Name: My Lisa Karolina Nilsson
Born in Stockholm on the 13th of August 1970
Mother; Birgit Bokö, Teacher
Father; Gösta Nilsson, Musician
Sister; Four years Lisa's senior
After the divorce Lisa's father got remarried to jazz singer Monica Borrfors and from that
marriage Lisa has two brothers Jocke and Jeppe, both seven years younger than her.
Her mother got remarried to Thomas Bokö, a teacher.
Childhood and background:
Lisa Nilsson grew up in Tyresö, a town just to the south of Stockholm.
She spent her childhood summers in the Stockholm archipelagos and a summer cottage on the outskirts of Kalmar.
From an early age she would devote a great deal of time to music and dance.
She claims to have received encouragement that proved to be important from her first teacher, Ragnhild Wenström, who was herself interested in the performing arts.
This is a person that Lisa is more inclined to think of as one of her mentors.
Music played a central role in both homes during Lisa's childhood and was a channel for her emotions and artistic expression even as a child.
Imagination and games was the first forum in which she was able to explore the person she was to become. In this world musicals were directed, she would be interviewed and she would, of course, perform before huge audiences - in front of the mirror.
She would daydream herself away whilst watching repeats of old musicals from the forties on television and there the dream of one day being on stage was created.
In her room she would record herself on a cassette recorder in order to be able to critique and improve her performance.
Hours were spent singing and making use of the acoustics in the stairwell of the terraced house where she lived, without regard for the neighbours and with great annoyance to her when the returning family interrupted her rehearsals.
In her parents record collection there could be found jazz, pop, ballads, world music, soul, funk, baroque and choral music.
Influences such as Keith Jarret, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Barbra Streisand, Monica Zetterlund, Cornelis Wreeswijk, Olle Adolphson and many others have played an important roll in Lisa's development as a singer.
Every other weekend and on school holidays Lisa and her sister were with their father. Musicians would often gather for dinner and parties and sometimes long jam sessions would occur where Lisa would be allowed to participate and improvise.
In both homes, in the company of adults, it made for a liberal playground with music and humour at the centre of events.
Lisa noticed that she was often on the outside of her peer groups as her musical taste and preference differed from the current trends.
She would record mixed tapes of her friend's singles and from pop radio in order to be able to blend in with them. This also made it possible for her to absorb pop music of the eighties whilst she made a distinction to herself between this and her "formative" music. She only shared her own musical preferences with her family.
Her sister's record collection was often borrowed and that, together with boyfriend's collections later on, added to her steadily growing interest in music.
After nine years of school which she attended parallel with six years at Lasse Kühlers Dansskola, Lisa moved to Uppsala for a year of dance college.
She skipped the second year as she was accepted into the professional dance training course of "3Balettakademin", The Academy of Ballet.
Lisa discontinued her studies at the Balettakademin just half way through the course and shortly thereafter received her first recording contract.
She had by this time in the capacity of "young talent" appeared on the TV in several different contexts both as a solo artist and with the singing group Stage four which consisted of, besides Lisa, Peter Jöback, Andreas Lundstedt and Lisette Pålsson. It was through these TV appearances that she was discovered by the recording industry.
She participated in the Swedish selection leg of The European song contest and came fourth with the song "Du" by Bobby Ljungren and Håkan Almquist.
She made two soul-pop albums in English for the record company Little Big Apple. The first, Lean on love 1989, with the title track composed by her father Gösta Nilsson and Eric Bibb was produced by Mats Granberg.
The second, Indestructible 1990, was more inspired by live performances and produced by Peter O Ekberg.
In 1991 Lisa signed a record deal with Diesel Music and under the guidance of Torbjörn Sten she began a successful collaboration with songwriter Mauro Scocco and producer Johan Ekelund.
She started recording in Swedish instead of English and developed her singing technique and interpretation through Scocco's lyrics and Ekelund's production ideas.
Her expression matured and Lisa began to evolve as a singer with storytelling qualities who possessed an ability to touch and move people with her impressive voice.
The first album to emerge from this collaboration was Himlen runt hörnet which was released in 1992 and became Lisa's big breakthrough with sales of almost 500 000 copies across Scandinavia.
It was recorded and mixed at the legendary Polar studios by Ekelund and technician Bernard Löhr.
Several of Sweden's foremost pop/soul musicians played an important roll in the sound and arrangement.
A special mention should be given to guitarist Mattias Torell, saxophonist David Wilschewski and drummer Per Lindvall.
The album was awarded five Swedish Grammies, three Rockbjörnar, two Danish Grammies as well as gold and platinum records in several Nordic countries.
An extensive tour followed which established Lisa as one of Scandinavia's most popular artists.
The follow-up album was entitled Till Morelia and was released in 1995 and confirmed the longevity of her fans loyalty. Together with Scocco and Ekelund she created an almost trendsetting sound of soul in Swedish that would come to leave an imprint in the minds of many up and coming singers.
Himlen runt hornet was also released in an English version, Ticket to heaven, in parts of Europe and Japan, but Lisa never felt that the collaboration with the international record company gave her enough respect, understanding or stimulation.
She wasn't willing to continue working towards an international career based solely on commercialism.
Change in career direction:
After the huge success and the comprehensive attention that success brings Lisa decided in the beginning of 1996 that it was time to take a break. She withdrew herself from the spotlight for a time of reflection and soul searching.
She now needed tranquillity in order to find her way back to her original dreams of creating and playing music.
During this period she recorded the title track on one of Denmark's jazz legends, Niels Henning Ørstedt Pedersen's, album entitled Those who were. This was to become the first reunion with jazz and in Lisa's mind one of her best and most important recordings. She toured Denmark with both DRBB (Denmark radio's big band) and RUO (Radiounderholdnings Orkestret).
Lisa moved back with her husband, musician Henrik Janson, to her hometown of Tyresö and when she began writing her own songs with Swedish lyrics he was a great support and the two began to work together.
After four years Lisa had written a sizable collection of new songs and it was time to record a new album.
She reunited with Johan Ekelund as producer and together they recorded Viva once again for the loyal record company Diesel music.
Viva became a transition between the old soul/pop that Lisa represented before the break and the new sound she established with the following album Små rum.
Små rum was the first record that Lisa produced herself and it ended up being a mix of jazz, pop and ballads. Here is where the childhood influences of her parents came to the fore. Henrik Janson and his brother Ulf Janson did the arrangements for the songs with a small orchestra and jazz quartet.
EST (Esbjörn Svensson Trio) made up the base together with the strings of Radiosymfonikerna.
Other musicians included Ulf Wakenius, a cappella group The Real Group and saxophonist David Wilschewski.
The whole album was recorded live in the old EMI studios in Stockholm and the parallels to the artists who had once recorded legendary recordings there were many. Små rum became the last record to be recorded in a traditional way in the EMI studios original design, with large recording rooms, before the studio was sold and modernised. The album was a great success in Scandinavia and widely regarded as a comeback for Lisa.
Endings and beginnings:
Lisa got divorced in 2002 and moved back to Stockholm.
The greatest hits album, Samlade sånger 92-03, was released in 2003 and Lisa celebrated by embarking on a Scandinavian tour and subsequent DVD.
This was followed by a time of uncompromised musical exploration which led to a phase of development that strengthened her artistic freedom.
The whole process was brought to completion when she travelled to Brazil to seek inspiration in 2004.
This trip that was originally planned for three weeks developed into a five month stay that changed Lisa's life and put her in contact with new musicians.
Between a smile and a tear:
After living in Rio de Janeiro for five months Lisa returned to Sweden to work with some of the world's greatest jazz musicians.
Pianist Niels Lan Doky filmed a documentary celebrating the jazz club Montmartre in Copenhagen.
Between a smile and a tear is a film that portrays a number of musician's relationships to music, life and the Montmartre era including two concerts at a temporarily revived Montmartre in the summer of 2004.
Contributing and performing in the documentary besides Lan Doky was Danish basist Mads Vinding, American drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, harmonic player Toots Thielmans, and Lisa Nilsson.
The group performed a number of concerts at jazz festivals around Europe in 2005 and Lisa toured alone with the trio on several occasions.
In May of 2005 the Polar music prize was awarded to the Brazilian artist and Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil. In connection with this a Brazil festival was organised in Stockholm and Lisa was asked to participate with a concert at Mosebacke as well as being asked to honour Gil during the award ceremony.
For this occasion three of the musicians that Lisa had worked with in Rio were flown to Sweden and together with two Swedish musicians they performed three concerts.
In order to create a repertoire for a Swedish audience Lisa began to write Swedish lyrics to some of the songs that had taken her fancy in Brazil.
The tour was greeted with great enthusiasm and praised in reviews. From this was born the idea of a collaboration and creation of an album.
Lisa returned to Rio six months later and made preparations for the recording.
After a few months of searching for a studio, gathering song material, trying to raise financial support and writing the Swedish lyrics she started rehearsing with the Rio band.
During the first two weeks of February 2006 the album Hotel Vermont 609 was recorded. Lisa produced for the second time and built up the album out of live sessions and through a democratic process with all involved.
The recording technician was Alar Suurna who Lisa had worked with before on Små rum.
Hotel Vermont 609 is the first totally independent project Lisa has ever worked on and, in her own words, the first thing she's ever dared to immerse herself in artistically. She describes the record as a result of a philosophy where "everything is left open to whatever life brings".
This is a strategy that will probably permeate even the continued choices in her career.