Mirna Bogdanović’s new album Awake is released by BERTHOLD records on May 12th 2023.
The line-up: Mirna Bogdanović (vocals, ukulele and composer), Povel Widerstrand (piano, synths), Peter Meyer (guitar, efx), Felix Henkelhausen (double bass, e-bass), Philip Dornbusch (drums, percussion);
guests: Asger Nissen (alto saxophone), Paul Santner (ukulele) and the Rothko String Quartet: Majella Münz (cello), Marc Kopitzki (viola), William Overcash (violin), Joosten Ellée (violin).
Supported by a wide cast of musicians, Bogdanović’s seductive voice and eloquent compositions give AWAKE, her second album, its compelling dramatic curve. Bogdanović broke up with her boyfriend in 2019. Through her music and lyrics she describes the drama of this and other personal experiences.
The song Clocks deals with her sense of existential crisis, the feeling that time was passing her by and that she was not making the most out of life. “It’s also about my inner conflict of being a freelance musician and not having a nine-to-five job like most people,” she explains. “Sometimes you have a feeling that life is happening and you’re not part of it. You’re in your own little bubble.”
On My Own is about loneliness and reminiscing about the lost relationship. “I was emotionally stuck,” she says. “At first the track shows my sadness. In the end it almost becomes a rock song, exploding into energetic anger – and it feels good to play.”
Moving On“looks back at the relationship as if it never happened, hurting and still feeling the sadness, but slowly letting go.”
Dancing in the Dark “has less to do with dancing and more about being in the dark about a new romantic relationship,” she explains. “There’s a sense of anxiety when you’re starting with someone and they’re giving you mixed signals. I ended up in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable. Difficult situation dating!”
Finding Closure “has ascending vocal lines which reach a resolution, but there’s also a counter-melody. The synth descends, joined by a peculiar groove. It’s a happy song but with a twist of melancholy.”
Bogdanović’s lyrics, written in English, are beautiful and poetic. She also expresses her feelings through music alone, as in Crazy Chords. “In the first part the chords are changing fast, the harmony is complex and I’m singing a simple melody on top. In the second part there are only four chords, resolving into something open and lyrical. Then back again to the wild opening.”
May, also without lyrics and written in May – her favourite month, has musical references to her time as a classical pianist. “I was playing a lot of Debussy and Chopin. The piece is dissonant but with a pretty sounding harmony. Debussy creeps in though not intentionally.”
At the age of seven, Bogdanović began learning piano in Maribor, Slovenia, where she was born and brought up. Her mother is Slovenian, her father Bosnian. “We had to flee the war when I was two years old,” she recalls. “It affected a lot of things in my life. It was a rough beginning for me. I experienced the war through my parents. We lost everything. They started a company and worked day and night to make it successful. That’s why I have no siblings.” The track Only Child “is an interplay of music and vocals. The voice here, as in my music generally, is not always up front, but has an instrumental role as part of the band.”
She recalls that music was always played at home, though never jazz. Her father performed Balkan rock. Bogdanović went on to study classical piano and in her own estimation was good, but not a prodigy. She also sang in various pop and rock bands but felt that she needed more complexity in music and slowly moved towards jazz, which she studied in Austria before moving to Berlin where she now lives.
The composer’s inspirations are a “mashed up, mix of different things from classical music to jazz – traditional and modern, singer-songwriter, indie, electronic, soul, neo-soul, r&b, and hip-hop.” Drawn to melancholy she likes rich and unusual harmonies. “When I listen to music,” she says “it needs to sound new to me. The perfect combination is something familiar, but original – especially harmonically.”
She wants her own music to be “very cross-over and fresh. I don’t want to be limited by anything.” Greg Cohen, the renowned bass player, talks of her: “…sultry tone, expressive phrasing and total musicality… the choice of many musicians ‘in the know’. Comfortable in all walks of musical life, Ms.Bogdanović is guaranteed to please.”