BLOODSHOT IN DENMARK Maggie Bjorklund

The Danish pedal steel player taps her Seattle and Tucson
connections and steps out solo.

 

BY NICK A. ZAINO

 

It is somewhat rare to see a
pedal steel onstage at your average rock club in America. It’s an accent instrument,
associated most specifically with country music. It’s even rarer in Denmark, where
Maggie Bjorklund grew up and where she is still based. It was years before she
was even able to meet someone with a pedal steel she could buy.

 

“I had to come to the US, because we are about three people in Denmark who play this instrument,” she says,
speaking by phone from Seattle.
“The Danes aren’t really used to incorporating that sound in their music
because it’s just not a commonly played instrument.”

 

That makes her 2011 debut, Coming Home (Bloodshot), that much more
remarkable. Bjorklund studied classical piano as a child and didn’t find
country music until she came to America
to study guitar. “I felt like it was such an exciting challenge to play that
kind of guitar that I just fell in love with it,” she says. “That’s what I had
to do, was to play this. That’s where I started listening to the music.”

 

Bjorklund, who is often hired
as a side musician, composes primarily on pedal steel. Home is rich with the instrument’s swooping, swelling sound (the
instrumental “Wasteland,” “The Anchor Song) and even a few things more cold and
unexpected (“Falling”). “I just go with the little, interesting ideas,” she
notes, of her writing methods, “and say, hmm, that was an interesting sound I
made, what can I do with that? It’s such a good feeling to just explore.”

 

Bjorklund is a regular in the
Seattle scene through producer Johnny Sangster,
whom she met in Denmark.
She tapped several Seattle
staples, like Jon Auer and Mark Lanegan, to sing on Home and write their own lyrics. (“I was extremely happy with what
they came up with, because I couldn’t have written that. I think it adds a
different kind of depth to the songs.”) In addition, her back-up band includes Joey
Burns, John Convertino, and Jacob Valenzuela from Calexico, whom Bjorklund met through
Paul Niehaus, their pedal steel player. “Pedal steel people,” she says, “when
they see each other, it’s like we have to talk to each other, all over the
world, everywhere we go.”

Leave a Reply