Interview: Elin Sandberg the Swedish bass player on tour with Harry Styles

When we first met Elin Sandberg back in 2011, she was still in high school. She had a jazz band with her two brothers in Uppsala, Sweden, and had landed an international scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating from Berklee, Elin relocated to Los Angeles to make her way as a professional bass player. She has toured with Indian superstar A.R. Rahman (who won two Oscars for the music in the film Slumdog Millionaire) and with RnB artists Chloe X Halle (including performances at the MTV Video Awards and the James Corden Show). We met up with Elin again after she just finished a 42 shows mega tour with pop superstar Harry Styles to talk about the experience. 

You recently wrapped up a massive tour in the USA as the bass player with pop superstar Harry Styles. Was this the biggest tour yet in your career?

– I would say so yes! 

How did you get the gig with Harry? 

– Pauli Lovejoy, who is the Musical Director of the gig, found me on a video of a tiny desk concert I had done with Chloe x Halle earlier and really liked my playing, so he and the creative director contacted me regarding the tour! 

I heard you got to play at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, among other great things. What were some of the highlight moments you experienced from the tour? 

– I did, actually we got to play to a sold-out MSG 5 times during this tour, which was quite unbelievable honestly. An incredible experience and dream come true for me to play that legendary venue, definitely a highlight on the tour. There were so many highlights on this tour so it’s hard to pick one, but it was special for me to play in the Boston TD Garden as well since I went to school there and had been in the audience in that venue many times while studying! 

It seems that the band was heavily involved in both the stage appearance and playing the music, unlike some other tours I’ve seen when a solo artist performs. How did you prepare for handling both, and what was the most challenging part?

– Yeah, Harry definitely gives us a lot of space to perform and do our thing on stage which is super fun and challenging as well! Especially with the 360 stage, you get to connect a lot more with the audience and feel the energy from the crowd even more cause you’re so close. You kind of just feed off of the energy from everybody on stage but also the crowd. They’re such a loving crowd so it becomes easier to give the energy back! But it’s a challenge to still make sure you play and sing everything correctly and keep track of all the technical stuff with the bass and pedal switches and all of that. 

What kind of gear and setup did you use on this tour?

– So I had 3 basses on this tour, my old faithful Fender J bass American Deluxe, a P bass American Professional II with flats, and a semi-hollow Epiphone Jack Casady. My pedalboard had the EBS Microbass III, MXR envelope, EBS Unichorus, Mojomojo drive, Strymon El Capistan, a volume pedal, and an expression pedal that was connected to the time on the delay pedal. Also played a Novation Bass Station II for synth bass. I also played a Gibson SG guitar on one of the songs that were going through a Kemper amp simulator. 

Gotta give a huge shoutout to my tech Matt Vangasbeck that built my pedalboard. He did an incredible job on the whole tour! 

I’ve noticed you have a huge following online. Some are probably in the situation you were 10 years ago with dreams and ambition to play music professionally someday. What advice would you give to someone with the dream to become a full-time professional musician?  

– If I was to give any advice to someone that’s getting started it would be to just believe in yourself and know it’s possible, but be ready and willing to do a lot of hard work to get there and keep in mind that success doesn’t always present itself in the way you’d think at first. Opportunities can come in the most unexpected ways, so just keep your mind open and always be ready for anything! 

Are there any other tours or projects coming up for you that you are allowed to tell us about? 

– At the moment I’m just going to focus on my own stuff, and may have some new music of my own coming out in a near future! I have music out under my own name and also have a band with my fiancé Juan Ariza called Coy Panda. We have some music out as well and have more coming soon too! All of this is available on all streaming platforms. 

Finally, we know the Covid years have made traveling abroad hard. How have you managed to be away and not be able to visit your family and friends back in Sweden for such a long time? 

– It was definitely a tough time to not be able to go home for a year and a half during quarantine, but fortunately, I was able to go home last summer and at the beginning of this year so got to spend some time in my home country! 

Interviewed by Ralf Bjurbo at EBS. Photos from @_basselin on Instagram.

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