Remember the future: A Q & A with ionnalee
publishing date May 3, 2019
interviewer Jessica Price
publisher Seattle Gay News
photography John Strandh


The Swedish singer, songwriter, producer, and director Jonna Emily Lee of collaborative mixed media project iamamiwhoami has been creating dreamlike visuals and ethereal electro-pop soundscapes for the last decade. True to her audio/visual roots, she released her first solo album under the moniker ionnalee with a feature film, EVERYONE AFRAID TO BE FORGOTTEN, in 2018. The album and accompanying film were a huge independent success, followed by a world tour that was funded through a spur-of-the-moment Kickstarter in just 5 days. The hugely successful tour sold out dates across Europe, the US, and Latin America, reaffirming ionnalee's belief in her unconventional methods of creating and releasing work on her own terms. 

Her second solo album, REMEMBER THE FUTURE, arrives May 31 via ionnalee's label 'To whom it may concern.' The highly anticipated release features production by ionnalee with additional contributions from Röyksopp and longtime collaborator Claes Björklund (iamamiwhoami), and is mixed by Johannes Berglund (Fever Ray). Fans of Zola Jesus, Röyksopp and Jennie Abrahamson pay attention - all make appearances on REMEMBER THE FUTURE. 

Due to overwhelming demand, ionnalee's concert on May 3 has been moved from The Crocodile to a larger venue, The Showbox at the Market. All previously purchased tickets will be honored.

Ionnalee was kind enough to take a moment while on tour to answer a few questions via email: 


Jessica Price: Hello from Seattle! We are so excited you are coming to our fair city. Also, congratulations on your gorgeous single, 'SOME BODY' and the upcoming album. Can you explain a little about what REMEMBER THE FUTURE represents to you? What themes have been on your mind during the making of this record? 

ionnalee: Thank you! I've always imagined Seattle to be similar to home and this will be my first visit. I'm very excited to come and see my Seattle audience for the first time. 

This album was made throughout last year but mainly during an intense period where I had come off my 2018 world tour. It was such an intense and overwhelming experience to be able to finally meet my audience physically that it spurred something new. As I got home from touring and had some time off to rest, all I wanted to do was make music. I made an album to be a small beacon of light to those who gave me some and to my nearest and dearest who are struggling through tough times right now. 

Jessica: Where was the album recorded and most of the songwriting done? 

ionnalee: It was recorded in my own space which is in a remote undisturbed location in Sweden. I share it with Claes Björklund and John Strandh, my closest collaborators and our dogs roam free in there. I filled it with work stations for all my work, so there's a small space for recording, editing, sculpturing and costume making, too. It's a bit of a mess but it works somehow. 

Jessica: Do you have a song that feels extra special to you on the new record? 

ionnalee: Yes, a few. The title track is written for a dear friend of ours. It's simple but hopeful and talks about finding an alternative meaning when you're left with nothing. It took me through the dark winter writing it. The tracks belong together as a collection so the whole album feels special in a different sense this time. It feels pure. 

Jessica: A friend of mine was beside himself with excitement to contribute when you announced your Kickstarter-funded tour just over a year ago, and he flew to see you in San Francisco without hesitation. Were you surprised by the sheer love and devotion your fans showed at that time, and how far their support was able to take you? 

ionnalee: That's incredible to hear! My humble thanks for his support. I've never taken their support for granted and the whole Kickstarter idea was a spur of the moment idea after having being met by many years of negative feedback in regards to my work process and release method. People in general have previously found it really hard to work with me 'cause I don't want to do things the traditional way, being an independent artist. Booking me as a live act with close to invisible merits of online clicks seemed impossible, even though I trusted the audience would come to my shows. 

When my last album came out I wanted to quit for a while, the whole situation was just draining. What the audience did for me there changed everything, and it wasn't the money. The support became a contribution to a larger cost and the fact that they so strongly believe in me is everything. Now I get to see it live - it's very dreamy. 

Jessica: You are still quite young at 37, and your artistic vision seems to have never been clearer. How do you feel you have grown so far as an artist and a person? 

ionnalee: I'd say taking the step to go solo again was really important, no matter what happens in the future. With this new album and tour I feel very present and yes, my vision is clear. 

Jessica: What advice would you give to your younger self? 

ionnalee: I wouldn't say do something differently, the journey is when you grow, but I'd definitely say, 'don't listen' when people make you feel less. Stick with the people who believe in you. If you get a bad feeling, it's wrong. 

Jessica: You have always had a very strong visual identity and collaborated with other artists and filmmakers. Do you have plans to continue releasing a video/film short with every song that you release? I imagine that while it helps to fully bring your vision to life, it also at times must feel like quite an undertaking! 

ionnalee: I don't feel an obligation anymore to do something in a certain format now. I do what I want when the feeling strikes and what is possible for me under given circumstances. Each song and visual takes me lots of time, energy and funds to make. There's no external funding when you run your own label, so I just do as good as I can basically. I create when I feel a strong need to communicate. I don't wanna contribute to the buzz of nothingness out there. 

Jessica: What musicians or visual artists were you drawn to when you were younger? 

ionnalee: There were no credible inspirations for me. I grew up in the country with little access to pop culture, so it became the promised land for me. Folklore stories and analogue fantasy films like 'Mio min mio,' 'Mitt liv som hund' and 'The Neverending Story' were huge when I got to see them that one time they were on TV, like four years after original release (!).

My mom's vinyls of Madonna and Chaka Khan where childhood favourites. Also, some single of Herrey's 'Gyllene skor' hit me hard. In general, both my parents' homes were filled with melodic pop and they loved Bowie, Talking Heads and Queen, things I didn't get then but probably are in my system. 

Jessica: Who are you inspired by right now? 

ionnalee: Greta Thunberg is showing the world how it's done. Go get them. 

External links[]