INTERVIEW: Backwood Spirit – guitarist and song-writer Kent Engström

Every once in a while you hear something out of the blue that takes your breath away, an album that captures a mood or a feeling so perfectly and seemingly understands the genre so intimately that you are amazed the band is new. Earlier this year the Backwood Spirit’s debut album did just that – a wonderful, deep, accomplished album that was so warm and beguiling I know I’ll be coming back to it for years to come.

So if you like you Hard Rock forged in the coal fires of the 70’s and with a real bluesy seam running through it these guys are up there with The Black Crowes, Cry of Love, Badlands and their like. This album, we said, will take some beating. of course we don’t want to keep these things to ourselves so we sent guitarist and song-writer Kent Engström a few questions just so you can get to know the band a little better – you won’t regret it.

 

The Rockpit: Thank you for taking the time to talk to the Rockpit. For those who aren’t familiar with the band can you recap how it all started and how you got to where you are today?

Kent: Thanks for having me! The band was put together in 2014 or a little earlier maybe, with me starting to collect a lot of more or less completed ideas for songs that have been loose ends for many years. I went through my old demos that  was recorded quite earlier. Added some new stuff to the music and for the lyrics as well. I then decided to put a solid band together and along with my friend and music companion Joje Lindskoog we then formed BWS. I feel that we found a very fortunate chemistry within the band.

You’ve produced one of our top albums of 2017 so far – such a great collection of songs, what’s the reaction been like from reviewers and fans alike?

Thank you! The reaction from reviews has been just great! We were hoping for doing a good album of course, but maybe we weren’t expecting this response. It’s overwhelming! We’ve heard from people around the world who love our album,  so it’s really great. A lot of time and steam were put into the recording process,so when it turned out this good it brings the greatest feeling. 

How would you describe your sound? People are throwing around things like ‘Classic Rock’ and ‘70’s Blues Rock’ – for me I hear The Black Crowes, Badlands and Free just for starters, but how do you view yourselves?

As a songwriter I´m pretty much myself really. As our singer Göran once said, this music is like mothers milk. I was brought up with this kind of music so when I write it all comes naturally, a certain way. It´s nothing I think about really. I love the blues and the old, back to roots kind of heavy blues rock. Everyone has their influences and I got mine as well.

Is there a story behind the band name, or is it just a very cool name?

Actually there is a a story to that. As I live on the countryside, close to nature with the beautiful Blue Mountains nearby and the woods surrounding the area, I would say the band name comes from that. Reflecting my kind of living. I find it very important to stay close to nature. The solitude also puts me in the state of writing music. That’s were I get that Backwood Spirit!

Are we going to get a chance to see you out on tour in the near future?

We´re working on that right now and we do have some performances set for this fall. Stockholm and Orebro here in Sweden to begin with. We do hope for a larger tour and some festivals in 2018.

What’s the best thing about playing live?

To get close to the audience and all that energy that comes with it. You can always do things better when playing live, things are taking new turns with all that steam from the audience.

How was the writing process for the album? How did it all come together?

I started out by listening to my old demo tapes I did some years earlier. A lot of that material was later used for the album but in a little different shape. I completed the album by adding some new songs to it and then, along with Joje Lindskoog we did the final structure. It was all put together in the studio with Göran doing what was necessary for the lyrics by adding his touch to it, and so on.

What did you want to achieve when you set out? What themes are important to you? Who do you want your music to reach?

I want to bring a good feeling where the music and lyrics are affecting people. Most of the tunes are very special to me with a deep meaning and has something to do with my own life in one way or another. I think our music can reach a wide range of people. 

There are some great moments on the album and you certainly understand power and restraint and light and shade – tell us about the wonderful opening track ‘Give Me Good Lovin”?

That one was written earlier, back in 2005 or so and was later to be used for BWS. I did a demo version of it along with a couple of other tunes which also ended up on the album. I´m very happy with that one and it brings back many good memories from that specific time.

‘Piece of the Peace’ takes that great opening and runs with it, expanding as it goes and packing some real punch in the solos – that’s two powerful tracks to open the album where I think the running order is spot on – did it take much time to decide on the track listing?

No, not really. The running order of the tracks came very easy and I think we’ve got a nice balance to it, which is very important. Piece of the Peace is one of the tracks that was written at the same period in time as Gimme Good Lovin’. It tells a little about the way I want to live my life.

A change of mood comes with the sweet soulful ‘Ain’t Got Love’ starts with swelling keys that The Black Crowes understood so well and delivers a song designed to elicit a tear or two. It’s a great slower number and that’s something you handle so well on here. Badlands and Free come to mind on songs like ‘Take me Home’ that really cements that Badlands/Free vibe along with the light and airy ‘Get Your Wings’ – how important were bands like that to you musically? Are they youthful influences?

I guess, in the writing process it’s out of my control. It´s nothing that I have in mind when writing. I’m sure it´s there, I mean everything shapes you. Especially in the youth. I can hear things on the album, like a chord or a line or something and thinking, OK…that’s familiar,  but that goes for all musicians I would say. Everyone influences everyone, in one way or another.

We love ‘When love Comes Around’ and has a touch of the good time rock and roll of The Faces about it – what draws you to the sounds of 70’s rock? It’s timelessness?

We’ve never stopped playing this kind of music, so I guess it´s timeless in that way. It´s the kind of music and those kind of bands that have shaped me as a songwriter. There have been periods with other kind of music of course but I always went back to the heavy blues rock. I listened to all those great bands as a kid. That goes to the other members of BWS as well. When we´re playing together as a band it all comes naturally.

The album closes out with two tracks that just cemented our opinions that this was an important album – the light and airy ‘Get Your Wings’ and the bubbling waters, woodland sounds and languid guitars of ‘Water of Change/Rainbow’ which bursts into a hypnotic 60’s styled love-fest. It’s an unexpected and very cool way to close the first chapter, so what comes next?

There are some great songs ready to be recorded and some songs are still in the writing process. We feel that we´re taking the band to the next level with the new material but it will still be BWS of course. Our fans will feel at home. 

What have been your greatest challenges to date, and your favourite moments musically?

I must say to make the best album possible, to achieve the sound that marks BWS. Me and Joje produced the album and we went into the studio with a certain vision for the final result. To try to get what we heard in our heads and put it to reality. For me the best moment was when we listened to the final result and we both felt that we’d succeeded. We´re very happy about how the album turned out.

With technology changing so much over the last few years and seemingly not slowing, and TV force-feeding us the lowest common denominator, what hope is there for rock music?

Rock n´roll will always be in one´s mind, that´s a fact. It´s a state of freedom and it brings people faith to hold on to and something to identify themselves with. Rock n´roll is a statement and it brings people together. It always has.

Thinking back to your early memories of music, what was it that first made you decide you needed to be in a Rock and Roll band?

I remember sitting with my Moms acoustic, tryin’ to get a tone. I was always listening to music and my dream was to be like my heroes on the records. It was always the guitar. I was improving and bought my first electric for my savings. My father helped me to convert an old transistor radio for an amp and that´s when I started to think, hmm..maybe I can do what they´re doing on the records. I was eleven or so.

From what you’ve learned so far what is the most valuable advice you’ve been given so far as a musician?

A friend of mine once told me to never do something I don’t want to, just because some people tell me to. The music I’m doing is the music I love. If people like my songs I’m very happy, it’s the greatest honour but I will never do something because I have to.

Can music change the world?

I believe it can! Music can be a very powerful tool. So much can be channeled through music and the artist can have a great impact. There are many examples of that. We´re not a political band in any way, we just want to bring a good feeling to people. I guess that makes a difference to.

If you could have been a ‘Fly on the wall’ for the creation of any great album from any period, just to see how the magic happened and it all came together, what would it have been for you any why?

I have to say Black Oak Arkansas and their 1975 album ‘Ain’t Life Grand’. To me the album is a southern rock classic with some fantastic songs on it. It contains a perfect blend of hard driving rock n’roll and some fine country music. And some of Jim Dandy´s best performances on top of that. The album has meant a lot to me over the years. I think a have four copies.

What is the meaning of life?

No one can give an answer to that of course, no one in flesh and blood anyway. One question that follows the first is, if there´s a life after this one? If that´s the case, I would say that this life is very relevant for the next one. The way I see it, is that we are all responsible for this world, the home of every living creature. It is in our hands and in our care. It´s a great responsibility and it´s of most importance that we do our very best to make a better world. Together.

 

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