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Tina Dico shoots for U.S. success

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The SXSW music festival/conference attracts artists from all corners of the world, and among the acts heading to Austin, Texas, this year is singer/songwriter Tina Dico, a native of Arhus, Denmark.

Dico has made a name for herself around Europe via her solo albums and her contributions to 2004’s When It Falls, the second album by the English electronica group Zero 7. In the Red (Defend Music), Dico’s third solo disc, arrived last month, and it’s her first to be released in the United States. Describe Arhus, Denmark, in five words.
Tina Dico: “A. Lot. Of. Blond. Girls.”

What U.S. city does it most resemble, and why?
Dico: “It’s much smaller than any U.S. city I’ve been to. You can walk from the city center to the forest and lovely beaches in 20 minutes. I’d imagine maybe like somewhere in New England?”

You’ve likened your early songs to a diary. Did you give any of them really embarrassing or wordy titles?
Dico: “The titles were sort of OK, but [not] some of the lyrics! Sometimes when I rehearse with my band, they’ll start jamming some of my early songs and we’ll piss ourselves laughing ’cause they’re so angsty and wordy — and embarrassing.”

At age 15, you were asked to sing with a friend’s band. What was the group’s name and musical style?
Dico: “The band was called M.E.L. — don’t ask me why. ‘Mel’ is flour in Danish. We covered our favorite songs: I was into Pearl Jam at the time; the guitarist was into Jimi Hendrix and old bluesy stuff, so it was all over the place and all together quite different from what I do today — and what I was writing at home by the piano at the time.”

You played basketball and studied religion prior to launching your music career. What skills or disciplines, if any, from those two interests have you applied to music?
Dico: “That’s an interesting question! From basketball I got a fair bit of toughness, I think. Our coaches always took us right to the limit and then a little further. And I learned to keep fighting even when it looks like I’m losing. I don’t give up on things.

“Religion and music, to me, are two sides of the same story. They both represent a search and a determination to fill my life with something that is greater than life itself — with beautiful mystery.”

Was it after your second solo album that you hooked up with Zero 7?
Dico: “I had just recorded my second album when I started meeting up with the guys from Zero 7, yes.”

What adjustments did you make going from a solo artist to working with a group?
Dico: “Well, I was used to working with my band at home and I was kinda used to co-writing as well, although I’ve always found it extremely difficult.

“But working with Sam [Hardaker] and Henry [Binns] was different mainly because it was essentially their project, and I wanted them to be happy and feel that it fitted in with the album they were making. So I tried my best to be professional, let go of my ego and go with their flow — which was a great experience.”

Your new album, In the Red, contains a song called “The City.” What metropolis inspired the tune?
Dico: “The story is quite abstract and although it’s based on some experiences I’ve had in London while I’ve been living there, the song is born out of a general big-city-emotional-chaos. I’ve spent so much time pretty much on my own in many, many big cities around the world over the past two years, and it does something to me. I get lost, I get lonely and I get excited all at once.”

Do you plan on checking out any other artists while you’re in Austin, Texas, during SXSW?
Dico: “Yes, I’ll be out there in the jungle, but I haven’t had a chance to look at the schedule. I’ll probably end up giving up on all the ‘cool’ shows and spend most of my time at the top of Crown Plaza listening to acoustic music, looking out over the Austin skyline.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Tina Dico will perform March 16 at 18th Floor at Capitol Place during SXSW. Her North American tour will continue through March 26; she’ll begin a stretch of U.K. dates on April 3.