El Perro Del Mar would like to thank dog 

It isn’t an ideal living situation, says ethereal Swedish chanteuse Sarah Assbring — holing up in a cramped apartment in urban Gothenburg.

But there’s one saving grace.

"I have nature close by, and I really need to have that," says the composer, who records as virtual one-girl band El Perro Del Mar, and is appearing Monday at the Great American Music Hall.

"I have some woods, I go there for long jogs, and I see rabbits, some foxes now and then. But sometimes in the summer, when I go out running quite late, a lone, quiet deer will just walk right up to you, and you share a beautiful moment together with this wild deer."

Fittingly, the 29-year-old owes her entire late-blooming career to an animal. How did she finally arrive at the whimsical, Phil Spector-esque sound of her self-produced "El Perro Del Mar" debut (Control Group), on which she played every instrument but sax and tambourine?

It was through the courtesy of one temporary canine companion. For most of her late teens and twenties, she’d been trying to find her way, her space somewhere. She says, "But it didn’t matter where I was looking. I really couldn’t find any place for me. Eventually, I didn’t have the strength or energy to even search anymore, and I just sat myself down and cried, totally lost to depression."

Her last-ditch effort was a desperate getaway to a seaside resort in Africa.

She was sitting on a beach, feeling sorry for herself, when she saw a stray dog, a thin mongrel that looked like it had everything going against it.

"But at the same time, it was totally free, and in all its raggedness it had a blue scarf around its neck, which made it look totally beautiful.I was one of hundreds on this pathetic tourist beach, but it spotted me. It picked me. That was how I felt."

For a week, they were inseparable. "And in the beginning, I looked at the dog and thought ‘Why are you stopping here? What is wrong with me?’ … But that animal saw right through me."

And if the dog dug her, maybe she wasn’t such a lost cause, she thought.

"And I realized that it was time to make some profound changes in my life."

Borrowing her moniker from the mutt — Dog of the Sea — Assbring returned home reinvigorated. She fleshed out her unfinished home studio, stopped firing blindly in countless creative directions, and got serious about making her quirky blues/’60s-girl-group-inspired music, with no market in mind but the Internet. It worked.

Her spooky lullabies, such as "Candy," "Party," and — of course — "Dog" caught on via word of mouth, and led to a record deal and stateside tour.

"When I write music now, I know why I’m alive," she declares. "And that’s the whole point of making art, I think — you’re supposed to be ecstatic."

El Perro Del Mar

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $15

Contact: (800) 225-2277 or www.ticketweb.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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