dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sally Shapiro: The Chart Rigger Interview

Note: This is part two of my interview with Sally Shapiro. Catch the first part over at 'Instinct' magazine's website!

You know that girl who’s seated in the cubicle next to you at work—the one who’s usually ten minutes late into the office each morning, and whose frequent phone calls you can never quite eavesdrop on, no matter how hard you try? She might just be a hip, international Italo-disco recording artist by night. But you’d never know it.

So goes the myth of Sally Shapiro, which is actually more of a duo, comprised of producer-songwriter Johan Agebjörn and frontwoman, uh—well, we may really never be privy to what her name is! What we do know is that this Swedish act’s second album of synth-laden, dreamy pop, My Guilty Pleasure, was released this week via Paper Bag Records. (Plus, if you’ve not yet caught their debut LP, Disco Romance, it really is a guilty pleasure.)

At any rate, she let me call her up, so how mysterious can she be? Well, okay, she called me, and seconds after we hung up, my phone suddenly self-combusted.

ROBBIE DAW: ABBA, Ace Of Base, Robyn, Max Martin—why do you think Sweden produces to many great musicians?
SALLY SHAPIRO: One reason could be that we’re really an Anglo-Americanized country, with a lot of influence [coming from] there. And then we have—I don’t know if you have it—but we have this music education that’s practically free when you’re a kid. Nearly everybody goes to this music school in the afternoons once a week and plays an instrument. So, many people know how to play at least one instrument. Maybe that could be one reason, also. They have music with them since they were kids, in a way.

My Guilty Pleasure has nine songs on it. Are there leftover tracks that didn’t make the cut?

No, we just recorded these. That’s it.

What part has Italo-disco played in your life? Did you grow up listening to it?
I did a little. The most common stuff that was played on the radio, I wasn’t so into it when I was little. But Johan was more into it, ordering special compilations and stuff that wasn’t in the record stores. So he has grown up with it more than I have. I grew up more with the common '80s disco stuff.

What’s the process of how you and Johan get together and make music?
We start always with the music. Johan comes up with a music theme. I listen to it and say what I think of it. Often he starts to play on the piano, rhythm and stuff. If I like it, he moves on and makes a track out of it. Then we discuss the lyrics—there’s also a theme of what we want this track to be about. He writes some of it and then he sends it to me and I write some of it, and so on. In the end I record the singing. [Laughs] Sorry, I’m not so good at speaking English.

Are you kidding? You speak English better than a lot of Americans I know.
[Laughs] Well, if I sound a bit slow—

You sound perfect to me! I want to tell you, “Looking At The Stars” is one of my favorites on the new album. It’s very sad. Is it about someone in your life?
A little bit, it is. Both me and Johan have had that kind person in our lives who we thought would be there forever but, of course, they died because they’re old. You don’t really understand that they would do that when you’re small. You just expect them to be there, and they’re gone and you’re sad that you weren’t there more. You could say that the exact lyrics aren’t authentic, but we have had those people and those feelings.

Sally Shapiro, "Love In July"

When you were growing up, did you always want to be a singer?
No. I always liked to sit and play guitar and sing by myself, but I wasn’t really thinking I would record something that people would actually listen to. [Laughs]

You mentioned how unexpected it was when Disco Romance got a lot of attention. A lot of that support came from music sites and blogs. Do you spend much time reading about yourself online?
Not so much. I read the interviews that I’ve done and then I read some of the blogs. But I’m not searching for it very much. I’m reading mostly the things that people send to me.

You did an interview with Pop Trash Addicts that was pretty great. Have you read that one yet?
I don’t think so, but I will, because I always read the interviews! [Laughs] It’s mostly Johan that sits with the computer, and then he sends the interviews over to me and I read them. So maybe he hasn’t sent it yet.

Are you happy with the unexpected success you’ve found?
Yes, really! It still feels really weird, I must say. I’m still not really used to it, but it’s funny to see all this and hear that people like it, and hear it on the radio.

Well, I hope you keep making music, because there are a lot of people out there who like it.
Okay, thank you! That’s good!

Good luck with the album.

Read the first part of this interview over at 'Instinct'.

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