Getting to Know Sarah Klang

Getting to Know Sarah Klang

Sweden's best new export is doing Americana better than Americans.

Sweden's best new export is doing Americana better than Americans.

Photography: Märta Thisner

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

Sarah Klang has a "Mind" of her own. While most young musicians try to break through the clutter, songs like this seem to pierce through a void. Its sleepy, vintage soundscape melts under the croak of her voice, which during live performances, reaches hair-raising wails. Drenched in tattoos and prone to comedic relief, the Swedish singer-songwriter is all fun and games offstage. But on it, she sounds as if she's crying into the mic, admitting to being devastated by the human condition and what it means to long for others. You feel like you’ve heard the song before, just as much as you hope to hear it again. You remember what it feels like to have the blues.

Music wasn’t always her plan. “I was a horse girl. I was in stables a lot,” she says. The rural upbringing might be to blame for her personal style—a vivid and visceral interpretation of American Country, tinged with Folk and complete with the southern twang and kitschy aesthetic. Her parents moved her around Sweden frequently, from the north with its reindeer to the southern archipelago, surrounded by blackish waters. She struggled with depression and felt uncomfortable in school. So she stopped riding and picked up the guitar, only to put it down six years later.

“I just started working as a waitress and in a bar, and I had this really boring boyfriend. A musician. He was negative about the whole industry.” In so many words, Klang infers that her ex’s gloom discouraged her from pursuing bigger dreams. “He told me, ‘Nobody can come through, this is such a shady business’…I just went to his shows and watched his shitty band. We were together until I was maybe twenty-two.” After that, she began performing in underground clubs in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city. She wrote her own music from day one and quickly gathered buzz.

“I want to make classic love songs,” Klang says. She sings exclusively about relationships, both with boyfriends and her best friend, who passed at 21. She wrote her debut album, Love in the Milky Way, in her apartment after a breakup. And while some of her songs are indeed weepy love ballads (my favorites), others feel like sunshine on a brisk Sunday in the fall. They’re upbeat, the keys major, but always reflecting on the past, reflecting on someone. You wonder about the people who made her feels so much, and who have inadvertently made you feel too.

“If you asked me two years ago what I thought success was, it would be what I have now,” she says. “I can tour in Sweden. I can do some Germany shows. I can make albums. I don’t have to work at my dad’s restaurant anymore. That was my dream coming true.” But despite her position as a popular new contender, Klang is grappling with the reality of budding stardom; a gust of wind can blow out your fire just as easily as it can spread it. “Now I’m here, and I just feel a lot of stress and anxiety. It feels like I’ve been let into a room and at any minute, someone can ask me to leave the party.”

Typically, artists aren’t so candid about this weird stage in the “glow up.” Big label media training transforms them into smiling starlets, eerily unconvincing with an “I’m just happy to be here” attitude. What she's saying feels relatable, dare I say especially for millennials? If you’re far from achieving your dreams, you feel like a loser. If you’re inching closer, you visualize a future in which you dream almost came true, but you somehow fucked it up. So you’re a loser or a fuck up until you get there, and we all know there doesn’t really exist.

“It’s just hard to be like, ‘I do music because I love music and I do it for myself,’ because that’s really not me. I want to be very, very famous,” she says with a laugh. She’s joking, but might as well not be. Indeed, Klang has the chops to be very, very famous. And while the anxiety might be unpleasant for her, it’s going to fuel an incredible sophomore album for us. In the meantime, she’s found ways to control the stress prior to getting on stage. “I guess you drink before,” she admits with a smile. 

All I can think is, I’ll have what she’s having.

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