Sitting across from Theresa Andersson at the Starbucks in downtown Austin’s Omni Hotel, I couldn’t help but notice how her eye makeup (hot pink shadow and cerulean eyeliner) really popped against the beiges and browns of her cardigan. The bold color combo didn’t surprise me. Everything I read prior to meeting Andersson painted her as a free spirit whose aesthetics and musical sensibilities are affected by color, textures, layers, and recreated sounds. Her kitchen in New Orleans, where she recorded the album Hummingbird Go! (Basin Street Records, 2008), is painted a light blue. She hand-stitched scraps of felt to create 1,500 album covers for I the River. Instead of buying a xylophone, she chose to save money by creating one out of glass bottles filled with water. She doesn’t perform with a band; instead, Andersson is backed by an intricate set of loops, pedals, and instruments (all played by the Swede’s capable hands, and at times, bare feet). Over coffee, I tested Andersson’s five senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch — with a little game. Needless to say, she kicked ass.
Let’s play compare and contrast: New Orleans vs. Austin. Okay.
When you think of New Orleans and Austin, what do you see? New Orleans is red, purple, orange, and some blues, while Austin is sage with mustard yellow. The colors here are a little toned down but still warm.
What does New Orleans sound like? Brassy. Cacophony with fast, long sprinkley raindrops of rhythms tapping around.
And Austin? It’s a more organized sound here. Both cities have Latin influences, but where Austin is Southwest and Mexico mixed with Texas singer/songwriters and rock, New Orleans is Cuba mixed with jazz.
What flavors or foods come to mind when you think of the Big Easy? I’m a pescitarian, so I stay away from the red beans and rice unless I make them myself. I do love a good shrimp poboy. That’s like comfort food to me.
And Austin? You’re not going to hear me say barbecue. Guero’s — I love to eat Mexican food.
What does New Orleans smell like? Mildew, mud, salt, hibiscus, and honey all mixed together.
Austin? A little dust, a little lime. It has a tang to it and something like a warm spice.
What does New Orleans feel like? You fight a little bit more in New Orleans. Being a Swedish person, it’s really hard to deal with humidity, and I still try to go too fast. In New Orleans, you feel more alive because you’re getting beat up by the environment. There, it’s too cold or too hot for most of the year, so it makes you appreciate the ups when you’re there, the good times. It makes me remember the skin I’m in.
And Austin? Austin feels like a perfect festival kind of town. When I’m here, I get happy, and it reminds me of the best summer days that I didn’t even know about growing up in Sweden.
Photo: Miranda Penn Turin