Ahead of the May 12th release of their debut album, Soulprints, Swedish folk-pop duo Smith & Thell spoke to TEAL about everything from their songwriting process, stoned producers, and their dream festival lineup.
TEAL: How did Smith & Thell form?
SMITH & THELL: We met in our hometown Helsingborg (in Southern Sweden) as young teenagers. I (Maria) was playing some songs I had written at a local music event. Victor was in the audience and contacted me on Myspace shortly after seeing my performance to ask if I wanted to start a band. Back then he was playing drums and I was singing & songwriting. Since then we have developed as writers and musicians together. We knew we had found something special in each other and since that day we have became inseparable, both in life and in music.
T: What inspired the two of you to get into music?
S & T: Victor is a very energetic person, but he always calmed down and could focus for hours when he played and wrote music. He’s the crazy professor that channels everything into music and found his purpose there. Maria's older bother and sister sang and played guitar and she was mesmerised by their beautiful sounds. Together they always played in the stairway in their apartment and it echoed so beautifully. Maria forced her siblings to then teach her everything, as music was an outlet and a way to channel the emotions of a very challenging childhood. Maria started writing songs when she was 11 years old, mainly to deal with tough times and losses in her personal life.
T: What made you decide to produce your own music?
S & T: The true story is that we got thrown into it by necessity. Years ago we were recording an "album" which never really made its way into the world, because the producer we hired smoked a lot of weed. He was very lazy and would fall asleep on the couch all the time. So we really had to take the wheel ourselves to get things done, including learning how to produce. Through experimentation and studying the greats, we were opened to a totally new world of sounds and effects. We realized we had no boundaries if we do it all ourselves. From there on we decided not to put the destiny of our music in the hands of anyone else.
T: Who are your musical influences?
S & T: It varies a lot, but the short answer is anything that touches our hearts, usually from skilled musicians and great songwriting. Victor has listened to a lot of funk and music with fun and groovy drums in it. I’ve (Maria) been into more acoustic stripped down music. We get inspired by everything from Simon & Garfunkles harmonies, Bjork’s experimentation, Alanis Morisettes writing, Janis Joplin’s honesty, Bon Iver, Mumford and Sons, Sigur Ros' cinematic feel. It varies a lot.
T: How would you describe your personal sound?
S & T: Earthy maybe? It’s organic but we don’t fear the modern processed sounds either.
T: What’s your songwriting process like?
S & T: We write a lot for other artists, but when we write for Smith & Thell we barely ever write in the studio. Songs usually start with a thought, some lyrics or a feeling when we are out at the store or just hanging in our kitchen. Whenever and wherever it comes to us, we stop what we are doing and write it down or tell each other. We’re very lyric driven and our songs are written on guitar or piano and produced further, depending on what the song needs.
T: What are your favorite songs on the new album?
S & T: All of them are different and have their own special place. ’Garden Of Eden’ still hurts every time hearing it as it’s very personal. ’Statue’ is kind of the "mother-song" of the album, which really helps to define us. ’Toast’ is a song we really enjoy singing and performing. ’Somebody Like You’ is a different side to us that we look forward to sharing with our listeners.
T: What does the new album, Soulprints, mean to each of you?
S & T: We’ve worked on it on and off for two years so theres a lot of heart and soul in there. We’re a little nervous of course, but very proud of it. All the songs mean a lot to us.
T: If you were creating your own music festival, which five artists would you want to headline?
S & T: Oh dear.. Alanis Morisette, Simon & Garfunkle, Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver & Hans Zimmer would be an EPIC lineup.
Check Out Smith & Tell’s Music Video for ‘ROW’
SMITH & THELL