When Sweden’s Ida Maria burst onto the scene in 2008 with her amazing album, “Fortress Round My Heart”, we sensed global domination in her future. Instead, the next year and a-half turned into a tumultuous roller coaster of emotions, with a delayed U.S. release and a breakdown that caused her to cancel a U.S. tour just as she was garnering the publicity she deserved. Named to numerous ‘Best of 2009′ lists by the always diligent U.S. music press, we’re hopeful that Ida can recapture her momentum and charm us again in 2010. After tracking her for almost a year, we were finally able to dodge the over-protective label reps and get her to reflect on the past 18 months.
TDOA: We’ve been trying to explain to people like Spin Magazine that Fortress Round My Heart has been out for a while. When did you write the songs that appeared on that record?
IM: The songs that appear on ”Fortress” are songs that I wrote some years ago and I appreciate that Spin gave this record such a boost in the US. It didn’t come out in the US until 2009, so it´s alright with me that they put it on the list. I think all the songs have a lasting quality to them. I still think it´s a great record and it gives a picture of me when I was younger. They are all songs that can endure the wear and tear of time.
TDOA: I believe there was a one year gap between the European release and the U.S. release of the record. Why did it take the label so long to release it here?
IM: When I recorded the album, it was held back by my UK label Sony/BMG a whole year before it even came out in the UK/Europe. When it came out everyone had already heard it. Incredibly frustrating, and no way that they were gonna let me release it in the US. They basically stole a year of my life! So I’ve really experienced how badly treated you can be by the record label. I changed labels to Mercury in the US and they are on my side and I refuse to let it happen again.
TDOA: When we saw you play a show in Dallas, Texas, there were several songs where you became pretty emotional and teary. Some people might think that it’s hard to get wound up about songs that you’ve probably played a million times. Psycho-analysis question of the day: Why are you able to still connect to your music with such emotion, when many other bands seem bored after touring for six months?
IM: Well, it´s tough touring for six months, years. It can be hard to connect emotionally with my songs every night but there is a special super power in hearing people singing along to every word and I know that the songs mean something to them as well as me, and I can feel the energy that everyone is giving me. The show in Dallas is one of the shows that I do remember. Everyone had a great time! That´s my dream!
TDOA: How do you feel about the process of making videos?
IM: I am very uncomfortable in the video making process. I kinda get like a kid in front of the class and I just totally black out. I have a million great ideas for videos, but my bad, first label wouldn’t let me do all these things. For the Naked video, I wanted to have fun and put a lot of oiled bodybuilders on a trailer and rock out like a rapper. I think when I am in control of the idea and follow the process it turns out much better. My favorite is ‘Drive Away My Heart’. It´s me and my gangster heart, robbing a bank like Bonnie and Clyde! It deserves more views! Stella is good too. And Oh My God. Shit I rule!
TDOA: Your collaboration with Iggy Pop got quite a bit of press. Can you talk about the experience? How’d it come about? Did you get much time along with him, so that you could get a sense of his personality? We’d love to know what the “older” Iggy is like!
IM: Iggy is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Originally there was a treatment which I didnt’t like and scrapped and Iggy gave me kudos for that. He said to me (which is one of the best advice ever): “Ida, you wouldn’t want to do a video where you go all crazy and act violent and stuff (like the treatment suggested) cause then people will be expecting you to go crazy every time they see you.” Coming from Iggy that was quite moving. He is extremely intelligent, extremely funny and has a great heart. When we first started working together he would call me ten times a day/night just to say hi and chat and tell stories. I love him. He´s the man.
TDOA: You had to leave the Perez Hilton tour due to exhaustion, which isn’t surprising given how long you’ve been touring with this record. Did you learn anything from the experience that might help you to keep this happening again? Is saying “no” to the record label an option?
IM: Well, first the label didn’t force me to do the tour. I did. I said yes to the tour the day Michael Jackson died. Being a fan since I was 6, I thought “I’m gonna do this for him.” I knew I was ill but I thought I could find the strength somewhere deep down inside. Turned out I had actually overspent myself and there was nothing I could do. It was a physical breakdown, not emotional. I’m in therapy and I’m recovering. Writing new songs and everything.
TDOA: Is there any kind of fallout with the label when you have to leave a tour for medical reasons? Do you get a sternly worded letter from the label or were they pretty supportive?
IM: My label was supportive. They know how hard I’ve worked. Sounds like I’m making commercial for major labels, but there are good ones out there. I still feel very bad for the lovely people who bought tickets and I promise to make it up to you.
TDOA: We’ve interviewed a bunch of great bands from Sweden lately. I know you’re from Norway, but I think you worked on the record in Sweden. There’s always been a lot of great bands coming from those countries, but do you think there’s an increasing number of great acts coming from that region?
IM: Music is the one art form left that still has a great impact and the ability to criticize and ask questions about the society. Us Scandinavians never like to sit down an watch the Americans and English have all the fun. Also we come from a peculiar place in the world, geographically squeezed in between Russia, UK, US and Europe. So we receive a lot of various influences that make the music sounding unique. I think there´s a growing scene definitely and I think Scandinavia is taking over the music-defining crown from England this very second! Check out Donkeyboy from Norway!
TDOA: Are were correct that your band has changed since the recording of the album? Do you consider yourself a solo artist who works with studio musicians or will there be a relatively constant band line-up in the future?
IM: I´m a solo artist/singer songwriter, whatever… Two important things if you wanna join my band: gotta be a creative, an awesome player and have a great sense of humor. No compromises. Doesn’t matter WHAT you play. Oh and you have to have a good voice. My fans deserve the best.
TDOA: How has the songwriting process changed for you with the constant touring you’ve endured? Were you able to write songs for a new record and are the themes similar to the first?
IM: It´s hard to write on tour. For me it´s such a personal thing. I´ve been writing lots of lyrics though. I´ve grown a lot personally. I feel more mature and I think that´s gonna be obvious on my next record. But it´s still gonna be the same old lunatic Ida writing about crazy relationships , bad habits and ups and downs in life. It´s gonna be as hard as metal and soft as silk and lyrically just really, really worrying.
TDOA: What are your plans for 2010?
IM: Making the record my fans deserve!