Jethro Tull Group Member Alex Pattie recently did a short interview with Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir for us. Unnur Birna is appearing on-screen as part of Ian Anderson’s current “Jethro Tull – The Rock Opera” tour.
Our thanks to Alex for arranging and conducting the interview. Over to Alex!
Alex Pattie - I had the pleasure of interviewing the beautiful and extremely talented Unnur Birna, the new revelation of Ian’s latest project, The Rock Opera. Unnur Birna is a Reykjavik-based violinist and singer. She has performed as a session musician with countless Icelandic and international artists while recording and appearing as a solo artist as well.
The Jethro Tull Group - Let’s talk a bit about your history.How did you discover your love for music? We know you’re a very good violin player.How did it all start?
Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir - Well, my parents are musicians so music was my destiny. I played my first gig with my parents in my mother's belly. Then I suck all her energy away, she had to stop gigging, but she started again when I came out and then I slept in the case of my father's keyboard on tours and rehearsals. I recently found a sound recording of one-week old me making baby sounds! I was 2 when I started singing in a choir and playing piano, - and 4 when I first touched violin. When I was 3 we moved to a little village in the north (our apartment was inside the music school, surprisingly) and my uncle came by with his violin and let me hold it and play it. My parents had a video camera and of course, they recorded it. So, my crib was a keyboard case and my milk came from a singer, my lullabies were made by my parents... Just like the grass is green, snow is white and wheels are round – I love music.
TJTG - Tell us about your musical influences. Who inspired you the most on composing your own music?
UBB - I listened most to the music I found on my parent's vinyls. My mom showed me her Carpenters albums when I was 6, and Karen's story took a hold of my mind and still got me. I also found some Carole King cassettes, I discovered The Mahavishnu Orchestra when I was 13, and of course my father's rock band played Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin amongst their own music. I went with my father to jazz concerts every Thursday when I was a teenager (I was a really unusual teenager) and there I got to know my best friends. I also met Robin Nolan and other gypsy jazz players and took master classes in the summer. I studied classical violin also, so I think my music is some fusion of old school rock, prog, pop and jazz with a bit of romantic classic on top. I think I'll never choose just one way to go.
TJTG - Which type of music suits you the most?
UBB - I love listening to jazz fusion, I love playing swing and rock, I like singing classical jazz and pop – and I love pretending to be a ballerina with classical music. But the jazz is floating in my veins, so if I had to choose one, I'd say jazz.
TJTG - Any plans for the future? We’re waiting for an album, eh …
UBB - Yes, my “prog-pop” album is almost ready. It has been for 2 years now. I'm just building up courage to release it! My jazz album is in my fingers and head. My electro-duo is releasing it's first song soon. My swing band, Swing Kompaníið is touring in Iceland, my other band, a men's choir with a 5 piece rock band, just released a CD, – we will be playing a lot in 2016. I think I'm standing in the shadow of myself...
TJTG - The Rock Opera - Have you seen the show? What do you think?
UBB - I've only seen clips from youtube but I really like it! Ian is great onstage and I think this virtual show is something new, fresh and theatrical. I would really like to watch it live!
TJTG - How did you get to meet Ian Anderson?
UBB - In 2009 I first played with him in Háskólabíó, Reykjavík. I met him when I lived in Italy 2012 and played again with him in Iceland 2013. He is fantastic and one of my dearest friends.
TJTG - How did you take the approach to participate in the show?
UBB - I'm really honored and thankful when someone wants me somewhere. I was really glad when Ian offered me this job and I did as well as I could.
TJTG - Did you come to the UK to film your parts or did you do them in Iceland?
UBB - I flew to London to do my parts. Two days for the singing and playing and one day in front of the camera.
TJTG - Are you a big fan of Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull?
UBB - Oh yes. I managed through my classical lessons by playing along with the Tull albums between the Sonatas and Concertos.
TJTG - Which was your favourite Tull tune to play? Why?
UBB - I loved singing Witch's Promise and Living in the Past. I think because they were my favorites before...
TJTG - Would you like to perform this show live with the band?
UBB - Of course!
Alex Pattie - A huge THANK YOU to the lovely Unnur, for taking the time to answer my questions. She’s one of a kind!
P.S: I must confess, I’m also a musician and one of my biggest dreams is to share the stage with my mighty Ian, the man who has watched over my childhood and whose music has become a huge part of my life. So, what can I say is that…Unnur, you’re the luckiest! But you deserve the best!
Good luck and best wishes to you in your career!
TJTG – Thanks Alex for taking the time to get the interview and conduct it. Your time and Unnur’s time in doing this is greatly appreciated.
© The Jethro Tull Group 2015