For international art transplant Hanna Olivegren, the journey to Baltimore began with a melody in her head.
The 28-year-old musician was volunteering at a music festival near Stockholm when she met Baltimore-based artist Asa Osborne.
“I really liked his energy, and I wanted to hear his music,” she says. “I had a shift that night, but I switched it around so I could hear his set. His music was so powerful, and it got me into this state where I was hearing melodies in my head that I wanted to sing over his instrumentals.”
When she expressed this to Osborne after the show, he was intrigued—so much so, in fact, that he invited her to perform an improvised show in Stockholm the next week. The two didn’t exchange numbers, but Olivegren arrived on the day of the show, armed only with some lyrics and an effect pedal.
And the rest was (complicated) history.
Olivegren joined Osborne for a few shows on his tour with Baltimore’s Beach House, then started making regular trips to the city for as long as her tourist visas would allow. During one three-month stint, they recorded; during another, they mixed the album.
“From the very beginning, our relationship was built on trust and intuition,” she says. Though the two were never romantically involved, Olivegren says she felt like they had known each other in prior lives.
Her desire to work with Osborne on their band, Zomes, drove Olivegren to apply for (and eventually be approved for) an artist’s visa, a difficult-to-attain document that would allow her unbridled access to the United States for three years—provided she is able to show a body of work.
Since her semi-permanent arrival in Baltimore in December 2015, however, Olivegren has had no shortage of inspiration. She resides in an artists’ collective near Lake Montebello, has formed two additional bands with local artists and has begun exploring visual art. She says that Baltimore has been integral in her finding her true creative self.
“I think it’s been a very soothing city for me to work from,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to meet people that I have amazing collaborations with, and that’s really all that matters. And I’m starting to see the advantage to getting to know myself in a new language—I can be more free. I can throw sentences around and use Swedish to make English weird.”
She describes the city as a jungle, both with its humid, wild weather and surprisingly prevalent greenery, and with its less-literal position as an unexplored wilderness, rife with diversity and as-yet-unexplored humanity—including her own.
“I’m realizing that it’s not so much an artist visa that I’ve been granted as a center visa. I’m here to find my center … There’s so much I want to—and will do—here.”
See more of Hanna’s work here: www.hannaolivegren.com