Blackbird Peregrine spoke to ALGB last July having featured on the fourth volume in our Beautiful Songwriting series a month earlier, although it wasn't until September that their debut material as a duo was released. A melodic combination of well crafted and highly accessible indie-folk, Youth is an enjoyable and melodic beginning for the Swedish pair, characterised by warm harmonies and gentle but affecting songs. We caught up with both members to learn their thoughts on the record, with guitarist and vocalist Jassy Gabriel first up, speaking of her interaction with the EP since its release, the tone of the songs, and her satisfaction with the finished work. (Our interview with Alice - the other half of Blackbird Peregrine - can be found here.)
I guess what matters the most to me is the fact that we've touched and inspired people’s souls through our music.
Jassy: Oh my God. First of all, I was very nervous. It was very nerve-wracking, and since it’s our first release together – me and Alice – it was just an entirely new thing to me. I was shaking, actually. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I wasn’t able to sleep very well the day before the release.
Jassy: Perhaps the entire week.
Jassy: I guess at some point I kind of doubted the quality and content of my work. I constantly asked myself if the songs were good enough, and whether I actually could even call it a song at all. I’ve been working hard and been writing songs as often as I can though, and I like to think that I have somehow improved. I feel more confident in my music now than I’ve been in the past several months when I was fairly new to songwriting. I guess you could say I am still pretty new to it. I wrote my first ever song that really felt like a real song in the summer of 2014.
Jassy: Yeah. It’s kind of difficult for me to realise that, but since people tell me all the time that they’re really good and stuff, I want to believe that they’re right. Maybe it’s true? Maybe the songs are good?
Jassy: Honestly, yes! I was very excited and thrilled, especially with Two Wanderers Lost In The Night, which is one of my favourite songs. Alice wrote it, and I remember so well the first time I ever heard it. She sent me this super raw and honest recording of her singing and playing it on the acoustic guitar; I couldn’t stop listening! I had this song on repeat for weeks, even months. To me, it’s a powerful song because it made me feel like I was in love, even if I wasn’t, and that says a lot. I’d sometimes cry – I’m emotional like that – listening to her songs, because I think they’re so good and her talent simply amazes me. I’m so glad and thankful she writes these amazing songs. Sometimes, I take a break and try not to listen to the record too often just to avoid getting tired of it, but sometimes I just can’t get enough. [laughs]
Jassy: I definitely did not feel I had to become more tolerant and compromise since Alice came on board. She is a great singer and songwriter who makes great songs and that’s all that really matters to me. I trust her capabilities and I want her to have that creative freedom.
Jassy: It felt different, because I’ve never done it before. But, fortunately, it went very well. We came up with the song in, like, five minutes. We were like, “Oh! Are we gonna have it?” [laughs] It was fun, and I was very excited because it was my first time writing a song with someone.
Jassy: I think it was very natural. I guess my earlier songs were just a part of me at the time when I was feeling very folky and too obsessed with the Lord of the Rings films. [laughs] Then I moved on and wrote new songs, met Alice, and Blackbird Peregrine happened. It was very toxic when I met her – in a good way! She’s inspired me a lot. Her Songwriting is a bit different from mine – not too different, but still, a bit different.
I am satisfied with the tracks on Youth. I like to believe they are poppier in a good way. I know many people nowadays look down on those who listen to or make pop music, but I think any music could be pop music if it gets very popular, you know? Pop music was different in the sixties compared to the pop music we have today. To be honest, I sometimes wish I lived in the sixties, when folk music was very popular and singer-songwriters were the bomb! I am not a big fan of categorizing my music though. I just want to make some great music: that’s all.
Jassy: Nothing in particular, really. We just wrote songs and picked the ones we really liked. I’ve always been drawn to the dark and melancholic vibe, so most of the songs I write are pretty dark, although sometimes I try to write less dark songs just to balance it. That’s why I came up with the song Keep Your Hand On My Heart. It sounds bright and hopeful, but at the same time it has that sad feeling, somehow. That’s what I feel when I listen to it; especially the bridge part.
Jassy: The songs on this record are different to each other. You could be in a sad or happy mood and this record would work just fine. Some people have told me that they listen to the songs when they’re on a road trip. I find it very interesting, and I hope that our music somehow enhances the overall atmosphere of the driving experience. [laughs]
Jassy: I imagine them feeling completely empty. Like I’m some kind of Dementor from the Harry Potter films and every good feeling and happy memory will be sucked out of you. [laughs] Kidding aside, I think people would be in a happy mood once the record has finished because the last track, I’m Coming Home, is a happy one.
Jassy: Well, when I listen to all the tracks I’ve got this dark yet colourful, youthful images in my head; hence the cover art I came up with. Actually, I ask my mother’s opinion sometimes because I do trust her artistic and musical instincts. The dark sky represents the sad and dark things and feelings that any young person could go through: that being young is not all great, colourful and easy all the time. We’ve all been in the dark at some point in our lives, and I know young people who truly suffer and struggle. The rest of the image is colourful and it represents the happy and positive part of it.
Jassy: I would say film and poetry inspired me a lot. I love film, and I’ve been watching a lot of them the past several months. For some reason I tend to get cinematic images in my head when I write songs. I have this short little film in my head and I turn that into a song, if that makes sense. With poetry, Edgar Allan Poe has always been a huge favourite. His words have touched my heart on a deeper, emotional level.
Jassy: Blues, folk and rock for me, definitely. Maybe a little pop too, melody-wise.
Jassy: Maybe, some people have realised the versatility in my vocals. I’d like to think so, because I really love trying singing different things in different genres.
Jassy: I don’t think so, apart from my singing and playing. There are certain parts I think I could do better; I can’t help but be too self-critical sometimes.
Jassy: Yes! Very much. I love songwriting, recording and all these things. As long as I get to create, I am truly very happy. The not so happy part was when I had a nervous breakdown at the train station in Stockholm after a long day at the recording studio. I couldn’t contain myself any longer and burst into tears, so we had to find somewhere to sit down and talk. I suppose I was being too hard on myself, but I’m glad and grateful that Alice was there to comfort me. She gave me a bear hug and everything was fine again.
Jassy: I am! I think the producer of this EP, Chris McGreevy, did an amazing job engineering, mixing, mastering and co-composing the whole thing. I am truly impressed, and I always have been since day one; he’s brilliant! He comes up with these wonderful melodies and sounds I’ve always dreamed of, and I will always admire him for that. Those tiny little sounds mean a lot, even if they don’t seem too evident.
Jassy: This record means a lot to me. It means a lot because it’s our first ever record together as Blackbird Peregrine and we actually worked hard together on something that means a great deal to us. We’ve gained some respect and appreciation and it has opened up new opportunities. But I guess what matters the most to me is the fact that we’ve touched and inspired people’s souls through our music. That we somehow managed to make them feel something. Something brutally honest and sincere. Something that I will never be able to express in any other way.
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The corresponding ALGB interview with Jassy's partner in music, Alice Siwe, can be found here.
Blackbird Peregrine reveal a little about their process and much about their personalities and friendship, along the way telling a barely believable tale of fate, and disclosing, entirely unabashed, just how much their fledgeling project means to them.
Alanna Eileen discusses her melancholy artistic tendencies and the affects of introversion.
Natalie Evans speaks of her fondness for days gone by, being misunderstood, and the need, as an independent artist, to split both her time and personality.