Elin Palmer steps into spotlight as she's about to step out of town
By Ricardo Baca
Denver Post Pop Music Critic
Posted: 10/15/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT
Palmer is bound for Nashville and Brooklyn. ( Todd Roeth )
You might not know Elin Palmer. You might be unfamiliar with her stark beauty, her delicate nature, her extreme talents and precise playing. Heck, you might not know how to pronounce her first name: EE-lin — a very common Swedish name, like Maria in the United States.
That said, you've likely heard the Sweden-born Palmer sing or play. She is one of the most accomplished, storied accompanists in Colorado rock history, having performed with local acts the Fray, DeVotchKa, 16 Horsepower, Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots, Wovenhand and the Czars — not to mention national acts M. Ward and Crooked Fingers (and the latter's frontman, Eric Bachmann).
After devoting seven years to the Harlots and pinch playing in studios and on tours during the past decade-plus, Palmer is stepping into the spotlight — and moving on. She will release her debut solo album, "Postcard," with a big show at the Hi-Dive on Saturday.
Not long after the show, Palmer will be on her way to Nashville, where she'll write and record for six weeks before moving on to her new home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
We spoke with Palmer about her reasons for leaving town, her Scandinavian roots and her solo music, which is a lush, multicultural take on indie rock that re-energizes the genre.
Q: When did you start working on "Postcard"?
A: I started to record with Bob (Ferbrache) a year and a half ago. That's when I first thought about starting my own project. We didn't have a full record together when we started recording.
Q: It sounds like you worked with a lot of different players and voices.
A: We had a bunch of different players come in. We have five different bass players on the record. We wanted this person to play this part, and we wanted some string bass, and sometimes I'm playing bass, and sometimes we tuned down a cello — like on the song "Paint."
Q: Why tune a cello down? Did you like that particular timbre?
A: No, I was writing the song at home, and I didn't have a bass there.
Q: What inspired you to step out on your own?
A: I was touring with Eric Bachmann and DeVotchKa, and right around then Tom (Hagerman of DeVotchKa) put out his own record — and Eric was touring for the first time as a solo project. I went on tour with Eric, and I learned a lot from him and Tom. It inspired me to try my own thing. I liked collaborating with people and adding to their music, but I wanted to see what happened if I wrote my own songs.
Q: When you play live, there's a gorgeous, foreign instrument you tend to favor.
A: Yeah, the nyckelharpa is a Swedish instrument that predates the violin. I started playing it when I was 9. I usually write songs on it. I used it some in Munly's band and on the Wovenhand record "Mosaic."
Q: You sing a couple of songs on "Postcard" in Swedish. What determines a song's language?
A: There are two songs in Swedish. And it wasn't conscious. It has more to do with whatever was flowing in whatever language. Sometimes I'm thinking in one language over the other, but it depends on what I'm reading that day or what I'm thinking. If I'm making a song, I try not to limit it by what language it is.
Q: Why leave Denver now that you're ready to move forward with your solo work?
A: I just need to get out of Denver. I've been here for a long time, and I need to inspire my music in a different environment where I can create stuff. In Nashville, I hope to do some recording. And my boyfriend is in Brooklyn. But eventually I want to move back to Sweden — but first I need to get my "in" there as far as the music world goes.
Q: Do you have a plan?
A: I don't have a concrete plan, but at the same time I do. As far as doing the music thing in Denver, I've maxed it out here. I've played all the venues and everything. So the move is more personal. I need to be in a new environment.
Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Swedish- influenced indie rock, CD release show. Hi-Dive, with Sissy Wish and Andrea Ball. Saturday. 9 p.m. $6. hi-dive.com