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Calaisa
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Calaisa (2006)
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Amid all the familiar creative journeys made back and forth between Europe and the United States, a brand new route is opening up for business in 2006. It's the one between Malmö (Sweden) and Nashville, with a little diversion to Dublin, and the group making the connection is Calaisa. The four girls in Calaisa are ready to demonstrate that the pop sensibilities of Scandinavia and the musical traditions of Tennessee are perfect partners. Especially when you add some Celtic instrumentation and the experience of two pairs of sisters, who prove that the group that plays together stays together. It's there to be heard on 'Hey Girl,' the first single from a self-titled debut album that will establish Lisa, Caisa, Anna, Malin and their custom-made Calaisa sound, which marries confident songwriting, golden harmonies and instruments like the violin and accordion. That song is also a great example of the great songwriting cohesion and amazing teamwork that exists between the four members of the group, developed and honed during many years of creating music together. "Sometimes," says Caisa, "one of us comes up with an idea of maybe a chorus, takes that to the other girls, and we make it into a Calaisa song. Together we'll add an intro, an outro, a bridge or whatever. 'Hey Girl' was one of those songs." The album is the result of the girls' absolute determination to make their way in the record business, and a refusal to take no for an answer that lured them from Sweden, onto the concert roads through Ireland and Poland, and on again to the USA and Nashville. When they got there, it turned out the man who was absolutely knocked out by their charm as writers and performers just happened to be the head of Universal Music Nashville. Cue record deal, an album cut in just five weeks and a sound already being hailed as the perfect mixture of the Corrs and the Dixie Chicks, with plenty of personality that's all Calaisa. "We come from musicians's families, so our parents taught us a lot about instruments and music," says Lisa. "I started the band and asked my little sister Caisa to join, and we started to play on the streets to earn money. When I went to music school I met Anna, who plays the violin, and she joined the band. After that, Anna's sister Malin joined [soon learning to play the accordion] and we became the real Calaisa." Lisa was just 14 when she had that brainwave about busking. It not only made her an obvious candidate for young businesswoman of the year, it was the ideal way to try out Calaisa's early songs and find out what the girls were made of. "Busking is the best," enthuses Malin. "It's fabulous to stand on the street and see how the crowd gets bigger and bigger. It's the greatest test, because if you can't make it on the street, you can't make it anywhere, that's how we feel. It's a great place to practice the music and learn new songs. Instead of sitting home, you can practice together and with an audience, and people don't expect it to be anything. It's so great to see the reaction. 'Wait, four girls, playing, singing! This is fun.'" Through that early experience, Calaisa's music began to evolve and mature. "We started playing really traditional Irish music," says Caisa, "then added a few more instruments, and along the way it became more pop and country, because we found some great influences." Those include not only the Dixie Chicks but Dolly Parton, via Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell, the Indigo Girls and the Rankin Family all the way to the Beatles, Sting and fellow Swedes the Cardigans. After honing their performance skills by touring in Ireland and Poland, the time came for Calaisa to create their own destiny. "After we tried to get a record deal in Sweden, we decided to take this in our own hands," says Anna. "So we saved our money for a year and booked our tickets to New York, rented a car and went to Memphis and Atlanta and Nashville and played on the streets and pubs. This man [who turned out to be bluegrass artist Jonathan McEuen] came up to us and told us 'You have to meet my producer, you should have a huge record deal.' "So we went to his studio and out came ten men! We started to play and we had no clue who they were, or what they were doing there. We played a couple of songs, the guy said 'I want to hear more,' and after that he said 'I want to sign you.' "What we didn't know was that the man in the middle of the crowd was the big producer and record label chairman James Stroud [the head of Universal Music Nashville]. We'd been playing seven songs and telling him the whole story of Calaisa without knowing. He said 'Don't even leave the room. You're staying with us.'" And they did. After a visit home to work on new songs ("and get a manager and a lawyer!"), Calaisa recorded their debut album in just five weeks. "It was the best experience we've ever had," says Malin. "We could record in the best studios with the best musicians and producers. We had so much fun." The results will be with you soon, and the quality of the music runs in the family. Two families, in fact. "Since we're two sets of sisters, we have voices that really go together," concludes Lisa. "This year we really want to travel around the world and play our music."


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