Swedish songbird Victoria Bergsman owes her career to a simple muse — her cat Chico, who she believes imparts Zen-like lessons to her.
“He’s having an excellent day today, just relaxing and sleeping,” says the singer from her Stockholm apartment. Formerly of the Concretes and now performing solo under the pseudonym Taken by Trees, she plays San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall on Saturday.
“And mostly Chico’s just content, and I envy him for that. So lately, he’s been teaching me not to stress — that I shouldn’t worry about things and that I, too, should sleep a lot.”
Good advice. Bergsman — who’d commissioned a painting of Chico for the Concretes’ debut album — realized it was time to quit the group in the roughest possible fashion: “When I woke up in a strange hospital in Boston,” she says.
She was toying with leaving the art-pop collective in 2005, when she agreed to one final U.S. tour.
“And I thought I would be able to actually go through with it,” she says. “But I was sedating myself with alcohol and Valium, and longing for home. … And it came to a point where I overdosed, and I ended up in the hospital. So I think I really needed to hit hard, to hit the bottom, in order to understand.”
At the height of her fame, she served notice to the Concretes, gave up drinking, stopped wearing her signature stage wigs and considered ditching show biz. “It felt like I was in some sort of rehab,” she recalls. “I was totally fed up with band life, because I’d seen too much stuff going down. But gradually, I started to feel this longing to make music again, to start over.”
Just for fun, Bergsman, 30, agreed to sing counterpoint on “Young Folks,” an addictive ditty composed by her chums Peter, Bjorn & John. It became a worldwide smash. With PBJ alums Bjorn Yttling and John Eriksson backing her, she undertook her first solo album, “Open Field,” calling herself Taken by Trees.
Yet leaving the Concretes has been a mixed blessing, Bergsman is forced to admit.
“Now I understand that I have certain qualities that people seem to like, and that’s fantastic,” she says. “But I’ve just been recording a new single, a cover of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine,’ and I’ve felt really confused, because I don’t have a band to discuss it with. And no boyfriend at the moment, either.
“So now it’s just Chico waiting for me when I get home from touring. He always wants to sniff all my bags that have been in other countries, because I bring him different kinds of tuna, cat food and cat toys from around the world. And I hold him and hug him and he purrs immediately — Chico is my man!”
IF YOU GO
Taken by Trees
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.gamh.com