I first fell in love with Ane Brun’s voice when ‘Don’t Leave’ was released back in 2008.

Since then, I’ve kept a distant eye on the Norwegian singer-songwriter, hoping to one day catch her live but resigned to the likelihood I’d have to travel to Europe to see her theatrical performances in the flesh. Now, however, Brun – who was recently heralded as a young and promising talent to watch – will appear at Sydney Festival, and she chats about the winding road of her proudly independent career.

“It’s nice to be young and promising when you’re 40!” she laughs. “I think the thing is, I’ve always been independent. I released my first album on my own label and have ever since. I’ve always done licensing and distributing through bigger companies, but the main record company is my own. So in that sense things go slower.

“The good thing about that kind
of career is that it’s growing all
the time, this growing organism.
It’s a rewarding feeling. I’ve let go of a lot of restrictions and fears,
so I’ve tried to go into music with
a sense of freedom, to see what comes and have no expectations of where I should fit. I like to see what happens.

“I think also that the playfulness or the diversity of my music can be a result of me being independent. I’ve never had anyone telling me what kind of direction to take; it’s always up to me. So when I make an album I don’t have someone there saying, ‘No, we don’t have a hit,’ or ‘This song doesn’t fit.’ I can always do what I want. So if you look at my career I think you can see I’ve made a lot of choices I might not be able to do on a big label.”

Read any article on Brun, and her sense of theatricality is inevitably applauded. You really need look no further than the video for ‘Do You Remember’ to see the imaginative scope her music summons, but theatricality itself is a curious accolade. There is the implication of fiction; of the real Ane being hidden behind a mask, and a stage-friendly facsimile taking control.

“I think maybe it’s because it’s
very emotional. I feel I’m very authentic when I do music. Maybe being ‘theatrical’ is just learning to express emotions onstage. But of course, you do a lot of gigs. I feel like I’ve learned the technique of an actor. I go onstage and I perform,

I deliver these emotions, but I feel more and more that I’m doing it as a craft. You understand how to deliver emotions without being in the drama.”

With her latest album, When I’m Free, Brun proves she is not
one to rest on old methods. Just as her stagecraft is an evolving beast, so too does she try to instil her songwriting with a sense of evolution and experimentation.

“It kind of comes through improvising. That’s how a lot of songwriting starts. On this album, I wanted to make something different, so I tried out a lot of things. I also wrote on top of productions I put together myself to find a different approach, so
in a sense things changed. On certain songs, instead of writing to a guitar, I’d write to a bassline and drum samples. It became different. But it also took a lot of time to get there. It was a hard album that took months to do. But I had more ambition of where to go than I’ve ever had before.

Ane Brun will perform as part of Sydney Festival 2017 at City Recital Hallon Saturday Janurary 7.

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