Q&A: Kalle Mattson’s Trip Through the “Avalanche”
After years of slugging it out as an independent artist, singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson finally gained some notoriety with 2014’s emotionally charged album, Someday, The Moon Will be Gold. Focused on his mother’s passing, this Mattson album struck a nerve, eventually leading to critical acclaim, a Polaris Music Prize nomination and eventually a record deal with Sony.
Mattson’s new offering is the sonically ambitious and lyrically intense EP, Avalanche. Riffyou.com recently spoke with Mattson about the album that changed his life, connecting with audiences and recognizing his ambition.
RY: When you received acclaim for Someday, The Moon Will be Gold, how did you react to that?
Kalle: “Before that album came out, I was terrified that it was going to get bad reviews…because it was so much of me and what I went through. I felt like if I got a bad review, it would be a criticism on my soul. So when it started to get really good reviews, things snowballed and awesome stuff came from there. I felt like there was some justification. Not only was it a personal album, but also I went through a lot to make it. I made it all with my own money and it was an expensive album. Eventually a record label came on board and everything started to happen…I felt like I won.”
RY: Avalanche is a very, intensely personal album. Are you really comfortable about letting your emotions show?
Kalle: “Yeah, I am fine with it. Avalanche is very personal, but not as personal as the last album. With that one, I figured out what I do. The more personal I wrote, the more universal my songs became. The album was about my mother passing away when I was 16. I found after that album came out, people latched on [to me being upfront.]”
RY: When making Avalanche, how cool was it to know that your type of writing connected with people? That must’ve helped you move forward creatively.
Kalle: “I don’t want to say that I didn’t take any risks on Avalanche, because I think the sound of it is pretty different…I was changing what I sound like. Every review I’ve read for Avalanche says, ‘He’s not folky anymore. He sounds like pop.’ I don’t now how that is a controversial point these days, but whatever. I wanted to make Avalanche have a universal theme, but I think it does not feel like a normal EP. I think EPs are thrown together in a lot of ways – like five songs that weren’t put on an album. Avalanche was written like a mini-album. It tells a story through the six songs and there’s a feel to them. I tried to make it sound exciting.”
RY: What’s that running story you speak of?
Kalle: “These are the six songs I wrote after Someday… was done. I didn’t write any songs for a while after the fact, because I felt like I wrote all I could say at that point. I played 160 shows in a bunch of countries last year and when that aspect of your life is going very well, everything else begins to fall apart. I had band members quit and I was affectively homeless. So, I wanted to make an album that was about nostalgia, anxiety and what it feels like to be in your early 20s and not know what the fuck you’re doing.”
RY: Do you ever come up with an idea while writing and think, ‘Nope, I am not going to share this?’
Kalle: “I don’t think about that too much. A lot of what I write comes instinctively and by feel. If a song feels right when I am singing it and it looks right when I’m putting it on paper, then it’s probably right. I’ve had plenty of missteps, but as a writer, I am getting better and better.”
RY: What kind of conversations do you have with people about your music?
Kalle: “People have definitely told me nice and touching stories about how my albums affect them. Music is really powerful. I’ve gone up to my favourite songwriters and told them how much their music’s meant to me. I don’t know if I am anyone’s favourite songwriter, but at least one person at every show comes up and tells me something. That’s nice and sweet.”
RY: What does Avalanche mean to you?
Kalle: “I like it and I am proud of it. I feel like it’s the next step and obvious next chapter after Someday… After that album was done, I didn’t think I was going to make a weirder album; I don’t think I could’ve made a sadder album. I want to be ambitious in my career and have songs that can get me to the next step. That was something I really thought about and was really important to me. The songs are bigger and more pop, but they still sound like me.”