Sweden’s undisputed country queen Jill Johnson brought her best friend and songwriting partner Liz Rose over from Nashville for a Swedish tour in the style of Writers’ Round. It made for a wonderful evening at Södra Teatern with the stories behind their songs and lots of fun banter between the two.
Jill Johnson and Liz Rose have been partners in songwriting for something like 20 years, during which time they have written about 50 of Jill’s most genuine country songs. They explained how the friendship and songwriting partnership almost didn’t happen because neither of them played any instruments at the time when they got together for their first session. Jill however convinced Liz with a very strong story she wanted to tell. Country music is first and foremost about storytelling after all.
Beside Jill’s music, Liz Rose has written for American country greats like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town, and notably co-written a big chunk of Taylor Swift ‘s first two albums. She’s won Best Country Song Grammies for both Taylor’s White Horse (2010) and Little Big Town’s Girl Crush (2015). Heck, she even wrote on Kylie Minogue‘s excellent country-tinged tune Golden. Such a great track record considering she only started writing songs when she was almost 40. In fact, why don’t you head on over to Spotify as they are finally rolling out those songwriter pages(!!) – so here’s the Written by Liz Rose playlist, with about eight hours worth of songs she’s written.
A full house at Södra Teatern had chosen to spend their evening with this very sympathetic and organic live music experience, going under the name of Me and Ms Rose… which Jill made sure to thank everybody for, since there are so many choices in a city like Stockholm on a Saturday night (not to mention those who stayed at home to watch Melodifestivalen – editor’s note). The atmosphere was familiar from the start, when Jill came on by herself for the first two songs so she could talk a bit in Swedish and explain the concept before inviting Liz out on stage to join her.
Jill may think she sounds smarter and funnier in Swedish, but hearing her speak English very naturally and effortlessly kind of added another dimension to her lovely persona. The back and forth comments and jokes between the two made it clear how close they really are. The mutual respect was also evident in how they were giving each other space to shine and spoke highly of each other.
The stories behind the songs included a lot of leaving and heartbreak, as Jill and Liz said they both think sad songs are easier to write. The back stories gave so much deeper emotion to the songs that followed, and the audience looked like they were really paying attention to the lyrics.
A personal highlight was The Chill, which was basically the only song during which Jill put down her guitar, stood up and showed her rock star moves – and then sat down again to let Göran Eriksson shine and show off his guitar skills in a solo.
Another goodie was saved as the last encore: Jill and Liz’s version of Girl Crush, which certainly left a good portion of the audience crushing on Jill.
What a way to spend a Saturday night, indeed!
Text & photos: Nina Uddin