Nashville-based, Swedish/Swiss singer-songwriter, Helena Hallberg, has released “Surprisingly Disco,” the second track from her forthcoming debut album, Epithet, due out in March 2024. “‘Surprisingly Disco’ is, ironically and unintentionally, a track that is surprisingly disco for a folk-pop album,” says Hallberg. “It speaks to the parts of ourselves that we suppress for one reason or another. The moment you acknowledge them can feel like a load off your mind, and when we approach these unexpected parts of ourselves with curiosity rather than judgment, it may just turn into a disco party.” Drawing from Motown and 70s icons like ABBA and the BeeGees, the string arrangements were skillfully written by arranger/composer Red Hawley, and, true to form, the strings were recorded in the famous “Motown-room” at Power Station at BerkleeNYC. For Hallberg, “Surprisingly Disco” isn’t just a testament to her time in New York, it’s an exploration of how her time in jazz can be combined with her increasingly folk-pop-y sound. “It was mostly just fun to make,” says Hallberg about the track, co-written by Americana queen Mary Bragg, “and there’s a fun mix of references to the city, Georgia, and Switzerland in there." When it came time to choose a location for the “Surprisingly Disco” video, Honore Club, a place where Hallberg spent many late nights discussing the creation of the album, was a no-brainer. The bar’s unassuming yet vibrant vibe, retro-looking beer signs, and quirky regulars would be perfect for this song about defying expectations, self-discovery, and joy. Created with an all-female production team (Talia Light Rake (director), Christina Dobré (DP)), this video, its design, and its team, became integral to the overall aesthetic of Epithet - Empowerment with an analog feel. “Surprisingly Disco” follows lead single “From The Outside.” The song and video combine Hallberg’s Swedish background with her love for American folk music, baking it into a deeply personal story about what it means to leave home, take a chance, and stand up for your own future. Recorded in the forest around Mullsjö, Sweden, the video is set in the very place that inspired the song. The forest represents home and comfort, while the song explores themes of leaving in pursuit of something bigger, something better. Conceptualized by Hallberg and Gothenburg-based videographer Emma Franzén, the video is meant to show the beauty of Scandinavian nature, combining it with the Appalachian Dulcimer and giving a sense of peace, while also inserting a good dose of Hygge.
Epithet features elements of female empowerment, multiculturalism, and self-discovery, while also tackling tougher subjects like Christian nationalism and disordered eating. It is as much a middle finger to the patriarchy as it is a welcoming place to land; a reminder that you deserve happiness and acceptance. Recorded at the iconic Power Station at BerkleeNYC in New York City and produced by an all-female production team comprising Hallberg, Mary Bragg, and Gloria Kaba, Epithet promises to be a musical journey like no other. Hallberg's jazz-centric musical path took a fascinating turn when she fell in love with American folk music and the traditional instruments that accompany it. With her beloved Appalachian dulcimer, Henrietta, in hand, Hallberg brings this age-old instrument into the 21st century, spinning enchanting melodies into the fabric of her songs. Her crystalline vocals soar stratospherically, creating a spacious, cinematic sound as she turns every phrase inside out before delivering it expansively in her lush jazz, folk, and pop stylings. Her expansive music grows comfortably out of her easy familiarity with other cultures. Speaking four languages and living in various cultures offered Hallberg glimpses at the varieties of human nature and the many ways people defined humanity. Like Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgerald, Hallberg’s songs focus on empowering self and others. As deeply as she delves into human nature in her songs, she also braids together images from nature, writing songs that reflect her deep love of nature and foster a new appreciation of it. Epithet is more than just an album; it's a reflection of the human experience, a narrative of the obstacles we all encounter on our path to something better. Each track offers a fresh perspective on the adventure of life, with its stumbles, failures, lessons, growth, and unwavering perseverance.
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