Beauty in the broken

Published in Amelia’s Magazine, November 2010. Original article here.

Beauty in the broken: A conversation with Anna Brønsted of Our Broken Garden
That is a really big sound coming from such a small woman, I think as I’m standing at the back. Anna Brønsted is tinkering with her microphone and ignoring the hustle of her fellow Our Broken Garden musicians doing soundchecks around her. We are in St Giles-in-the-Fields, the little church tucked behind the Centre Point building, which looks warm and cosy with its mood lighting. But in reality it’s barely warmer than it is outside as London is putting on a full cold and rain spectacle for its Danish guests.

‘It’s so cold in London!’ Anna exclaims as she walks over to me, holding her coat closed at the neck. She introduces herself properly, shaking my hand with a surprisingly strong grip. I ask her how she’s doing, with tonight’s gig only a couple of hours away. Does she like playing live? She smiles: ‘I like it very much! But I get nervous too. The anxiety and the … what’s the word – anticipation, they go hand in hand. You get this energy rising inside, and when you get excited the energy gets bigger as the nervousness and the joy of it mixes together. Does that make sense?’

Anna writes the songs for Our Broken Garden, while the band creates the musical arrangements. There is something of a sinister twist to the lyrics underneath the beautiful, dreamy music, I point out, thinking of the single track ‘Garden Grow’ where Anna sings: ‘make my lips bleed if you have to / throw me naked on the floor / just wake me from my sleep …’. Is this deliberate?. Anna squints at me, she’s hesitating over the meaning of the word ‘sinister’. Once explained, she immediate confirms that it is. ‘The darkness is definitely deliberate. Absolutely. I try and write happy songs and it doesn’t work. The songs always have a mellow feel at their middle.’

The band name was her idea: ‘It’s like a little take on the lost paradise. We have this innocence when we’re born and then we lose it. Our journey in life may be about finding our way back to that place where we feel natural, where we don’t have to do anything to feel like we belong. A place where we’re unique and perfect.’

She’s thoughtful, open and very eloquent, but it takes her a moment to get her words out as she wants to get it right in English. Words and lyrics are a very important part of Anna’s songwriting process. ‘I like to try and make an expression where all the little bits complement the whole. It’s difficult to explain …’ She stops herself again. The music and lyrics need to fit together, I suggest, and she nods. ‘I care very much about the words, but being Danish I use language differently so it might not make complete sense in English. I make certain mistakes because it’s not my mother tongue. But when you use words that make up pictures in your head it may be good.’

The songs are a revelation of her own self, she admits, but emphasises that it is difficult to capture everything that you are: ‘It varies from time to time which part of me dominates, but I do feel this is an expression of who I am. Who we are. Still, I’m more than this though. For instance I used to play a lot of soccer, and you might not have guessed that.’

Music remains at the centre of Anna’s life also outside Our Broken Garden – she is a music teacher and student of music business management, and she also runs a small festival for women in music. ‘It’s really tough doing this, as you don’t make any money and you travel all the time. But there are moments when you feel you are connected to the people you play with, and for. Then it makes sense.’

I ask if she will tell us something unexpected about herself, and she laughs as she answers: ‘I really like reading women’s magazines, even though it’s such a waste of money. But I like the glittery paper and the pictures. I have many guilty pleasures.’ We get to talking about how chocolate is presented by advertisers as a so-called guilty pleasure, but Anna shrugs it off in a true, pragmatic Scandinavian manner: ‘Chocolate isn’t guilty, it’s just a pleasure.’

Just like the music, Anna seems delicate at first – but give it a moment and you realise how much strength there is behind that gentle first impression. And once you’ve noticed it seems strange how you could ever have thought otherwise.

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