The simplicity found within Johanna Amelie is an inspiriting experience. Which is likely why she’s been able to keep herself busy all summer playing throughout Germany. Last week she took the stage at the Melodica Festival in Nottingham, and today she’ll be at the Artlake Festival in See, Germany. While she was hush-hush about what’s next this fall, she did reveal some stories behind fan favorites like “Lion Babe” and “From Within,” as well as her idols and more.
Kendra: We’re starting off with some ladies you love but we’re making it a little hard with a “Would You Rather” situation. When it comes to Regina Spektor and Joni Mitchell, which one would you rather sit down and record with?
Johanna Amelie: Recording with Joni would be a dream. I hope Regina dreams the same dream and spontaneously decides to join us in the studio!
Both artists mean a lot to me. When I was a teenager, a friend of mine gave me a record called Soviet Kitsch – and the first time I listened to it, I was completely blown away. I connected with Regina’s songs immediately and wanted to learn them. This was the starting point of my own songwriting process. I read somewhere that Regina herself was inspired to write her first songs after listening to a Joni Mitchell cassette (Hits). I guess Joni’s work has paved the way for many artists of our generation. Her beautiful melodies and stories have made me smile and cry many times.
Kendra: Enough with the tough questions. Let’s talk about “Lion Babe.” Love the story behind it. Was that whole idea about going to the big city and being overwhelmed based on true events?
Johanna: “Lion Babe” is about an archetypal young person coming to the big city in pursuit of independence, and ending up feeling “caged in the city.” Not every part of the story is actually based on true events – but I guess I‘ve met many ‘”Lion Babe” characters here in Berlin – and I can definitely connect with the feeling of being overwhelmed with the big city life, yes.
Kendra: What about “From Within?” Does that hold any personal anecdotes?
Johanna: “From Within” deals with the attempt to experience every moment in life fully. That’s an idea I’m trying to reach. I wrote the song in a period of my life where I was kind of restless and somehow always unsatisfied. I figured that many obstacles that make me escape from the actual moment are homemade and based on the way I judge the world and my own feelings.
Learning how to let go of the past and future versions of ourselves from time to time, and not seeing time as something that we lack or something that we’re constantly running out of, might be the key to more freedom and independence – manufactured from within.
Kendra: When writing, are you the type to pen a song whenever it comes to mind or do you etch out some time each day or week to write?
Johanna: For me, there’s many ways to create a song. I have songs, that I’ve been working on for two years – and it has happened to me that I finished writing a song in one afternoon while I was riding my bicycle in the sun. I think most of the time I try to capture ideas as they hit me spontaneously.
Kendra: You’ve got all these songs and have some dates in August coming up where some will hear them live but are there ever any covers tossed into the mix?
Johanna: Yes, I usually play one song by “Warpaint” or “Wye Oak” in my set. There’s some cover tunes on my YouTube channel as well – My friend Maja (Mynolia) and I interpret “A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell – and there’s also a video of me singing a song by Moritz Krämer (who produced my song “From Within” with me) – in German.
Kendra: Do you have any other shows coming in the fall we can be on the look for?
Johanna: …Some things are in the works – stay tuned!
Kendra: Seeing that it’s just about time for kids to head back to school if you had to make a mixtape based on your favorite year in school growing up – what five songs would have to be on it?