Singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris and virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie have been named the Laureates for the 2015 Polar Music Prize, to be presented by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in Stockholm on June 9.
The announcement that Harris and Glennie will receive the prize at the 24th annual ceremony was made moments ago in Stockholm’s City Hall by Alfons Karabuda, chairman of the Prize committee.
Billboard reached Harris at her home in Nashville for her reaction to winning the prestigious international prize. “Every day brings a new adventure,” she said, adding, “I have to admit, I thought, ‘Oh boy, a trip to Sweden!’ I love to travel. I just hate packing and flights.”
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Billboard also spoke to Scottish-born Glennie, who was in her office in Huntington, Cambridgeshire, England. “I’m extremely surprised,” she said. “A solo percussionist does not often receive recognition.” Glennie was asked her thoughts on receiving a prize that celebrates both pop and classical musicians. “I feel really delighted that there is this type of recognition that brings together diverse musicians.” But Glennie said she didn’t consider herself a classical musician. “It’s too early to categorize my solo percussion repertoire. I’m just a musician.”
Receiving the Prize will not be the first Swedish honor for Harris, who started performing in Scandinavia early in her career. The folk duo First Aid Kit, from the Stockholm suburb of Enskede, recorded a song titled “Emmylou” in 2012. “Everybody kept telling me about the song,” Harris tells Billboard. “I was in Adelaide, shopping in a store, and a song started playing. I thought it sounded really good. The intro set up the song well — I’m really into intros. Then I heard my name and Gram [Parsons‘ name]. ‘Oh, that’s the song!’ I’m so glad I heard it. It was an honor to be considered in the same breath as Johnny [Cash] and June [Carter Cash].”
Like Harris, Glennie has also toured Scandinavia. “I’ve always had good experiences in Sweden; their musicians are superb,” she tells Billboard. “Their audiences are extremely receptive to contemporary and experimental music, as well as traditional music. There is great support from their government for musicians, composers and orchestras.”
The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, the manager and music publisher of ABBA. A well-known lyricist, he also was the co-writer on many of their early hits.
The prize was first presented in 1992. Anderson died in 1997; his family has taken up the mantle. Daughter Marie Ledin is managing director of the prize and actively oversees day-to-day activities. Sons Lars Anderson and Anders Andersonare members of the Polar Music Prize Award Committee, and the latter serves as chairman of the supervisory board.
The long list of previous Laureates includes Paul McCartney, Elton John, B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Renée Fleming, Stevie Wonder, Ennio Morricone, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Isaac Stern, Björk, Led Zeppelin, Miriam Makeba, Patti Smith, Yo-Yo Ma, Ravi Shankar, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Burt Bacharach and Bruce Springsteen.