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barbara morgenstern interview
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Home sweet home.Tibor Fischer’s novel, Voyage To The End Of The Room, tells the tale of a woman who thinks she can explore the world without leaving her house. Barbara Morgenstern, however, has made a journey the other way. In 1996 she was a member of Berlin’s Wohnzimmer (living room) scene, where musicians tired of the music industry treadmill literally began playing concerts in their own front rooms.
Yet, fast-forward seven years and Barbara found herself on a year-long world tour organised by Germany’s Goethe-Institut with fellow electro-pop romanticist Maximillian Hecker. An experience which provided the kernel for her new album, The Grass Is Always Greener.
“It was really exciting to be somewhere like Tokyo or Mumbai where everything – food, people’s behaviour - is completely different,” she says. “Yet it was exhausting, too, because you can’t really get into a city in just three days, so the album is more like a series of impressions.”
But you don’t need a German dictionary to grasp that the landscapes Barbara is exploring in songs like Alles Was Lebt Bewegt Sich (All Life Is In Motion) are as much internal as international. For whereas many musicians might return from a world tour and start throwing bongos, sitars and other exotic instruments into their songs, Barbara seems to have retreated further into her own hermetic musical world – her diaphanous vocals, piano and electronic splashes sounding as if she never quite left the intimate headspace of her own living room, even when many time zones away.
“The tour came at a time that wasn’t easy for me,” she admits. “I was having relationship troubles and my father had just died. So a lot of the album is about how you can move from unlucky to lucky so quickly, and how the saddest and happiest moments of your life often happen right next to each other.”
It’s perhaps not too fanciful to see The Grass Is Always Greener as a 21st-century electronic equivalent of Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound - timeless, universal pop music inspired by a very personal yearning - because it’s Berlin where her heart lies and which continues to exert the biggest influence on her music, combining her love of Joni Mitchell with the sonic experimentalism of her friends like To Rococo Rot (with whom she collaborated as part of September Collective), Pole and Thomas Fehlmann.
“I’ve realised that Berlin is a really good place because my friends are here and there’s so much going on culturally. Other places seemed so much louder and, although Berlin is very big, there are also plenty of quiet places. I feel so free here.”
Barbara Morgenstern – The Grass Is Always Greener, released 24 April 06 on Monika Enterprise.
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