The cautiously optimistic songwriter wants you to face your feelings.
Lina Tullgren writes honest and emotional songs, songs that seek to let us in so that we might heal. Her debut EP Wishlist, re-released last year via Captured Tracks, brought us into her world with its atmosphere of equal parts melancholic nostalgia and bright eyed optimism. Tullgren does what many other artists only wish to do, and achieve with varying levels of success, she produces a space that requires us to be vulnerable. Experiencing the intimacy of her lyrics and the stripped-down songwriting of her first EP is like returning to a childhood home after having been gone for years, feeling the weight of its changes weigh on one’s self while at the same time catching the glimpses of the happiness that the same space still holds.
While her newest LP, Won, sees Lina pushing forward towards a new and more confident voice as a songwriter, her ability to craft spaces for us to experience intimacy and vulnerability has not waned. Her video for “Red Dawn,” which AdHoc is premiering today, makes this readily apparent, as it has Lina asking us what it means to “wear your heart on your sleeve.” Like much of Won, the track has a larger sound than the songs on Wishlist due to the addition of Tullgren’s new backing band, but the video’s barn studio setting still reveals Lina’s desire to remain intimate with her audience. In a series of questions, Lina told us about her interest in the space between hope and heartbreak, her belief in love, her love of joking around with “indie music kids,” and her desire for us all to remain vulnerable.
Lina Tullgren plays her release show for Won at Trans-Pecos on September 27th with Dougie Poole and Luxardo.
AdHoc: A lot of your writing seems to focus on the intersections between heartbreak and solace, loss and hope, what is it about that space between those feelings that interests you, perhaps especially at this moment in our political climate?
The time in between, lost in the balance as we change and develop as people, has always interested me ever since I learned how to watch people. I was very shy as a kid so a lot of my time was spent not speaking and watching my parents and their friends and how they lived and talked. I was very fortunate to grow up with creative adult figures who would treat me as an equal and be honest with me. One of the reasons I focus so obsessively on that time in between is because change never fails to deeply affect me in visceral, profound ways, and I can see how others relate to that as well. A lot of art is made about love: the subject is typically focused on a relationship in its most positive form or about the ending of that relationship. Sure those things are charged and filled with beautiful raw emotions, but the focus becomes more about the other person and less about the self, which is simply not as interesting or real to me. If I’m going to write these songs and put my own life process out there in this format, I want it to be accessible to the humans I’m singing it to who are right there in front of me. A pure connection. I’d like to think we always learn from changes, from the “intersections” that exist. [And] sure, this can also connect to politics because there is an insane amount of upheaval that’s been in progress for some time now. I don’t claim to be a political writer in any way, but interpretation is everything and though the songs on this impending record are not necessarily written about the current scenarios playing out in the country, certain images and feelings can be applied and transferred all over. You can find it if you look for it.
What was the recording process for this video like? I notice that a fellow Tullgren, Max Tullgren did the video work and that your longtime friend and collaborator Ty Ueda did the audio (in addition to playing guitar alongside you here), could you talk about working with them both?
I was rehearsing with my band at Ty’s barn studio in Barrington, NH when we decided to shoot this video. My 16-year-old brother, Max Tullgren, lives close by in South Berwick, Maine which is where I grew up. In addition to being “longtime friend and collaborator,” Ty actively shoots film and video and also did all the editing on this one. Obviously he could not shoot it due to the fact that he had to play guitar in it but luckily Max is great with a camera himself so he was able to swing by and help us. This is also the studio where we recorded and mixed all of Won.
One of the “Red Dawn”’s lyrics is “no time, got no time to waste with love” and in an interview with Impose last year you defined love as “DEAD,” how does not believing in love or in its importance to you change making music that is so recognizably vulnerable?
It should be known that I’m an incredibly sarcastic person and if I did say that love was “dead” in another interview it was likely done in jest with intentions to disarm all these serious snobby indie music kids. I’m not calling ALL of you snobs! But some of you just cannot take a joke. I do believe in love and its importance quite a lot, in fact, for I am simply a true jokester with a full heart. As said above, the music I create IS incredibly vulnerable and I amount that to the belief in love that I hold close. As I get a little older, losing and gaining new people in my life all the time, I feel less inclined to run from strong human emotion as I did in the past. Does that make sense?
Totally. One final question: what does it mean to you to “wear your heart on your sleeve?” Since you put out the Wishlist EP your music has been described as vulnerable and intimate, is the new record a pushing away from that feeling in an effort to become more assertive or is the lyric meant to question what it is to be vulnerable at all in a world that seems to be an antithesis to that vulnerability?
That’s an incredibly thoughtful question and I appreciate that. I would give a “yes” to both parts of that question. I think there is an incredible amount of cynicism—sometimes unwarranted and sometimes not—and lack of communication in young people these days and I’ve been observing it progress over time in a way I find to be difficult to interact with. That’s not to say that I’m not cynical myself and I also don’t claim to be an expert in communication, but I will say that I do actively try to practice the wearing of the heart on one’s sleeve in friendships, intimate relationships, fleeting interactions, [and] what have you because there is too much hurt and doom in this world for us to not be completely open about how we feel about one another. Call me a total loser corn-ball if you want. And please go and kiss or hug all of your friends and parents and cousins! Right now!