Name: Kira Skov
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current Release: Kira Skov's Spirit Tree is available now physically on CD and vinyl through imusic.dk or jpc. You can also listen to it on all major streaming platforms.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kira Skov and would like to find out more, visit her excellent and informative official website. She is also on Facebook.
For our interview with one of Kira's collaborators on Spirit Tree, read our Bonnie “Prince” Billy interview.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
My urge to create seems to be tied to my getting by. It’s a constant source that has helped me to rise above and through difficult times in my life. It gives me a sense of purpose and brings meaning to my life.
Sometimes dreams plays a part and I’m often inspired by books and poetry and of course other musicians and song-writers. My personal relationships have always played a vital part though. I think writing about my experiences, even if they're more abstract poetic interpretations, is a way of processing and understanding something about myself in relation to others.
Politics also affect me, although I wouldn’t call my self a protest singer. My duet with Bonnie “Prince” Billy on “We won’t go quietly” was inspired partly by Dylan Thomas and in sympathy with the black lives matters movement, following the murder of George Floyd. A reflection on love as the healing force, with Will as the high priest with his otherworldly voice. I think he was perfect for conveying a unifying word peace.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I like some dogmas. This being an album of duets, that made me write in a certain way, with specific voices in mind. Sometimes it is concrete ideas where I envision the end production as a part of the composition. Sometimes it’s just a line or a hook, that becomes the thing I build everything around. For me it’s always quite an intuitive process. The songs dictate, not the other way around.
Is there a preparation phase for your process?
I always record new ideas straight away and then I might add parts over time. Sometimes I glue different little snippets together. I like doing that. Like a collage. I can have this song idea that I thought would be a great verse, but the chorus never shows and then it ends up as an outro for another tune. You can have a little part that keeps hunting you looking for a home for a long time. It can feel like a real relief when they arrive in their right place.
I feel a responsibility towards my songs. I have to record them and finish them and put them out, to make room for the new. I think that is my creative process and that means that I put out a lot of records to keep the flow.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I love it when I get to be alone for a period of time. Going away and emerging into a solitary writing mode. Then I will get up. Maybe take a run, do a little yoga. Make coffee and eat some breakfast and then I will write for a few hours and take a break. I love getting up early when I’m by myself. I work best before noon it seems. Maybe I’m still close to my dreams. It’s easier to tap into creative mode during those hours for me.
What do you start with?
Sometime I open books of poetry and let one line from something else open the bag. It differs alot. Sometimes its a melody and the words will follow and vice versa. I like to read poetry and find inspiration in books in the afternoon. I wrote “Ode to the poets” for the latest album as a homage to the writers and poets that have inspired me.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from?
The lyrics can be reflections of the day. Sometimes a full poem will emerge and I will find a melody to suit it. There is no one way.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I have a very intuitive feeling around whether a poem is good or not. Good lyrics has to be musical on paper somehow. My relationship to writing lyrics is both relaxed and ambitious at the same time. I find writing easy when I don’t judge myself in the process. I love words. How they taste and it’s easy to feel if they sing well.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
I work pretty fast. I like to concentrate the process. Once I’m in the grove, songs usually just come. But you have to make yourself available. Somedays nothing shows and you might feel all is lost. Even after all these years knowing the process, I can still feel like I have reached the end of my creation. That I know nothing. I think that is the humbling part of being a songwriter. You can never take the ability to write for granted.
But it's all the days you invested, with no apparent outcome, that make it possible for songs to appear almost fully formed in your lap on other days. And you get to feel invincible until your next crash. And so it goes. On and on and on.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I like to feel that part of it is out of my hands. I don’t need to be in control here. The songs will lead the way and hopefully teach me something.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it?
I usually just finish the songs. If they won’t finish I have to let them go. Maybe they will return disguised as other songs or parts of them will find a home in the process of finishing new songs.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I love the rush of writing and recording songs. It gives me energy and I feel connected to the world around me.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
I set my self a deadline. Seems to work for me. I don’t like to let the process linger to long. You can change your mind a million times, but you just have to commit to something and set it free. And get on to the next thing.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on?
I think you should embrace it and accept it with all its flaws. Perfection is not a thing to strive for in it self. The music I like has cracks and flaws and vulnerability as a part of its strength.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
More and more over these past years. I started out only recording my songs with an acoustic guitar and putting them down on a dictaphone. Then I discovered garageband and my writing changed.
I have worked with great producers over the years and I like letting go of some of the responsibility in trusting someone else, but I have been very closely involved in both the mixing and production for my last albums and I think I fel more confident now, that I’m capable as a producer as well as a songwriter and performer.
I think "Horses" on the latest album, featuring Jenny Wilson and John Parish, is a good example of this.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Very much so. It’s the process that I love. I would love to stay there. It was hard to finish this album. It gave me a sense of purpose and connection, during a time of isolation. My record label has to move fast and I have to get on the road quickly, otherwise I will start a new process and then that will be my everything for a while.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Creativity is a divine state. It’s gives you a sense of something that is greater than you. Like being in nature does. The mundane tasks becomes meaningful in relation to that. Without art, life would be dull and impoverished. That’s how I feel anyway.