Erik Sjøholm, an independent singer-songwriter and creative producer with a classic roots/folk sound and Lina Teir, storyteller, multi instrumentalist, director and playwright are two Swedish speaking Finnish Artists. They come from the Finnish West Coast where a small in-between Culture resides, influenced by both the countries of Sweden and Finland. These artists are now roaming around Europe with their Bonfire Stories Tour.
Sjøholm released his debut album “Walkabout” in 2016 and followed up with a live album and a few singles the year after. In the spring of 2018 he made an appearance in the tv show “Spain’s got talent” where he was compared with artists such as James Bay, Ed Sheeran and Jack Johnson.
Lina Teir has been using her voice for her own and others’ personal and political stories that need to be told. The last years she has been known through the human rights campaign “We see you“, that she started in 2016 together with Linda Bäckman by releasing her song “Vi kommer minnas allt” (We will remember everything) as a musical letter to Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.
This is the interview given by Erik and Lina for First Art:
How the two of you met each other and when did you start with the Bonfire Stories project?
Erik: We have known each other since a long time, because we come from the same area, Österbotten, in Finland on the West Coast, but we didn’t play together until last Summer when suddenly I asked Lina to join one of my gigs and we immediately connected very well musically speaking.
We played a few more gigs and then decided to create a project together, but at that time I was going to South America for half a year so I was like, okay, it needs to be in the Spring and when I told her that I was planning to go touring she agreed of doing this together in Europe.
We started brainstorming and that’s how the Bonfire Stories project came to be, so actually we have been playing together only for a few months, we’re still exploring a lot about what we can do, what we cannot.
What’s exactly the Bonfire Stories Tour?
Lina: “Bonfire Stories”, I also do a lot of storytelling so I thought of this name because I miss the way of how people used to come together a long time ago: being around the bonfire and looking each other straight in the eyes…that’s what we wanted to do together, like playing in a living room where you really get to meet people, not like on a stage where we do our thing separately from the rest.
And actually bonfires exist as a symbol and a phenomenon in many cultures, also in the Finnish/Swedish culture which is the culture to which we belong. So for example at this time of the year, during Easter, it’s common to have bonfires and we think of it also as a symbol of cleansing and letting go of the old to embrace the new.
This tour is sort of a personal journey so we don’t want it to be a fixed thing, it can be also something which changes with time and place according to the people we meet along the way.
Is it a very different experience in comparison with your personal careers?
Erik: Since we’re traveling together the time we spend touring is much more than the time we spend on stage, a big part of this tour is about getting to know each other as people and I think it’s beautiful. We meet a lot of people during the tour and random encounters are a big part of it, so of course it’s unique and I really appreciate to do it with Lina rather than only by myself.
Lina: I think that combining two singer-songwriters on stage is something new because being a singer-songwriter you’re used to do your own thing, and you get to decide about everything, so it’s very interesting to combine our art on stage.
Tonight was more about Erik’s songs and I was basically just playing the violin, it was good this way but it’s also quite interesting when we are combining our songs, cause Erik sings in English and Spanish and I sing in Swedish so you get great dynamics and then you have a female voice and a male voice, different instruments, and ways to combine the storytelling and the music.
Actually last year I have been doing more storytelling and theatre so I think that I can learn a lot from his experience with music and I can also teach him a lot about the storytelling part, this makes for a very nice exchange.
Where have you been so far and where will you go next bringing music and stories?
Lina: It was a conscious choice to start the tour in our area, in Österbotten, we started in Erik’s home village, Malax, which is outside a city called Vasa on the West Finnish Coast and after that we went to my home village called Henriksdal.
I think it’s about 70 people living there now and we had maybe 30 concerts so we understood from that kind of atmosphere what we wanted to bring out to Europe, we went to Helsinki, to Copenhagen, to Hamburg, to Cologne and today we’re here in Amsterdam, next we’re going to Antwerp in Belgium and to some other towns and finally to our last stop which is in France.
I’m curious about your motives, there’s something special that you wish to tell to the audience through this project?
Erik: The aim of the Bonfire Stories Tour is to create moments when we can bring people together, sit down, open our hearts and share our experiences while creating new connections between people, in a sort of healing process because fire as a symbol is used for healing and cleansing, so burning things that you want to let go of.
Lina: This is what happens when we gather around the bonfire, if we sit there long enough we can start peeling away all these masks that we usually wear.
To me this is a lot about autobiographical storytelling, all over Europe if I bring something really really local like the story I told in the Mezrab Culture Bar in Amsterdam (dedicated article here), the story when I was playing the violin as a 5-year-old to my neighbour in Finland, I’m confident there’s something so universal in it to which anyone can relate, people can start reflecting on their own lives, in the light of this metaphorical bonfire.
For me, my artistic intention in most of the things that I do is to put into words what we already feel, if there’s something that we don’t put into words then it must be expressed, giving voice to all these stories that are screaming in silence, that we’re desperate to tell but we don’t dare to, I think this is the task of a singer-songwriter, of a a storyteller and an artist, to let express this Inner World of submerged emotions.
Written and Translated by Gerardo Iannacci