‘Re-Introducing’ because I originally wrote an introduction feature in GIITTV on Stockholm-based Johanna Brun as long ago as January 2019. Since then, she’s successfully continued her battle with a challenging, debilitating illness, dealt with the impact of the pandemic and a series of set-backs to a live, touring, musical production she had engineered, and enrolled at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
Meanwhile, the ‘Bird’ has flown at last, 10 years after it first made an appearance, fashioned from the pen and keyboard of an embattled 13-year old; the “little Johanna who dared” as she said in a social media post.
I’ve kept tabs on the artist and this song for six years now since I first saw Johanna Brun perform it at the Gefle Gas Festival in Sweden in 2017. It was immensely powerful then, even if delivered with only the backing of a Nord Stage 2 electric piano, and that power came from the titanium vocal cords and utterly committed self-expression of the singer; the sort of dynamism that you rarely see in a solo artist these days. She doesn’t just sing it, she lives it and it won me over instantly.
It obviously still means a great deal to her.
And it has changed over the years with the addition now of both mournful and exhilarating strings, canyon spanning synthesiser and in contrast a slightly slowed down and less frenetic vocal delivery.
But essentially it remains the same song; one born of the defence mechanism she adopted from the bullying she suffered as a young teenager partly on account of the medical condition she suffered from, which took the form of being able to take wing in her mind at least and flee like a bird, “escaping from all the pain”, both physical and mental.
Johanna Brun has kept the original youthful lyrics, with their slightly wonky English grammar, to protect its originality and to enable her to tell the story ‘as it is’. The young Johanna speaking from her heart and with her own words.
If you like songs that soar like a bird, well this is a golden eagle.
In the original version it was just Johanna Brun and her piano but the piano really only puts in a significant appearance here towards the end. However, it provides the most profound moment on the entire song for me, that glorious final chord. Have you ever heard one that better suggests ‘closure’? It tugs at your heart strings.
And it stands in total contradiction to the gloomy opening chord, like a statement of intent.
‘Bird’ was released on 29th November on the Comedia label.
Johanna Brun’s debut album will be released in the New Year, with a few more singles coming first. On the strength of what I’ve heard in advance from demos it is shaping up to be the amongst the most significant singer-songwriter albums coming out of the Nordic countries in 2024.
There is also a recently released video of ‘Bird’ in its original un-orchestrated form, to the accompaniment of only a grand piano. The way she attacks the microphone and her expressions reminds me of a young Fiona Apple.
This article is based on one first published in Nordic Music Central – the dedicated go-to site for artists and bands from the burgeoning Nordic music scene. www.nordicmusiccentral.com
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