Almost exactly one year ago, I did an artist spotlight and interview with the hard-working and talented Olsson brothers Axel and Adam, who call themselves Jaded Jane. They’re both gracious and kind, and I’ve grown quite fond of them. Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, and now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Scotland, the duo celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics and delivered with gorgeous piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. The brothers are prolific and busy artists, and have produced five outstanding albums since 2015, most recently 117 this past October. I reviewed “Trapped”, one of the stunning songs from 117, and you can read that review and my spotlight & interview by clicking on the “Related” links at the end of this post.
Jaded Jane is now back with another wonderful song “Heaven is Heart“, along with a powerful and deeply personal video. The song was written by Axel, and mixed and produced by their long-time collaborator and sound engineer Åke Linton. Axel was inspired to write the song from his experiences busking on the streets of Glasgow. He’s written on his social media of the challenges he’s faced trying to get their music heard, especially the struggles of being a street musician. He’s stated that he has met some of the nicest people and also some of the worst. But every once in a while, something really good can come from out of the blue:
“Being an artist is a challenging calling for anyone living in 2020. Playing the streets to let out my notes inside, led me to meet the person who played this song on BBC Radio Scotland for the first time in February on The Roddy Hart Show. What are the odds? From the streets to the BBC Radio. When you follow your passion you’ll find your true self. Big thanks to Paul English who discovered our music on the streets & premiered this song on BBC Sounds.”
Accordingly, the song’s lyrics speak to not allowing yourself to become totally beaten down and defeated by what can sometimes feel like an endless stream of adversities, but instead choosing to brush them off, forgive others as well as ourselves, and keep moving forward. Not always an easy thing to do, but it’s what we must do in order to survive in this often difficult world.
I’m beaten up inside You’ll see it in my eyes I’ve swallowed my pride You won’t see it outside Burned my candle down They’re using me We’re burning up inside They’re using us
How long? How long will this go on?
Taking responsibility For the choices I made Forgive myself I forgive everyone else Letting go of the past To live in the here & now I’ll build myself up My Heaven is Heart
So long, So long it’s been so long How long. How long will this go on?
Musically, the song features Axel’s lovely piano, accompanied by delicate atmospheric synths and gently throbbing bass notes from what sounds like a moog synthesizer. His beautiful vocals have a haunting, vulnerable quality that’s quite touching. The artistic and imaginative video was directed and produced by Rachel Koumparou, and shows Axel naked in front of a blank background, exposing himself not only physically but also emotionally. His brother Adam paints the words ‘How Long’ on Axel’s shoulder and arm, then ‘Heaven Is Heart’ on his chest as he gracefully moves to the music, smearing paint on his face and torso as if beating himself up but also reveling in the joy of being alive.
“Heaven Is Heart” will be officially released for streaming and purchase on most music sites on May 16.
This past April, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing and writing about the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane. (You can read my article and interview with Axel Jane here.) Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four outstanding albums, and are now recording their fifth, to be titled “117″ and due out in October.
They’ve just released the first single from the album, a gorgeous, contemplative song called “Trapped“. The deeply moving song was written by Axel Jane Olsson and recorded by Åke Linton. Axel played the beautiful piano melody, and the haunting cello was played by David Bukovinszky, with lovely string arrangements by Mattias Bylund and Nils Petter Ankarlund.
Axel explains that the song “is about feeling trapped in life, trapped in your circumstances, trapped in a loop of monotony.” Though he laments about feeling lost to the point of no longer recognizing who he really is, he retains a glimmer of hope that his life will get better through faith and love. His smooth, beautiful vocals are heartfelt as he sings:
Trapped in a loop I can’t get out Stuck in a dream I had a long time ago What do I really want to do Now is the only time worth living for
Ah, I am trapped in a loop. Ah. Am I stuck in a dream, that I had a long time ago
Wrapped up in my identity Who am I, I no longer know, who I am Lost my sense of reality Talking to the man in the mirror now Cause I don’t know, who I am anymore Lift me up high where I belong Fill me up with faith, hope & love again.
The stunning video for “Trapped” was filmed on the streets of Glasgow, and shows the strikingly handsome Axel, who has a dancer’s physique, gracefully moving to the music in different settings.
As I’ve noted in some of my recent posts, a great many artists and bands that I’ve previously featured on this blog are releasing new music in 2019, and another is the Scottish alternative rock band Made of Eyes. I last wrote about them way back in November 2016, when I was blown away by their gorgeous emotionally-charged single “Wishing Well” (you can read that review here). They subsequently released their EP Bonds in 2017, which included “Wishing Well” and three other excellent tracks. Following that release, the Glasgow-based act went through a period of transition due to the departure of two of the band’s four members, resulting in a what front man JR refers to as a ‘mental hiatus’. In 2018, they acquired a new bassist, so the current lineup now consists of JR Campbell on guitar & lead vocals, Jason Stewart on lead guitar & vocals, and Liam Browne on bass.
Made of Eyes has just released their first single “Room to Breathe” as a newly-configured band. With their new single, the band states they “aim to mark a new direction, delivering a pop element, experimenting with dreamy chords, electronic sounds and memorable melodies.” Listening to “Room to Breathe”, I say they succeed quite nicely. The song is somewhat more pop-oriented than their previous harder-hitting songs, though it still features their signature dynamic guitar work and strong percussion. Opening with an airy synth, the song quickly expands into a beautiful soundscape of chiming guitars and lush, shimmery synths, backed by a pulsating bass line and galloping percussion. The layered guitar work is really impressive, threading its way among the sweeping synths and powerful drumbeats. JR’s resonant vocals are filled with raw emotion as he sings to a loved one about trying to recapture the spark that initially drew them together, in the hope of saving their troubled relationship:
It’s been a weight on my shoulders for days It’s been the choices we failed to make We’re like a book with a missing page Unless we find it, we can’t be saved
And I believe in you And I believe in us, I believe in trust And it’s you and I tonight And these moments will pass by And just remember the promises That you made to me We needed room to breathe
It’s a great song, and an excellent harbinger of more great music to come from Made of Eyes. Nice work guys!
I’ve commented previously on this blog about my continual amazement at the sheer magnitude of enormously talented musicians around today who are creating incredible music. In such a seemingly overcrowded industry, it’s inevitable that so many of these musicians and bands struggle to get their music heard, despite the ready availability of a staggering amount of it that’s free for the taking (which as we all know is another entire set of issues). That’s where music bloggers like myself come in, writing about indie artists we like and helping to spread the word about their music and hopefully gain them a few more followers and fans. With that in mind, today I have the pleasure of introducing to my readers the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane.
Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four excellent albums, and are now recording their fifth, due for release later this year. I reached out to Jaded Jane to talk about themselves and their music, and was happy Axel agreed to share some of their story.
EML: Hello Axel. Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. First off, by way of introductions, tell me a little about Jaded Jane – when did you guys form the band, and how did you and your brother Adam decide on the name “Jaded Jane”?
Axel: Thanks Jeff. I am super glad to be part of your music blog. Jaded Jane and the musical adventure of brothers Axel and Adam Jane Olsson began in our early youth, being the sons of musician Christer Olsson (Plums, Noll 31, Scandinavian 5) and a mother with a passion for music. Growing up to the sounds of Motown, The Beatles and Michael Jackson, to name a few, it was only natural for us to develop a keen sense of melody, harmony and originality. We grew up in the Gothenburg, Sweden suburb of Hammerhill, and our path eventually lead us to New York & Los Angeles, where we spent ten years back and forth immersing ourselves with some of the most inspiring musicians on Earth. The name Jaded Jane came to me in a dream in 2013, when I was living in New York. The name deals with the jaded aspect of the modern human being. Jaded Jane is also a song from our debut album Diversity, and is about life, death and meaning. The name ‘Jane’ has an androgynous quality that is inclusive and gender neutral.
EML: What prompted you to make those moves from Sweden to Los Angeles and New York, and why did you choose to leave New York for Glasgow, rather than return to Sweden? Does Glasgow have a more thriving music scene?
Axel: It’s been a long road moving back and forth to New York, Los Angeles and now Glasgow. We came home to Sweden for a few years after New York, and then we ended up collaborating with a few Scottish artists which led us to Glasgow. It is a vibrant music city, with areas that remind me of Brooklyn, NY. When you are moving to a new city you are putting yourself in a whole new world, which sculpts you into another story and adventure, I have always been excited about learning and growing on all fields as a human being. So I am now in Glasgow, while Adam is still based in Gothenburg.
EML: Your music is beautiful and uplifting, and your songs offer positive, life-affirming messages. What is the inspiration behind your music and sound?
Axel: That means a lot to hear that the songs & music spread those messages. We feel that the music we create is greater than us and has the power to heal by touching people on a deeper level. By being brutally honest with ourselves, we allow others to feel that side of us. The things that are the most personal are ultimately the most universal. My inspiration comes from experiencing all of life’s challenges, both the highs and lows. From a young age, me and Adam starting asking questions about our society, and felt an urge to share our musical stories with other people in hope that it will touch and lift someone who is low.
EML: Do you both write the songs and lyrics together? And do you both play all the instruments and synths yourselves, or do you work with other session musicians to help create your music?
Axel: I have written all the songs on the albums released thus far, and we do play all of the instruments. However, on the new album “117” we’re currently working on, Adam is featuring two of his new songs. Adam plays fretless bass, guitar and sings, and I play the piano, synthesizers and also recording and producing the tracks. We previously collaborated with guitarist Mike Stern on our first album Diversity, and L.A.-based soul singer Frank McComb on The Puzzle, an album we made prior to becoming Jaded Jane. But our journey really took off in a new direction while meeting our third member Åke Linton, a sound artist from Sweden who is now part of creating the soundscapes and sounds of Jaded Jane.
EML: The track “Crystal Stair” on your latest album Salvation is an intriguing song. How did you discover that speech from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why did you choose to build a song around it?
Axel: The whole Salvation album was recorded live in a studio in Gothenburg, on Queen’s old console and the song “Crystal Stair” was just a small improvised part that came from one of the sessions. Both me and Adam have always been inspired by Martin Luther King, and we thought it’d be cool to have his voice on top of the melodies and sounds of the improvised piece.
EML: I was touched by your recent Instagram post about your struggles and frustrations with trying to make it in this very tough music business. Your music is so wonderful, and you guys need to be heard by a larger audience, which is why I’m happy to feature you on my little music blog. That said, one of the issues I think is that today, most people seem to prefer hip-hop, Country or rock music, rather than beautiful, piano-based easy listening compositions like yours. Yes, there is still a niche for your genre of music, and there are successful artists making music similar to yours such as James Blake and Sufjan Stevens, but they often collaborate with hip hop or other artists to appeal to a wider audience. You’ve stated that you would like to collaborate with other artists, and in fact have a couple of times, like you did with rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) on the track “Life” from your album “One Way”, but that it’s been a struggle getting more artists to collaborate. Any thoughts?
Axel: You are very right, It is a big challenge to get people to listen to a full song nowadays, even though you spent your whole life building and working on your craft, The masses seem to react to the loudest playing songs. I am looking forward to writing and recording more with similar minded artists, The struggle in paying rent and earning money for food has and I am guessing will always be there when it comes to true artistry, I am a full time busker / street performer in Glasgow at the moment, and that has definitely made me humble in how hard it can be to earn money; it gives you a whole new respect for how to use them.
The music business is a tough field to be in, I have always felt and I know Adam felt it too. We are outside of the business, however, we the songwriters and artists are what makes it possible to make a business out of it, so I am determined to find out what’s going on.
EML: Your press release states that you’re managed by Scirca Music Group. Some artists & bands choose to hire a management company or PR firm to help them, while others wish to do everything themselves. Have you found it helpful to work with a manager?
A year ago I reached out through social media in search for a music publisher and manager, which got me in contact with the newly started Scirca Music Group. It has been a learning experience for both me and Adam and for the management company, as they are just starting out. I would like to encourage other artists to learn about how it all works, and how it is built up, that is the key to understanding and hopefully knowing where you want to go from there.
EML: What are you guys working on now? Any plans for another album?
Axel: As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been recording a new album “117” to be released later this year. It’s being recorded and mixed by our Sound Artist Åke Linton. I’m singing & playing on an old upright piano, and Adam is playing a Spanish nylon guitar & also singing some vocals. The last pieces of the songs on ”117” are being recorded with string arranger & producer Mattias Bylund adding a cello to the songs by cellist David Bukovinszky. Last but not least, I am laying down the bass lines on a 1976 Moog Synthesizer and warm analog pads on a 1980s Korg Polysix. We just shot the first music video for our upcoming single ”Trapped”. It was exciting and it turned out great.
EML: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Jaded Jane that I’ve neglected to ask?
Axel: Yes, we want to share our message of “Ignorance Separates, Music Unites”. We want to take a stand even more, making it clearer that we are for all human beings, especially the ones without a voice. Equality, Humanism, and Reverence for the Beauty and Majesty of Nature are all subjects we care about.
We are from the “hood” of our hometown and we wish to display a different side [to that part of the Gothenburg area] than what is mainly portrayed in media with their car fires, etc. The growth of racist/nationalistic political parties such as SD* is something that we want to be an antidote for. We’ve always stayed clear of politics in our music but when it comes to these ethical & moral values we want to be very clear that we stand for diversity, equality and lifting positive stories about the “hood” which almost always have been a place of brotherhood and acceptance for us. Yes there are problems, but there need to be a more nuanced and balanced portrayal in media. We want to do our part as a counterweight to the negative.
* SD stands for Sweden Democrats, ironically, a socially conservative and far right-wing populist political party.
So lets dig a bit into Jaded Jane’s wonderful catalog and get a feel for their music. They released their debut album Diversityin 2015, a genre-bending work featuring eight tracks drawing upon pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip hop elements. As the title suggests, the songs address uplifting themes of embracing diversity and working together to make the world a better place. Every track on the album is superb, but my favorites are the lovely ballad “Jaded Jane”, the anthemic “After”, “Meaningful Destiny”, with its beautiful piano and shimmering guitar, the funky “The Cure”, with guest vocals from rapper KJ Denhert, and the soulful and fun “Walk the Walk”. Their musicianship and knack for writing infectious melodies that hook us in right from the start are impressive, and I love Axel’s casual vocal style that frequently breaks into a crooning falsetto.
In February 2017, they released their fantastic second album One Way, which saw them branch out and further experiment with their sound by incorporating more complex and multi-textured synthesizers, deep bass lines and trap beats into their soulful mix. The highlights here are “Tell Me What”, with spacey synths and a funky bass line that’ll rock your world, “Breathing”, with colorful psychedelic synths and guitar chords that are fucking magical, and “Life”, a brilliant track featuring killer rap verses by British rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) that beautifully complement Axel’s falsetto vocals. The uplifting lyrics speak of not letting your past troubles define you or keep you from realizing your dreams: “Living life just watch me risk it, made mistakes but don’t regret ’em / I put on a happy face to hide where I come from / Put your knife down, listen to my rhyme / Everything’s gonna be alright.”
Only eight months later, Jaded Jane dropped yet another album Always & Forever, once again going off in another direction with their sound. This time, Axel’s beautiful piano playing takes center stage, with the songs all featuring sublime piano-driven melodies that take their music toward an ambient, easy-listening vibe. In describing his inspiration for the album, Axel wrote as if speaking to his father: “When I sat down by the piano I could feel your presence. I let the songs happen the way they were meant to. Through music we can communicate with another world, here it is, and it is for you, in the here and now and in the hereafter.” The beautiful title track “Always & Forever” is a moving tribute to their father. “Hard to believe that you are gone this time. Oh give me strength to carry on. Easy to smile when you are by my side. You’ll live forever in my heart.”
The opening song “Serendipity” is a serene, 13-minute long piece of atmospheric heaven, with extended runs of delicate piano, guitar and whispery synths that are mesmerizing. The song begins as an instrumental-only track that seems to end at around 3:45 minutes, then starts back up at 4:00, this time with Axel’s tender vocals singing the praises of their father: “It was your light. It was your love, that shone through all of us.” This portion of the song ends with a gradual fade-out of reverb at around 8:45, only to start back up at 9:30 with sparse piano keys, accompanied by strummed guitar and whispery synths that throb until the end of the song.
Their fourth and most-recent album is the gorgeous Salvation. Released in November 2018, the album continues with what Jaded Jane refers to as their “exploration of soulful soundscapes of consciousness” that we loved on Always & Forever. The entire album flows like an atmospheric river of mesmerizing piano-driven sound, enveloping and transporting us to a comforting place of love, peace and serenity. The beautiful title track “Salvation” has simple, spiritual lyrics that speak to finding peace of mind and salvation in the hereafter: “I’ll stay right here, through my last tears. Ain’t got nothing left to fear. Salvation. It’s the longest street, I will follow thee to another space and time. I will walk this road, never looking down, to the place that we’ll call home.”
Another standout track is “Ethereal”, which lives up to its name with breathtaking atmospheric music. Axel’s piano work is absolutely stunning, backed by sweeping glittery synths, gently thumping drumbeats and Adam’s subtle guitar notes.
“Orion” is a beautiful instrumental track, consisting of only delicate piano, gentle drumbeats and whispy ambient background synths. Though over five minutes long, it seems much shorter. The track segues uninterrupted into album closer “Crystal Stair”, with a continuation of the gentle drumbeats and whispy synths. At one minute, words from a famous 1960 speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Spelman College enter: “Your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live.”
The track encapsulates the message of love, tolerance and social justice that Jaded Jane seeks to spread by Salvation, and with all their songs. I greatly admire these guys, both in terms of the wonderful music they make, and the positive vibes they spread through their kindness, love and joy. I cannot wait to hear their new album.