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David Pendered Columns

Stuck in Texas: Swedish songstress writes of virus, still hopes to perform in Decatur

David Pendered

By David Pendered

A Swedish songstress who’s to perform in Decatur in August has written a song about the global pandemic. Sofia Talvik has a special perspective, given her new song, her scheduled show in metro Atlanta, and her livestream Quarantine Concert series that on Sunday featured a virtual dinner party.

Sofia Talvik, southwest

Swedish Americana songstress Sofia Talvik was to appear at South by Southwest, as an official showcased performance, before it was cancelled. She’s slated to perform Aug. 4 in Decatur, though all such dates are uncertain. Credit: sofiatalvik.com

Meanwhile in Winnsboro is a camera-shot of the shapeless days in mid March, a moment when coronavirus was still becoming what it would become. Talvik premiered the song March 23 on American Songwriter Magazine. Not to give anything away, Talvik wrote in a weekend email that her whole outlook on the virus thing can be summed up as:

  • “Take a deep breath, it’s not the end of the world.”

The song’s two bookends include a March 14 show in the little arts town of Winnsboro, Texas, on the Bowery Stage of The Winnsboro Center For The Arts, and the wrenching realization about the same time that the South by Southwest cultural event really was cancelled in full, from March 13 to March 22. Nor would there be an unofficial SxSW – Austin cancelled even the underground event at which Talvik hoped to perform after the main events was jettisoned.

SxSW is a professional highlight for Talvik. She’s been invited to officially showcase three times, following her appearance on the Lollapaloza stage in Chicago in 2008. And she’s played there a few times in unofficial capacities. At SxSW, networking opportunities are enormous and Talvik’s page on the SxSW website showed her hopes to connect with gear endorsements, other artists to perform with, and booking agents. Talvik also is promoting her new 10-track album, Paws of a Bear.

The slice of time in Winnsboro on March 14 was otherworldly, as Talvik wrote in a message on her Facebook page:

  • “We had arrived early that day in Winnsboro, TX, and it all seemed so peaceful compared to the headlines shouting at me every time I opened my phone. In Winnsboro, the birds were singing and the trees were full of blossoms. The air was sweet and you would never know what was going on in the rest of the world.”
Sofia Talvik, camper

Sofia Talvik and her husband travel the United States in a camper during her tours in the country. They are staying in a friend’s home on the Gulf Coast of Texas during the current coronavirus quarantines. Credit: sofiatalvik.com

The following is a lightly edited transcription of Talvik’s views on matters related to the virus. Talvik sent her email on March 28 from the home of a friend whose generosity enabled Talvik and her husband, Jonas Westin, to stay in a home on the coast of Texas. Otherwise, they would have tried to find a place to stay in their camper – which is a challenge now that most public campgrounds are closed.

They call their camper “Lil Chief,” and it’s a 1989 Winnebago Micro Warrior they’ve used to tour the U.S. for the past five years. The lifestyle of road tours continues the pace set with a U.S. tour of 37 states they completed in about 1.5 years, from 2011 to 2013.

In her email, Talvik touches on the idea that she’s not returning anytime soon to her adopted home of Berlin. That her Spring 2020 tour is turning into a financial crater – a quarter of her annual income is evaporating and costs won’t abate. That Meanwhile in Winnsboro reaches toward capturing the surreal aspect of life looking normal, when normalcy is out the window.

First, a snippet from the opening of Meanwhile in Winnsboro:

Sofia Talvik, performing

Sofia Talvik evokes the spirit of Laurel Canyon in the 1960s with an “effervescent and incandescent” voice and songwriting compares to Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins, according to music critic Lee Zimmerman. Credit: sofiatalvik.com

Will you starve
Keep from going very far
Will you brace for the end of the world/

Have you forgot
All the luxury that you’ve got
As you brace for the end of the world/

Meanwhile in Winnsboro
Apple blossoms bloom
Spring is coming soon
Spring is coming soon
Meanwhile in Winnsboro
It doesn’t look so bad
I think of all I had
I think of all I had/

SR: What was your emotional response when you realized – it’s not just SxSW. It’s the whole spring tour that’s in jeopardy?

Talvik: “I was shocked when SxSW was canceled. I really didn’t see that coming at all. And instantly these groups on Facebook started to bubble with people who wanted the festival to go on, although unofficial. It was this great feeling, and I was thinking that it might even turn out to be the best SxSW of all times, everything going grassroots and focused on the music. Then of course the city of Austin shut it down completely and it was all off. I had flown my pedal steel player, Tim Fleming, over from CA for SxSW and some additional shows so it was all very disappointing.”

SR: How did you pick Surfside Beach, Texas to weather this part of the situation?

Talvik: “We did three shows up around Dallas and one in Houston, and then having a day off we went down to Surfside, TX where some Houston friends of mine have a surf shack that they had let us use.

“We were initially supposed to stay a day, or two at tops, but I’m still here two weeks later. SxSW got shut down and we kept waiting to see if our other shows were going to happen but then more and more got canceled and Tim flew back to CA that week. Before he left we did two online concerts and live tracked two new songs.

“Our friends have very generously let us stay here, as the option would be to stay in our little tour RV, and now all state park campgrounds and such are also closing their overnight camping options. Surfside is really an ideal place to be in times like this: It’s on the coast, it’s not a city, and doesn’t have a lot of stores and stuff. People just come here to surf so the most crowded it gets is in the water, and I don’t surf anyway. We can be outside without being close to anyone else which is really nice. It feels like a good place to stay right now.

sofia talvik, mural

The British newspaper, The Telegraph, named Sofia Talvik’s 2016 album, ‘Big Sky Country,’ one of the best Country/Americana albums of the year. Critics observed: ‘There is a consistency to the strong songwriting and sweet melodies throughout.’ Credit: sofiatalvik.com

SR: What is the message you intend to convey in Meanwhile in Winnsboro?

Talvik: “I don’t have a message per se, these are just my reflections and my way of processing the situation. It was surreal, because when I wrote the song we were in this beautiful little town and everything seemed so idyllic and normal, you couldn’t believe that the whole world was being turned upside down.”

SR: “What message would you like to send at this time of great global uncertainty?

Talvik: “I think everyone should try extra hard to be kind to one another, and remember that if you hoard stuff, you take from people who need it more than you.

“I’ve noticed staying busy helps me to feel sane and in a better mood. There are a lot of things I can’t do right now that would be on my normal schedule. I try to accept that and see what I can do instead.

“I try to view stuff in a positive way, instead of burying me in the horror stories or worry too much about an unknown future. Take a deep breath, it’s not the end of the world.

Note to readers: Sofia Talvik’s Quarantine Concerts are available on her Facebook page. Her music is available at this page of her website.

 

 

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David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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