Q&A with multi-talented Finnish actress, singer-songwriter

Reporter: Tomi Hinkkanen, Los Angeles
Photographs by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Irina Björklund by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

You are known primarily as an actress – how did your musical journey get started?
IB: I wrote my first song at age 7, years before I started acting. As a child, I played piano, violin and guitar. For the past few years I’ve finally had time to concentrate more on my music again – I feel it goes hand in hand with acting. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to be one self on stage, especially since the texts are all my own.

If I am correct, “Chanson d’Automne” is your third album. Why a French language record and tell us how you learned to speak French?

IB: I grew up in France as a child, even graduated from high school there. To me, French is the most natural language to write in, and it allows one to speak about big feelings without making it sound cliché. And France being known for it’s “art de vivre”, it allows one to contemplate over the philosophy of life – about what things in life really are important, after all. It’s also such a universally accepted language, musically speaking. After gigs people in the audience would often ask to buy “the album with most French songs”. I simply felt it was time to write and record an all French album. My previous 2 albums were in 5 different languages.

How would you characterize the musical style of the album – does it indeed contain chansons à la Charles Aznavour or Mireille Mathieu?

IB: I would describe it as “Nouvelle Chanson”. I have definitely drawn inspiration from my idols Piaf and Mathieu, the traditional French Chanson is so timeless. But with a new twist. Today, artists such as Nouvelle Vague, Pink Martini, Carla Bruni and Zaz inspire me.

Irina Björklund by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

You mesmerized many people in the past by expertly playing the saw – can we hear more of that in the new album?

IB: I naturally still play the saw, and it is a fun spice during live shows. On an album, however, one has to be careful not to overuse it.

We caught you at a busy time when you are giving concerts in Finland – are there any planned in the U.S.?

IB: The album is now out in Finland, and we have been touring all summer to promote it. The last gig for this fall is planned at the Helsinki Festival on August 24th, together with the artist Anna Eriksson. We are also planning a French tour. I will be returning to the US at the end of August, and US shows are yet to be planned.  My composer partner Peter Fox has moved to Washington DC from Los Angeles, so planning them is not as easy as before. Hopefully, we will put something together soon.

How has your summer gone so far? Have you had time to vacation or is it all work, work, work?
IB: Since the summers in Finland have such beautiful light, it’s the time to shoot films.. so unfortunately while most of Finland is vacationing, actors are working. At the same time, it gives me a good reason to spend time with friends and family.

Irina Björklund by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Anything new in the acting front? Any new movies coming out?

IB: I’m currently working on a Swedish language TV series by director Lauri Nurkse, Inget Ljus i Tunneln, due out on TV in December, as well as on two Finnish feature films – Tie Pohjoiseen by Mika Kaurismäki, and Tähtitaivas Talon Yllä by Saara Cantell. The latter will be out in Finland on March 2nd.

You got to work with George Clooney in ‘The American’: I bet all female readers want to know if he is dreamy?

IB: He was one nice professional actor, is all I’m gonna say.

Where can people buy your new album?

IB: For now, it’s for sale all over the world through my web site, where one can also listen to some samples:

Watch Irina singing CHANSON D´AUTOMNE:

And here’s a short video about the album:

Trailer by Peter Fox
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