James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra released The Wide, Wide River on January 22nd. The album came to be after the blossoming of a long-term friendship between James Yorkston and Karl-Jonas Winqvist, the Swedish music producer, leader and conductor of The Second Hand Orchestra. Karl-Jonas and Celia from The Second Hand Orchestra spoke with The Fountain about the music and working with James.

TF: You’ve worked with James Yorkston on his new track There Is No Upside and new album, can you tell us a bit about the recording process and your contributions to it? 

Karl Jonas: I invited James over to play a solo show at my little club in Stockholm in 2019. And for the encore, the opening act all came up on stage and backed him up.

That opening band was our own ever-evolving The Second Hand Orchestra. And there was magic in the air. So, we decided to head into a studio the morning after. And from that it all grew. 

I produced this album with James. My contribution was to pick the right players, find a good studio and then I also happened to play some percussions, bells (and drums on ”choices like wide rivers”).

There Is No Upside was the first track we recorded together. All live. And we immediately felt a connection to James songs, so there was joy and excitement flowing. 

Cecilia: I play tenor nyckelharpa and do some vocals on the album. K-J asked me to join the concert and the recording. I knew James a bit from before since I helped him to buy a nyckelharpa a couple of years ago.

TF: And well, no upside, there must have been an upside to working with James? : )

KJ: I’ve only experienced upsides when working with James. He was brave (and foolish) to come over and not knowing what to expect from us. And there was a lot of freedom in the studio when we recorded.

Cecilia: James created a very free and open minded atmosphere for us all in the studio. A lot was improvised and we were all very responsive to each other. A great experience.

TF: Karl, I know there is a Fence connection to your friendship with James but can you elaborate on that further and how you came to work together?

KJ: I have listened to his music for a long time. Since I was working in a record store way back. Then we met at the wonderful Scottish festival, Homegame, which was organised by the Fence Collective around some lovely small fishing villages. I was invited to play there with my solo project Blood Music. We then met some years after when blood music opened up James in Stockholm. And then we’ve kept contact, sharing ideas and music recommendations etc. 

TF: Have you been wanting TSHO to record with James for a while? 

KJ: TSHO is a very loose group of fantastic friends and musicians which I gather now and then, to record or to play shows. We are always looking for collaborations or new settings. 

(At the moment we are composing some music for a tv-documentary about a famous Swedish architect). I was hoping for us to connect with James when we opened up for him in Stockholm (and to back him up for his encore), but there was no masterplan…Hopefully we get to do this again with James as I think it was a perfect match.

When ”the wide, wide river” sessions was finished, TSHO all gathered some weeks after to record some more. We still had ”the wide, wide rivers” songs in our heads and minds. So, we started to improvise and did our own free instrumental versions of the songs. Reimaginations. Like another chapter. This will be released as an album later this year as The Second hand orchestra ”reimaginations of the wide, wide river”.

TF: Cecilia, have you had a nyckelharpa-off with James yet?

Cecilia: No but he immediately tried out my tenor nyckelharpa when I entered the studio:) It is lovely to meet a kindered spirit like that. Now he wants a tenor as well! But we haven’t played nyckelharpa together yet since we only had mine at the concert and the recording.

The Wide, Wide River is out now, via Domino Records