Agnes Obel shatters Chicago with “Citizens of Glass” album

Danish singer-songwriter returns to Chicago to perform her new album “Citizens of Glass” at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., March 30. 

By Kendrah Villiesse

Originally unsure about whether her music was good enough, Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel is proving that hard work and perseverance can lead to success by returning to North America to perform her third album Citizens of Glass.

After creating, mixing and producing her first two albums, Philharmonics and Aventine, on her own, Obel decided to do the same for her third album, released Oct.21 2016, to maintain her independence and the originality of her vision.

Scheduled to perform at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., March 30, Obel said she is excited to be back in Chicago for a long enough time to see the city.

The Chronicle spoke with Obel about music, social media and worldwide performances of her new album.

THE CHRONICLE: How did you come up with the title Citizens of Glass?

AGNES OBEL: There were a lot of debates in Germany about surveillance and a revolution about how we were all losing our privacy. Everything is now recorded and is used for data. It is going to be more difficult to keep your privacy as an individual because our ways of communicating have changed so much. In Germany, when you describe someone who had lost all of their privacy, you say they are made of glass or are a glass citizen. I felt like I could write from the perspective of being made of glass.

But it is not just the political aspect; it is also the idea of being made of glass. It is the fragility of it and the idea that all human beings are these fragile beings that can potentially break.

Did new-age technology and social media play a factor in making this album?

[It is] the whole idea of revealing and using yourself as material, and I feel there is an ideal in our society about self-documentation, and self-reservation [versus] revealing yourself. Media and technology are pushing us to document ourselves. This new technology is making us look at each other from the outside. We are objectifying ourselves and that is problematic.

How long have you been performing?


On my own, I have been performing for 10 years. Before, I played in a children’s band, where I got my first live experience. When I was a teenager, I had different projects with some friends where I would play and sing. I had a ton of projects until I started recording my own stuff 10 years ago, and then I started touring about nine years ago.

Why do you create, produce and mix your own music?

It was not my plan to do it myself; it was more because I didn’t have any money for it originally. I had to do it and then I really enjoyed it. Then it did it again with my second album and now it is more like a choice. I now know that the person who is mixing and producing it is someone who really cares. Plus, I am the one who has a vision of the album and what I want it to sound like.


What made you decide to go solo?

It was something that I really wanted to do, but I didn’t think I was good enough. My boyfriend told me, “I think the songs you are making on your own are much nicer than the stuff you are doing in your band projects.” He was pushing me to do it and he set up a home studio for me, where I started to record my songs. I really owe it to him; I really thought I could only do it in a band. But he pushed me and I am so grateful because deep down that is really what I wanted, but I just didn’t really dare.