No stranger to success, and the challenges of mental health and wellness that come with being in the spotlight, Lisa Hartt was recently asked to perform in Rinkaby, Sweden for the Lilla By Festivalen, a small boutique festival nestled in a family-friendly setting. As well, Lisa will appear on a panel as an ambassador for the Drive Foundation Canada to discuss mental wellness in the music industry.
Lisa is of Viking heritage — her father Jan Eisenhardt was Danish, a sports pioneer and superstar. He was a tireless advocate for health, having run the Brolebet Bridge Run in 2000 from Denmark to Sweden on the newly completed bridge at 94 years of age. Posthumously inducted to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, Eisenhardt is also a member of the Order of Canada.
“I have always been proud of being half Dane and have wanted to return to Scandinavia to sing and share my joy at being a Viking,” Hartt says. “I have some relatives still living in Denmark and Sweden and I would love to get to know them better. Sadly, I never learned to speak the language, as my Mother was an English-only kind of girl. However, it is never too late. I am so looking forward to singing in the land of my forebears.”
Hartt has worked with, recorded with and toured with some of the world’s most legendary artists, including Anne Murray, Ken Tobias, Gino Vannelli, April Wine, Rayburn Blake of Mashmakhan, Phil Ramone, David Foster, Maurice White and Natalie Cole, and recently resurfaced performances with Ted Gärdestad.
Television was always a big part of Lisa’s career and participating in the 1979 show Lyssna Till Musiken (Listen to the Music) with Gärdestad was a memorable journey. A close friendship developed as the young singers shared stories in the time between takes on the sets. Lisa spoke about her brother Chris, who was suffering from a mental breakdown after being diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, and was being treated in an institution in Montreal. Ted shared his fears and dreams about his own journey to the edge of darkness. He said writing was “a kind of therapy” for him, which is why he was so prolific. Neither Ted nor Chris were ever able to come to terms with their brain chemistry challenges, and both died far too young. Gärdestad passed away in 1997 at 42, while Chris died in 2015 at 63.
While going through her files, Lisa found footage of herself and Ted, and showed it to the Swedish/Canadian booking team and the folks at Lilla By Festivalen. Lennart Ostlund, Ted’s engineer and a close friend at Polar Studios, Stockholm back in the day, was shown the footage, and the serendipitous journey began from there.
“I have always cherished the time I spent in Sweden with Ted and the team, and the close talks we had about our love lives, our spiritual leanings and our songwriting. I truly loved Ted as a brother, and to discover how his story is so important in the Swedish musical lexicon makes me so happy that I archived this footage and it has found its way into light once more to show his artistry and global reach. I am so glad to be celebrating this wonderful man and returning to my roots.”
Hartt, Ostlund and guitarist Janne Schaffer have made plans to perform and reunite at Lilla By Festivalen, on Aug. 25 and 26, 2023 in Rinkaby, Sweden.
In Sweden, Gärdestad is an icon and national treasure. His songs are sung at weddings, funerals, and parties. His lyrics appear on Swedish coins. My Brother Ted, a feature-length documentary about to be released, is a touching declaration of love. Members of the film team — Anna Widerberg and Frederik Ydhag — will participate in the festival to talk about the project.