Epitomising triumph over adversity, the first Our Broken Garden album since 2010 not only embarks on a newly minted sound – a gloriously warm and nuanced brand of Scandinavian soul - but Brønsted has dug deep to provide an emotional tour de force that shines as a beacon of resilience and perseverance. Welcome to Blind.
"The album is called Blind because I have been through periods of inner darkness where I didn’t know where or who I was," Brønsted explains. “I found out I was unable to have children, and it sent me spiralling down an existential crisis, causing me to question all aspects of my life. But the blindness also indicates our inability to recognize the innate beauty that exists within and around us - which I think is a quite common human experience… It’s easy to become blind to the beauty that already exists and fail to appreciate it. The name Our Broken Garden reflects the same issue: If we neglect to see and value the beauty in the garden around us, we may end up destroying it.”
For years, Brønsted’s innermost life was in crisis mode. OBG’s second album Golden Sea had promised so much: it won rave reviews and her band subsequently toured with Beach House and headlined their own shows. Brønsted settled down to write new songs, including future Blind cuts ‘Crown’, ‘Sirens’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘Waltz’. “But then everything in my personal life broke down,” she says.
During this period, Brønsted had ended a long-term relationship, and was unsure which path she wanted to follow. “I decided to quit music during this period,” she confides. “Being told that I was unable to have a child created an emptiness within me and even music and writing songs felt meaningless during this period.”
From 2014 to 2018, Brønsted put down Our Broken Garden and played only session work - bass and keyboards – for various live bands, often in theatre productions. Slowly, she rediscovered her muse. “It turned out I couldn’t quit writing music,” she says. “I also realised that I can’t live without the sense of community in music, with my bandmates and the audience.”
In 2018, a core band of Brønsted, Søren Bigum (guitar), Moogie Johnson (bass), Adi Zukanovic (piano) and the renowned British drummer Sebastian Rochford (who Brønsted had met on a session) went into Sauna Studios in Copenhagen to make Blind, before she perfected the album in post-production with a new collaborator, Brian Batz (better known as Sleep Party People). Horns were also added at this stage, enriching the simmering brew of sound. After such a long time away, Brønsted took her time to get Blind absolutely right.
One of the last tracks to be recorded was the exquisitely haunting ‘Rain’, which Brønsted realised would work well as a duet, so she contacted her Bella Union labelmate John Grant. “John and I have connected on email over the years, and I always felt a warm bond with him though we’d never actually met,” she says, adding: “‘Rain’ is a song about almost losing an unborn child. It’s a couple singing to their child... although John doesn’t know that. And to my great surprise I finally did become pregnant three years ago! Though the pregnancy wasn’t without difficulties and I almost lost the baby. But miraculously she hung in there and my little daughter is now two years old.”
Blind’s musical DNA is warmer, more inviting and even poppier than Golden Sea: Brønsted suggests that it’s down to Blind’s backing tracks being recorded live, but also that she was particularly taken with ‘70s singer-songwriters (she namechecks Neil Young, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell) and contemporary R&B, especially FKA Twigs. “As long as the vocals are soulful, music catches my ear. I always listen for this deeper vibration in music - in the voice, in the lyrics, in the melody... And I guess what I'm trying to find every time I write a song is the same thing: a place where authenticity and intimacy meet."
And it’s that intimacy, and candour, which also makes Blind sound that much warmer and inviting. Brønsted’s life was on the line, and her creative response threw her a lifeline. As she prepares to play the first Our Broken Garden shows in ten years, the darkness of her recent past recedes further, and she is sanguine about the present. “I carry both a profound sadness and a profound love with me. The past decade has been rough. But it compelled me to go deeper and I gained some valuable insights from that. It goes without saying that I am immensely grateful that I ended up having my little girl. Her arrival has made me more appreciative of the simple joys of life. Every day is new - not necessarily without challenges, but I feel I have found a sense of inner peace having come through a very difficult time in my life.”