At the age of two, Bosnian-Slovenian vocalist Mirna Bogdanović had already faced more hardship than most, forced to flee her country with her parents at the hand of war.
Now firmly established on the Berlin scene, she’s made a name for herself as an emotive songwriter, award-winning vocalist and performer. Her introspective sophomore album ‘Awake’, is out now on Berthold Records and she took some time to answer some questions for Jazz Views…
What should first-time listeners expect in terms of styles and influences when checking out your latest release?
They can expect to hear a mix of genres between contemporary jazz and art pop, hopefully something fresh and new that they, at least to some extent and in certain aspects, haven’t heard before. I was influenced by a wide span of music, from Björk, James Blake, Becca Stevens to jazz and classical instrumental music.
Can you describe the inspiration behind the title of your new album, ‘Awake’, and how it relates to the themes and emotions explored in it?
Awake is one of the songs on the album – Chris Hyson took the track and made something crazy out of it, which was the idea in the first place, to have at least one experimental short snippet between full songs. When I was deciding how to name the album ‘Awake’ first of all just sounded the best but it also has a deeper meaning – it’s about being present, seeing things. Kinda the idea of “I was blind but now I see”. The album is all about reflection and grief and me becoming wiser and more aware & awake.
How has your Bosnian-Slovenian heritage influenced your songwriting and the way you approach music today?
Not so much to be honest. I guess there’s a bit of subconscious influence as it was around me while growing up but otherwise I was never a huge fan of traditional Slovenian music, maybe a little more of the Bosnian but also never really got into it. I actually grew up with MTV and stuff that came from the American speaking countries.
How did working with Chris Hyson as a producer impact the sound and direction of ‘Awake’? What did he bring to the project?
Chris was with us in the studio in Berlin, where we recorded all the instruments. We were trying out a lot there already, recording additional layers on all sorts of instruments. Then afterwards I went to London to work with him on post-production, where we worked on sound design, sorted out all the tracks, replaced certain instruments with synth sounds, added special effects etc..
You won the Deutsche Jazzpreis for best debut album in 2021. How do awards like this help an artists’ career in the early stages?
It was a weird time because the pandemic was still going. I did get a nice money award I could then invest into my 2nd album and it got easier applying for grants and I guess in the long run a few more gig opportunities.
Your album features a wide range of instruments and instrumentation. What led to those choices and how ingrained were they in the songs from the beginning?
The music was written for my quintet + ukulele but at some point I decided to arrange for the strings as well, as it was something I always wanted to do. Because we recorded at a very cool studio (Hansa Studios) there was a wide array of instruments we could use, such as celeste, Hammond organ, Rhodes, different guitars and bass guitars… so we ended up playing around with that.
How do you feel your music has evolved since your debut album, and what aspects of your personal growth do you think are most evident in ‘Awake’?
I broke up with my boyfriend right after recording my 1st album so a lot of the songs were written in the summer of 2019. Then the pandemic hit in 2020 which was also a very difficult, reflective time for me, so you can hear all of that in the music, which makes it very intimate & personal.
I also started to write on the ukulele, which I haven’t done before and brings new colours to my harmonic & melodic spectrum. The music took a slight turn into a singer-songwriter direction but still stays very much rooted in jazz, with more instrumental songs, where I don’t sing lyrics, which is similar to the 1st album but different.
What are three albums that every jazz fan in the world should listen to?
That is a very hard question as there is too much good music out there… I’ve always loved Kit Downes so anything from him… like album ‘Light from old stars’ is beautiful but also the later stuff Jakob Bro – Daydreamer is one of my all time favourites Snowpoet – Thought you knew Very hard to decide on top 3!
What’s next for you in 2023?
Life! Concerts, composing new music, holidays… 🙂
Thanks again to Mirna for taking the time to talk with us!