First Aid Kit’s elegant Stay Gold delivers equal measures hope and hurt. Songs stick. They resonate. Shape-shift. Listen: Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg’s folk-pop collection deftly draws on homeland heroes.
“Sweden’s a really strong country for music,” primary songwriter Klara Söderberg says. “There are musicians and songwriters all over the place. We grew up with ABBA and Roxette and Ace of Base and all that. We were music fans from the get-go.”
(Yes, First Aid Kid are the two young ladies whose haunting take on Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” immediately launched their star five years ago.)
CMT Edge: Describe how the new album took shape.
Johanna Söderberg: We started writing songs for it on the road while touring for [the 2012 album] The Lion’s Roar. Last year, we had a couple months off and we weren’t thinking about making a new record, but it just started happening. We started writing and we were really inspired by the calm and the quiet. We decided to go to Omaha to work with [Bright Eyes producer] Mike Mogis.
Describe working with Mike.
Klara Söderberg: He’s fantastic, a friend of ours. We’ve gotten to know him really well now that we’ve been working together. When we work together, we don’t really have to talk that much. We just kind of guess what we want to do with the songs and how to best get there. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with him.
Were the songs all finished going in?
Klara: We always have the songs finished but we worked on the arrangements together.
Explain the album title.
Johanna: Well, “Stay Gold” is one of the songs off the record. It’s inspired by the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. It’s just about how everything’s fleeting and you never know how long something’s gonna last. It’s hard to appreciate things when they’re happening. It’s coming to terms with that and living in the moment and trying not to dwell too much in the past.
Would you say that’s a common lyrical theme throughout the album?
Klara: Yeah, in general our songs are about nostalgia.
Johanna: I think it’s a common theme in everyone’s lives. It’s hard not to think about what could be or wishing you could go back and change things.
Do you typically collaborate on songwriting?
Johanna: Usually Klara starts. She writes the seed, the first line or a verse. Then we work on it and finish it off together. I might write a chorus or a bridge, but sometimes she’ll come to me with a song and I’ll be like, “Oh, wow, this is great! I can’t possibly add anything to that.” I don’t really write songs myself, but I feel like I really want to. I think something in the future for me is to write my own songs completely. That would be cool.
Tell the story behind writing “Cedar Lane.”
Johanna: Klara wrote the melody to it and I was like, “This is so fantastic.” I was so pushy for her to finish it.
Klara: You weren’t pushy!
Johanna: I encouraged you.
Klara: It was a fun song to write because the chorus is in a different key. That was really fun to explore and in the end just go for it. It’s kind of angry, you know?
Johanna: It’s also about nostalgia. It came from having a memory that haunts you but not dwelling in the past, enjoying memories that you can’t let go.
What songwriters do you draw from?
How did you discover Townes?
Klara: I don’t know, honestly. He’s just someone that we heard and checked out and fell in love with his music. Going into his catalog listening to the songs that we love is an endless source of inspiration. Our Mother the Mountain and the self-titled one are amazing. You know that song he did with Willie Nelson, “Marie”? That’s incredible.
Johanna: His voice is just so fragile and vulnerable. It’s honest. He’s experienced all of it, a lot of pain.
Tell the story behind writing “My Silver Lining.”
Klara: It came in the moment. I was playing guitar and singing that verse and then the two of us parceled it together. The string arrangement really made the song come together. We didn’t know what direction to go in before. The song is about finding yourself in difficult times and trying to figure out how to get through it and finding the courage to not take the easy way out. Some things are worth fighting for.