina? “That's the plan, we have been discussing it, the when and how. It will happen I'm sure.”
Did you know?
Lojinx, the label releasing Nina Persson's album , is owned by York-born musician Andrew Campbell.
He is also a member of the York band Farrah, whose singer, Jez Ashurst. is carving out a career as a pop songwriter and arranger to the stars.
"Jez co-wrote Leona Lewis's Christmas single, One More Sleep, last year, as well as creating most of the music for the entire 2013 season of The X Factor, and he's written for Gabrielle Aplin, Boyzone, Will Young, Mel C and more," says Andrew.
"We're both a product of York schools and, to a large extent, owe a great to deal to the support we had from various music teachers and the York schools' music system of the 1980s."
Nina Persson releases Animal Heart on the Lojinx label this week. She will play London’s Scala on March 5.