Exclusive Interview With Firewoodisland

I had the pleasure of speaking with Stian Vedøy and Abi Eleri of Firewoodisland, a folktronica duo based in Bristol, UK. With their emotive, intricate and cinematic soundscapes, and stunning vocal harmonies, Firewoodisland has gained national radio play, TV sync placements, and tastemaker press support, leading to over 10 million streams on Spotify alone. Their latest single, “Who Knew,” showcases their unique sound, which they describe as “Mountain-Pop,” a combination of pop, indie, and organic folk elements.

During our conversation, the duo shared their inspiration behind “Who Knew,” a love song about meeting a person who changes your world views for the better. They also discussed their upcoming third album, which will be released via monthly singles throughout 2023, focusing on relatability and a more raw lyrical style than previous albums. Through their honesty and storytelling, Firewoodisland hopes to encourage others struggling with difficulties and inspire people to pursue their dreams.

With festival appearances, a major sync on an Airbnb commercial, and a growing fan base, Firewoodisland is one to watch in the folktronica scene. In this interview, we delve into the creative process behind their music, their journey as musicians, and what’s next for the duo.

Stream “Who Knew” By Firewoodisland Below

Can you tell us about your latest single “Who Knew”? What inspired you to write it?

Our latest single “Who Knew” is actually about how Stian and I (Abi) met as students in student accomodation in Cardiff. There was a party in the common room, and I had taken my beloved guitar, Monster, and was sat on the floor just playing some tunes, and then this guy sat down next to me and asked in his Norwegian accent if he could have a go on my guitar. So I handed Monster over and he could play it way better than me! But he manage to break it! He snapped the little plastic bit that held the battery pack in because he was nervously fiddling with it! Haha! Stian actually wrote the song last year (Sept 2022) while we were on a little holiday visiting friends on the Isle of Wight. I jokingly told him he should write a song about me… and then he did! That’s how “Who Knew” came into being.

Your music has been described as “Mountain-Pop.” Can you tell us more about this genre and how you came up with it?

Our genre is not the easiest to describe, and although it probably mostly falls under the Indie Folk umbarella, we felt describing ourselves purely as an Indie Folk band didn’t do justice to the blend of organic and digital instruments, or the cinematic style of production. We then realized that we were probably best coined as Cinematic Indie Anthem Folk Pop… but that’s such a mouthful and just leaves a very perplexed look on people’s faces.

So we coined the term “Mountain Pop”… mountains showing the grandeur and the natural acoustic element of the music, and pop being the easy listening catchy melodies and relatability of the music. We are both from very mountainous landscapes originally as well, so there is a sense of home in the word “mountain” for each of us.

You have gained a lot of attention from the press and radio, including BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio How does it feel to have such recognition for your work?

It’s very exciting to have recognition from BBC, especially 6 Music as we have been fans for a long time. We were over the moon when Mark Radcliffe found our song “Dearest Brother” and gave it a spin on the radio. This then got picked up by BBC Radio 2, and even had a spin on BBC Radio 1. We’ve also had a lot of support from BBC Wales, who we love and have a fab relationship with.

We’ve also had some incredible sync placements, the most notable being a spot with our cover of “Forever Young” (originally by Alphaville) on a major Airbnb advert across America and Canada. That resulted in us trending in the top 100 on Shazam in the US which was awesome! We’re excited to see where this next run of releases takes us.

You’ve recently been recording your third album. What can fans expect from this new material?

We are very excited about the new album. In this body of work, we have dared to be more raw and honest than we ever have before in our songwriting. One thing that the last few years have taught everyone, is that every person has a personal battle going on… everybody is struggling with something.

I think pre-pandemic we bottled a lot of this up, but in the writing of this album, we have decided to talk quite openly about our hopes, our dreams, our struggles, and our feelings. For this reason, I think the album is going to be very relatable and the songs are going to speak to people.

Your music has been described as emotive, intricate, and cinematic. How do you approach creating your soundscapes and vocal harmonies?

Often when we are songwriting, we are already thinking about the production and overall sound of the song. As Stian is a producer as well as a singer-songwriter, and we have our own studio at home, very often we will start producing the song before we even have a second verse or bridge for the song. Stian also writes music for TV and advertising, and so is drawn to the cinematic sound inspired by Hans Zimmer (who isn’t inspired by Hans Zimmer?!) Having our own studio means we can afford the time with each song to experiment and explore the sound as we are never pushed to fit into a timescale of studio time we’ve paid for.

We both love the human voice as an instrument, so we experiment and build up vocal harmonies. It can be hilarious when we are working them out, because not all harmonies are obvious. One of our songs on the album actually has our cat Storm meowing on it, with a lot of autotune! So there really are some experimental sounds and textures!

Can you share a bit about your writing process? How do you collaborate as a duo, and what are some of the challenges you face?

One thing for sure that we have found is that inspiration comes in all manner of places and the process of writing each song is different. Sometimes it will start with a melody, and other times it will be something we have seen or heard that inspires some lyrics. Occasionally we will write a song about a very specific situation that has happened to one of us or to a friend, and other times it will be a theme that we write about.

The number of little voice memos or notes on our phones with melodies and/or lyric ideas. A challenge can be sorting out the wheat from the tares with these! Stian definitely does most of the melody writing, and we often jointly write the lyrics.

One little joke that we have is that Stian will write a verse and sometimes part of a chorus, present it to me (Abi) and I will interpret what he has written and tell him what the song is about and we will finish the song together! I actually think the biggest challenge for us, with having a home studio, is learning when a song is finished and when to leave it alone. It’s very easy to keep tweaking it and becoming over-precious about every detail, instead of letting a song go and putting it out into the world. That’s the hallmark of a couple of perfectionists right there!

You’ve played at many festivals and venues across the UK and Norway. What has been your favourite live performance so far, and why?

We’ve absolutely loved playing shows and festivals around the UK and in Norway. I think one of the favourites has to be Vikedal Roots Festival in Norway. There’s something very adventurous about loading your instruments onto a plane, taking musician friends who have never been to Scandinavia before with us, and playing in a new country and seeing how the music is received. Norway treats creatives really well as well, so we absolutely love playing there.

We also have a few favourite festivals we have played in the UK. We really enjoyed playing Latitude Festival, Lakefest, Farmfest and Between The Trees in particular as each festival was so beautifully crafted and fun to be at. Another of our favourite shows was supporting Bears Den in St Giles In The Fields in London. We loved this show, not just for supporting a band we love, but also because the venue is so beautiful and clearly designed for acoustics.

Your music often explores themes of life stories, struggles, and hopes. How do you hope your honesty and vulnerability in your lyrics will impact your listeners?

Our biggest dream with Firewoodisland is to give people hope. We want our listeners to know that we genuinely care about them, and we want them to know they are loved and valuable and that there is always hope, no matter how dark a place they are in. We have received some amazing and bravely honest messages from fans and listeners that we are always so grateful to receive. It’s an honour knowing that a song you wrote has really spoken to somebody.

We also want our listeners to know that just because we release music and stand on a stage, it doesn’t mean we don’t have our struggles or life challenges. Both of us were never the cool kid in school, we haven’t got life all figured out, and we do have our challenges. Honesty is a beautiful thing, because actually, instead of making you weak, wearing your struggles makes you more relatable, and stronger as others come alongside you in you walk through life.

Humans were never made to be alone, we are communal creatures and we are impacted the worst when we are isolated and lonely. We want people to know that they can always reach out if they are in that place.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians and songwriters who are struggling with their own creative process?

We have a few bits of advice for aspiring musicians and songwriters who are struggling with their creative process. The first is, don’t be an over-perfectionst. Instead of holding on to songs, just play them to people, get feedback, record them, and put them out into the world… and then repeat the process. Nobody is going to come to you if you don’t first put yourself out there.

It’s so important to progress from being a bedroom songwriter, to showing your work to the world… not just for yourself, but for everyone else in the world, because actually, your song might just be the answer someone else needs on that day. Your music isn’t about you, it’s about everybody else. Secondly, if you are struggling with inspiration or songwriting, look beyond yourself. Collaborate. Find a producer. Reach out to artists you love.

People are usually happy to connect and to give advice and feedback. Do something different, take yourself out of your comfort zone. Creativity is pushing boundaries, and experimenting is an awesome way to grow. Do something different. Finally, music is a communal thing. Although we consume it often solo these days, it was originally to bring people together, and most recorded music still is made by a team of people, each bringing what they have to the table. Let others get involved… it will also result in more people sharing your song and being excited about it when it does get released.

What can we expect from Firewoodisland in the future? Do you have any upcoming projects or tours that you can share with us?

The biggest bit of Firewoodisland news that we have right now is that there is a lot of new music coming! This is the first single of 8, and then in October, we will drop the rest of the album (and it’s more than our standard 10 songs). We are busy filming music videos for each of the singles and finishing off the artwork (which I, Abi, paint as I was first trained as an illustrator, and then as a musician).

We put as much love and care into the music videos and the artwork as we do the music, so you are really getting a full package with each single and being drawn into the Firewoodisland Universe. If you haven’t seen the music video for Who Knew, we highly recommend it because it is the sweetest story with the craziest twist at the end! We are excited to be playing Between The Trees again this year as main support on Sunday, and we would strongly recommend this festival to anyone who might be in the UK at the end of August and wants to chill in a beautiful forest location right next to the beach and listen to some fab music.

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