A Conversation With ...Lindy Vopnfjörd
By Jason Schneider
As a country that boasts way more than its fair share of world-class singer/songwriters, often as listeners we must make an uncomfortable “Sophie’s choice” about which ones we’ll follow. Yet, from the time I first got to know Lindy Vopnfjörd about 20 years ago when he would perform regularly at the Jane Bond Café in Waterloo, Ontario, I knew he was somebody whose music would be a part of my life for years to come.
It wasn’t just his larger-than-life Icelandic personality, or his ability to capture the essence of Bob Dylan songs better than anyone I’d ever heard, it was the pure joy he exuded out of simply making a connection with an audience, and how that formed the basis of his original material.
Each release from the Toronto-based Lindy is therefore cause for celebration for his longtime followers, as well as a fresh opportunity for new ones to come on board. His latest independent album, Frozen In Time(out Oct. 28), in many ways recaptures the spirit of those unforgettable nights I experienced all those years ago, as opposed to Lindy’s more power pop-oriented offerings made on his own or with the band Major Maker he led with Todor Kobakov who continues to serve as his producer.
Frozen In Time’s focus is squarely on storytelling in the finest troubadour tradition, with songs touching on everything from escapes from North Korea and wrongful convictions in India, to tales of his Norse ancestors and a few introspective ballads. Overall, the album displays an artist at the top of his game, and ready to take the next step up to the national stage. For more info go to lindymusic.com
What sets Frozen In Time apart from your previous work?
This album is a return to my folk roots. It is intended to be a pure folk record, my performances all recorded live without any edits or vocal comps. It is also the hardest I've worked at writing songs. With the mentoring of my songwriting coach, James Linderman, I've been able to take on more daring topics. From stories of freedom champions, including an English professor wrongfully imprisoned in India who sent me his prison diary, to a young man in Ethiopia beaten by government security forces for holding a meeting to encourage entrepreneurialism. There are stories of love too.
What song on the new record do you feel best captures the overall musical vision for the album, and is there a story behind writing it?
Melodically and poetically I think “Far Behind” captures the feel of the record best. This song was written for young North Korean defector, Yeonmi Park. I heard her speak in New York and was so blown away by her courage and what she had to go through to find freedom that I wrote two songs for her. This one is inspired by her escape, her incredible journey crossing the Gobi Desert on foot, and the moment where she and her mother were finally reunited, after several years, with Yeonmi's sister in South Korea.
What has been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
The biggest change has definitely been adjusting to having two small children and how much work that is. I'm loving nearly every minute of it though. (Laughs)
What have been among your most memorable touring experiences, in Canada or elsewhere?
Touring with Whitehorse last year was incredible. We've known each other for many years and so it was really fun. I got to perform at Massey Hall for the first time, which was something I'll never forget. The shows in the U.S. were also a breath of fresh air.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
My parents and my brother and I had a folk singing group called The Hecla Singers. We would sing Icelandic folk songs and wear these so called traditional Icelandic costumes. Of course, I've been to Iceland many times since and have yet to find these costumes in any museum there! We performed all over with this group and it was a wonderful way to grow up.