Read on to find out more about House of Leaf, check out my album review of Wrongs to Right and see how Leif answered my interview questions….
Who is House of Leaf?
House of Leaf is Leif Sundin, song-writer, singer and guitarist.
The official House of Leaf website states that House of Leaf marks the solo debut of one of Sweden’s most talented singers, songwriters and musicians, Leif Sundin. We are encouraged to “expect great songs, organic playing, and a timeless sound, steeped in Americana.”
Leif has been the lead singer of many a well-known band since the start of his singing career. At 19, Leif fronted Swedish band Great King Rat. At 24, he was asked to join the Michael Schenker Group. After that, he became the lead vocalist in John Norum Band and more recently, he provided lead vocals for Brian Robertson’s solo album.
Now it’s time for his own solo venture. Wrongs to Right was written and produced by Leif, and recorded and engineered by Robert Wellerfors.
All photos and cover art in this post used with artist’s permission.
Album Review: Wrongs to Right by House of Leaf
So. House of Leaf. Wrongs to Right. I’ve just downloaded it from Amazon and hit the play button. And I’ve instantly fallen in love! As mellow, melodious, clean and earthy sounds emanate from the speakers, I’m tingling with excitement… I know already that this is just my kind of music.
But then I had no doubt about that! The album’s cover made me a promise, and it seems to be keeping it. The cover has a clean, symmetric three-by-three-squares design whose middle is taken up by the artist’s name, House of Leaf. Each of the remaining six picture squares represents a song, with an image that fits. There is rain, there is countryside, there is a lake at sunset, or perhaps just before a storm breaks. The imagery suggests that I’m in for a treat of folksy rock, gentle with hard edges, with clear harmonies and some drama woven in. Yes, the cover does a beautiful job of setting the mood.
The opening track, Wrongs to Right, comes right at you with a great combination of drums, guitars and harmonica sounds. The sound creates a lovely, live, real effect—almost but not quite ‘unplugged.’ The harmonica will return time and again, and it is this which gives the album a pleasant and convincing country slant. Someday, Somewhere features a heavier guitar intro and brings to mind American greats like Greenday. My favourite song has to be the Rainy Day Song, aptly represented on the cover by a picture of raindrops running down a window. There’s a gentle acoustic guitar theme running through the song that makes you want to get up and sway to the music. Leif really plays to his vocal prowess here, introducing two-part harmonies in places that give the song a complex edge. The twanging of an electric guitar in the background conveys a real country quality, soulful and eternal. And the climactic build on “no more… no more… no more…” positively makes you want to sing along at the top of your voice. Wow. Speaking of vocals, Leif’s voice really suits
the mood and tone of this album. It’s strong yet husky, mellow with an occasional hint of vulnerability and it’s just beautiful.
I’m a big fan of lyrics, being irrationally fond of all things language, and House
of Leaf doesn’t disappoint in this department, either. Wash Away Yesterday, for example, features some beautifully poetic lyrics that spin a dream I can relate to: “I’ll be your jester, your fool and your clown/I’ll build you a kingdom in a faraway town/I’ll give you riches money can’t buy…” What more could a girl want?
All of the songs on Wrongs to Right incorporate elements of rock, folk and country music to varying degrees. The harmonica, guitars and choice of rhythm
often create the country feel, and the consistent use of acoustic guitars
throughout infuses a more folksy feel. Yet House of Leaf’s undeniable rock roots shine through again and again in heavy riffs and powerful guitar solos, for example in Follow the Light or Broken Old Record. The result is distinctive and unique.
Moreover, Wrongs to Right is classic and timeless. Even on hearing it for the
very first time, it strikes a chord in your memory and you feel like you’ve known this music forever. In fact, listening to Wrongs to Right is like unexpectedly meeting a long-lost friend! The album demonstrates the tremendous skill and experience of the musician behind it, and there is no doubt that seeing House of Leaf’s music performed live would be a phenomenal treat.
Finally, Wrongs to Right is a fantastically apt title, if perhaps not in the way the song’s lyrics suggest. In my humble opinion, this album sets a big wrong to rights by giving Leif his own voice and his own arena. Leif is finally setting his own musical direction and getting the credit he deserves for his voice and talent. I certainly look forward to many more albums to come in the future! And I can’t wait to see House of Leaf live and in concert… hopefully some day very soon.
The Big “House of Leaf” Interview: Welcome to Leif Sundin!
I really am very excited to welcome Leif Sundin from House of Leaf on Nicky Reviews Rock today. Leif is somewhat of a legend in Sweden—some call him ‘Scandinavia’s best kept secret’—and having got familiar with his album and his long history in music, I am a little in awe. I feel very honoured that Leif has agreed to answer a few questions… so here we go.
Q.: I’m sorry if I’m asking the obvious… but I’ve got to know! Why ‘House of Leaf’? What inspired this name? Is it connected to your first name, or is there some other background here?
Hi Nicky, I am honoured to be your interview victim. Yeah the name House of Leaf comes from me meeting lots of people who pronounce my name
”Leaf” and this being my band, my ”house” and I like the sound and feel of
Q.: What prompted you to embark on a full-on solo venture for yourself? How does this experience compare to recording music with or for other bands?
It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now but stuff got in the way. It’s a totally different experience for me and I really enjoy it. Especially being able to do whatever I want musically and not having to compromise or ask for
anyone’s opinion. It’s exciting and it’s like I’ve only just started.
Q.: Tell me more about your songs… what was the inspiration for your album title and opening track?
Well, I would like the listener to have her or his own experience and not trying to explain too much. They’re just songs and can mean different things to people. Hopefully they have a life of their own and can speak for themselves. I just write them.
Q.: I think I hear piano undertones in places, and there seems to be a flute on “Broken Old Record.” What gave you the idea to use more classical instruments to complement the rock sound?
That’s a Mellotron and was played by the great Michael Holt. It was his idea and it came out beautifully. There is also piano and Hammond organ, harmonica, and Dobro on some other tracks. I love all kinds of sounds and I like to try
any instrument lying around the studio. I don’t have any rules about incorporating different sounds in the future.
Q.: My very first reaction to your album (apart from, wow, I love it!) was “mellow, but with bite!” It’s laid back, but with some hard edges… Are there any main influences or traditions that have shaped your work here?
Probably all the music I have listened to since I was a kid growing up. Country,
Blues, Rock, Pop, Heavy Metal. I currently listen to music from Ryan Adams, Neal Casal, Ray Lamontagne, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Justin Currie, Feist, Aimee Mann and old favourites like Dylan, Petty, Springsteen, Steve Earle, Gregg Allman, Bobby Bland, Neil Young…
Q.: I really connected with Rainy Day Song… Do you have a favourite song on Wrongs to Right?
Nah, they are all my kids, I don’t have a favourite.
Q.: On your website, you comment that you’ve worked with a variety of musicians on Wrongs to Right. Can you tell me a little bit about who they are, and how you got to be working together?
I’ve known bass player Surjo Benigh for a long time; he brought along drummer Mikael Ajax, and they provided a world-class rhythm section on these tracks. They are truly gifted players. Another brilliant guy is keyboard player Erik Vårdstedt, who has an enormous amount of musical talent; he provided Piano and Hammond organ. I also had the great fortune to meet and get
to work with Michael Holt, who is a singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist
extraordinaire with many solo albums and as a member of the Mommyheads. He helped out with backing vocals and Mellotron, piano and organ. He is a mind-blowing artist. My dear friends and gifted musicians Cia Backman and Mikael Hujanen helped with beautiful backing vocals. I also must mention Robert Wellerfors, who gave me the opportunity to record this music at just the right time. He is an outstanding recording engineer and he has been a huge part of this project. I also got Adam Elk from the Mommyheads to mix one track. I am a big fan of his skills as a singer, songwriter and performer. Eric Broyhill
is a mastering engineer from the U.S. now working in Sweden with an impressive
career who has mastered these tracks; I love his work. I also want to mention
that on the coming full length album, Grammy award-winning engineer and
producer Stacy Parrish will have a crucial role with his fantastic mixing and
co-producing on some tracks. Working with him was incredible.
Q.: If you don’t mind, tell me a little bit about your life. What does Leif Sundin get up to when he doesn’t make fabulous music?
I try to get my life together like the rest of us, I guess. And have some fun. And be kind. Listen to music. Read books, watch movies. Meet other humans, check out bands. I don’t know. I like driving. And travelling.
Q.: What’s next for House of Leaf? Are you planning to record another album? Will you come on tour across Europe sometime soon? I’d love to hear you live…!
Getting the full length record mastered and released, and to tour as much as possible wherever there are humans. It’s a work in progress. I just got a new booking agent. And I’m writing some new tunes…
Q.: And finally! In my rock star romance, Sophie’s Turn, rock singer Dan reassures Sophie that ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour.’ Now I don’t want to ask you to kiss-and-tell (well, I do really, but we’ll skip that part…) but… would you mind sharing the weirdest, funniest, scariest or most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on tour or
during a show (whether as House of Leaf or in a previous band)?
Nothing printable comes to mind… Rehearsing and doing a gig with Slash was a little weird, funny, scary and bizarre though I guess. And great. Touring Japan is also a fantastic experience. I highly recommend it.
Wow, thanks, Leif, for taking the time to send such wonderful answers. I look forward to the full-length album and will keep my eyes open for any UK touring dates… And, of course, you have me wondering what might have happened at that gig with Slash…. Cheerio for now, take care, and all the best!