Elska's story begins in Iceland. She's a modern pioneer, braving a newly formed volcanic island off the coast of that Nordic island country. She meets an Arctic fox and enjoys the midnight sun, among other adventures.
Those are the stories that Shelley Wollert weaves as that character - Elska - in a new kindie music project that's getting some rave reviews and has been in regular rotation on Sirius XM Radio.
The debut Elska album, "Middle of Nowhere," features a collection of minimalist, bright, modern pop songs for kids set to synthesizers and vibraphone. Wollert as Elska will perform a show at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Saturday.
The project includes a series of music videos that were shot on location in Iceland. You see Elska dressed in her pioneer outfit ... a poncho-like, diamond-patterned costume and a hat topped with multi-colored balls.
The outdoor scenes in the videos are stunning (and remind me why I've always had a fascination with Iceland, myself). Elska's friends, including the Arctic fox and the Goobler, come to life with animation.
The newest video is being released today. It showcases my favorite song on the album, "Midnight Sun in the Arctic." You can see it here on YouTube.
Elska's show at The ArtsCenter is 11 a.m., Saturday. The hour-long concert is best for preschoolers and grade schoolers. Tickets are $7 for kids and $9 for adults. A family four pack is $28. Kids 2 and under are free. Click here for more information about the concert.
I checked in with Wollert to learn more about Elska, the concept and what concert goers can expect this Saturday. Here's our chat:
Go Ask Mom: How did this all come about? What were you doing before Elska?
Shelley Wollert: I was working on an alt-country record for grown-ups in 2009 when I took a trip to Iceland with my producer Allen Farmelo. Everything changed during that trip and I was completely inspired by the other-worldly sites and sounds of this beautiful, volcanic country. Allen and I started writing new music once we returned, and Elska was born.
GAM: What's the idea behind it ... it's not just about the music.
Wollert: Elska, which means “love” in Icelandic, is a complete imaginary world onto itself, filled with unusual characters and stories all taking place on a tiny, Arctic island. Through videos, artwork, and music, children can enter Elska’s world to play and imagine.
GAM: What has the response been?
Wollert: Overwhelmingly positive, to be honest. When you put something new out in the world, you have no idea what will happen, and we couldn’t be happier with the warm embrace that Elska has received.
GAM: What are your concerts like? What can people at The Artscenter expect?
Wollert: I perform in character as Elska, so audiences can expect to hear all about life on the island, and the songs from our debut album Middle of Nowhere. Children are often transfixed by the ethereal sounds of the vibraphone and warm twinkling synthesizers, coupled with gentle video projections that combine illustration and photography from Iceland. It is a mesmerizing concert experience that both parents and children can enjoy. Parents have told us they’ve never seen their young children so absorbed during an entire performance.
GAM: Any funny stories or experiences performing for kids?
Wollert: They definitely can be unpredictable. During a recent performance, a child shouted out “A-B-C!!” from the front row – just as an adult would shout our “FREEBIRD!!” at a rock concert!
GAM: What's next for Elska?
Wollert: On the first record we really presented the island to the listener, and on the next record we’re going to learn more about Elska herself, and her pioneering life there. The next record is already in the works!
I have to say that my three-year-old has been absolutely transfixed by this album and the videos.