Name: Inger Nordvik
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Film: I just watched a series on HBO, Station Eleven. I mostly prefer films over series, but this one got to me. I feel it’s questioning what would really be left between us humans after an imagined collapse of the world as we know it.
Music: Selva Morale e spirituale by Claudio Monteverdi. Recorded with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.
Current Release: Inger Nordvik is currently working on the follow-up to her debut album Time. She'll also perform two gigs in Germany leading up to the release:
24.03.2022 Nürnberg / Tafelhalle
25.03.2022 Berlin / Orania
If you enjoyed this interview with Inger Nordvik, be sure to visit her official homepage. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
The first instrument I discovered was my voice. I loved singing already as a toddler while being pushed around in a stroller, and it’s been an important way of expressing myself ever since.
We also had a piano at home, and I was drawn to the sound of it and curious about all its possibilities. As a kid I would sit by the piano and try to play songs by ear and make small melodies. Later I started taking piano lessons.
I loved different kinds of music, and early on I was exposed to everything from religious folk tunes to The Beatles and Mozart.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
I think I listen quite intuitively. If music engages or triggers me on some level, I am quite open to (almost) all genres. Sometimes I see colours or sceneries, especially when listening to classical music, like for example Debussy.
I guess my approach to composing reflects on this. It’s intuitive and emotional in the beginning of the process. Later, when it comes to arrangement, instrumentation, and production I’m picturing landscapes, colours or sceneries that can reflect on the song.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
That I ended up as a songwriter wasn’t obvious.
As a kid, I started out making music out of pure joy and curiosity, where improvisation and creation was a big part of it, then later I started studying classical music. Part of me loved the challenge and the opportunity to interpret and discover the beauty of classical music. I was privileged getting the chance to learn valuable tools ranging from vocal technique to knowledge about composing, arranging and interpretation.
However, I missed making things and being creative beyond genres. During my studies, I would sit alone at home in the evenings and improvise at the piano. It took me years and a lot of courage to finally share my ideas and music with other people, but I’m very happy that I did it in the end.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I think change, movement, development are essential parts of my identity as a musician. I’m striving to learn new things, put myself out of my comport zone and still stay true to myself, but sometimes it’s difficult.
I look up to musicians and artists who manage this, and love listening to those who dear to take risk.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Interesting question! I see myself and my own work as part of a symbiosis of ideas, history, tradition, culture, art, and I don’t think anything is created in a vacuum. But I also have a wish to lean forward, break rules, imagine and picture new ways and new sounds. So, I guess a combination of both?
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The voice, the piano, the imagination. The tools I got while studying classical music, and everything I learn from creative people I’m surrounded with. I especially enjoy working together with musicians with a different musical background than me.
A good strategy for me has been freeing myself from my classical background in terms of performance and perfection, and to realise that when I do, it’s such a treasure chest.
I also strive to include others more in my creative process and let go of control.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
My routine changes all the time depending on whether I’m in the process of making music, touring, being in the studio or teaching.
These days I am finishing the mixing of my second album, so my days are kind of practical as I’m mostly spending time in studio. When at home, my morning routine always starts with sitting in the windowsill of my kitchen, drinking way too much coffee until I’m ready to start the day.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I’m currently about to finish my second album, and it’s been an interesting process.
As the pandemic hit only a couple of weeks after I released my debut album Time, nothing went as planned. I had a lot of extra time on my hands, and while I must admit I found myself somewhat paralysed during the first lockdown, eventually I started working on new ideas.
The fact of being so isolated made the process different, but it allowed me to stay focused. It was just so quiet, I went for a lot of walks and probably got more in touch with my subconsciousness.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
My song writing is a very private thing in the beginning. It can start with improvisations, small ideas, or words. I like to dwell on an idea for a while to see whether it stays with me or not. If it stays, I’ll develop it.
When working with a band I like to bring finished songs to rehearsals, and I often have an idea in terms of arrangement and sound. But as I’m privileged working with such creative people I aim to give them freedom on their own instruments and make room for everyone to come up with ideas. It just makes the process more fun, complex, and rich.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I’m very engaged in what is happening around me, but the world is sometimes an overwhelming place, especially nowadays. Writing music can be a way of processing this.
I heard someone say artists have a responsibility to entertain and give hope in difficult times, and if that feels natural to some, it can be a good approach. But to me personally, art is an expression and subjective reflection of the time we’re living in, and I try to stay honest.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
It’s fascinating how music speaks to us on an emotional level.
I remember a psalm that was sung at my grandfather’s funeral. I was only six or seven, but every time I hear that tune I’m back in that church. I can smell the flowers and sense the atmosphere.
I guess music can make us understand things on a deeper level, from a very early age.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I don’t know if I’m really answering the question here, but the first words that come to my mind are algorithms and streaming. There is no doubt that AI (artificial intelligence) and algorithms will play a role in music making and how we listen.
But if we, as artists, start calculating our creative process, making choices due to length, tempo, instrumentation etc. based on what the algorithms are more likely to spread to our listeners, I think we have a problem.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I think all humans are creative. I believe we need to create to find meaning, and it’s not important what it is. Music has just been the most intuitive and natural way for me ... but I also love a perfect cup of coffee. And I started knitting during lockdown!
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Difficult to explain. Singing, dancing. It’s just a part of being human, I think. It’s in our DNA and I like the mystery of it.