Name: Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser aka Tuvaband
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current Release: The new Tuvaband album Growing Pains & Pleasures is out May 21st on Passions Flames.
Recommendations: I feel like I've been recommending the same albums and songs for a year now, so I'll mention another album this time. I will recommend the album 'Bon Voyage' by Melody's Echo Chamber. I would also recommend all the art made by the artist Marius Mathisrud.
If you enjoyed this interview with Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser / Tuvaband and would like to find out more about her work, you have several options: Her website, her facebook account, soundcloud profile and bandcamp store. She is also on Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/ or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing and producing music in my bedroom when I was 21/22 years old. At that time I was listening a lot to Daughter or Florence & The Machine. I bought a recorder the moment I started making songs, as I would not have remembered what I made without recording it.
A few years later, when I'd met a guitarist and we wanted to record with better equipment, I contacted an artist that had the sound I wanted; Lisa Cranner. Her producer answered and said he could help. We tried re-recording a song in a studio, but it just sounded too polished and "correct". So we went back home and recorded it ourselves again. The producer rather helped us with sound design in the mixing stage. And I learnt so much from him; Jonas Kjølstad.
From that stage on, the goal was to make recordings sound like drafts/demos. I was also inspired by Alice Boman's EP "Skisser" and Bon Iver's album "For Emma, Forever Ago" when it came to the sound.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Before I started singing and making music, I had always sung in the shower. When I did that, I used to copy the way the vocalists were singing on each song; even going as far as copying Tom Jones on "Sex Bomb". So I think that gave me a foundation for the day I started singing.
Before, I actually didn't really pay much attention to how instruments were played when listening to a song, except from when I was singing and humming the instrumental parts. I've been much more into the sound of the instruments and the whole production style. But the more instruments I've been bringing to my music, the more I am listening to other song's instruments.
When I suddenly wanted drums, then I got into listening to the drums of other songs, to figure out what I like and don't like.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
In general it's normal to say that a person is very much "this" or "that". In movies, people/characters are often portrayed as an extreme "this" or "that". I feel like I'm very much both "this" and "that". When people are talking about what character in a movie or tv show they are more similar to, I rather feel like a mix of all of them or none of them.
I think this influences my music in the way that I like to play on contrasts. I don't want it to be fully "this" or "that" genre or style, I want a mix. I don't need the sound of the instruments, the way they are played, and the vocals, the melodies, the chord progressions, and the production to fall under one genre; each element might fit into their respective genre. And I want some parts to be super loud and hard core, and other parts to be super soft.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the first years I didn't feel like I had enough time. I guess it will never feel like that completely, but at least now I feel like time is not stopping me. It really helped to move to a new city and become a full time songwriter/artist.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I think that when I only used the guitar of my flatmate, and bought a recorder, and made a percussion sound with a pencil on a glass of water, I wasn't ready for more. It was more about vocal melodies on top of chords. Then later when I got Logic and started using the recorder as a sound card and microphone, I had no idea how much easier and better things could be with better gear. So it was all good.
I've gotten more and more gear, and some has even been upgrated. But I think the most important changes for my creativity have been new guitar pedals and plug-ins for sound design. Cause with new and different sounds I get super motivated and creative. It can take me in new directions because they make me play around.
These days when I'm making a new album again, I suddenly wanted a few more instruments; cello, flute, horns and harpe. Then I googled, and found a way to arrange these in logic. Then later I will have somebody play this with real instruments.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I think the moment I tried to play on an electric guitar for the first time, I finally started finding guitar interesting. Before that I had no motivation to get better or creative on that instrument. So it really changed the way I wanted to write music.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
One very important thing I've learnt over the years, is that I will rather use a lot of time learning what I need to know about each instrument and element which is important to my songs, rather than having somebody else coming in showing me ways. Then the music will be 100% what I want, and I don't have to turn other people's ideas down.
There's one musician, Håkon Brunborg Kjenstad, which I've played with for many years now, even if we've never lived in the same cities. I really trust him to take good choices when playing with me live, even when he's improvising, so we don't even need to practice a lot together. He's taught me a lot as a musician, and I'm definetly influenced by the way he makes sounds on his synth. He's very important to me.
I've also now concluded with holding on to those musicians and collaborators it feels really good with. Cause that's not always the case, and sometimes it turns out the musicians I play with don't like to play with each other. And ending things with someone is the hardest part of my "career".
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I had almost two years without separating music and other aspects of my life, and realized that this was not so healthy. There was way too much music, and not enough of the other things. Now I'm trying to separate it more, working with music and "music-admin" daytime and taking the evenings free. It's not always easy.
I wake up and eat breakfast. Then I answer emails and stuff like this for an hour or two, before I work on my music. Then I take a break doing some yoga, before I get back to the music. Some days only music, and some days only admin. These two weeks it's mostly been admin.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Actually, I think the album I am working on right now feels like the biggest thing I've done; my breakthrough. I've been releasing a lot of music while I've been learning. I never went to any music schools or took any real lessons, and I like to learn while doing. So even if I'm very proud of everything I've released, these works have been part of my process of learning.
The album I am working on right now, feels like the album that presents all the phases I've been through with music; using my old and new techniques; the quiet and the loud; an accumulation of everything I've learnt. For some reason, each time I work on this new album I feel so proud and surprised.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For one year now, I've felt like my female-cycle somehow means a lot. I have two weeks where I'm at my peak of creativity, and I'm even wondering where it all comes from. Then I have one week where I'm ok. And then there's one week where I'm not creative at all, and almost find it hard even to do admin work.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
For me it is definetly a healing process both to create and listen to music. But the more healing, the more some part of the process will "hurt" or feel challenging. Cause the more I dig into something, the more I feel it.
I think music could have been used more in the work of mental health and therapy, but I am also guessing this is not for everyone. Everyone reacts differently to music, so it would have had to be an offer to those who could get something out of this. I guess in some countries the state or the private sector is offering music therapy to some people.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I haven't thought much about this. I've only thought as far as to my own practice and cover versions of songs; there are some songs which I don't think it would be appropriate for me to cover. It would feel like I was stealing if I did a cover version of a great song that was about a theme that was too far away from my reality as a privileged Norwegian female. For example if it was a song about a sorrow or "freedom at last" for a group of people being oppressed.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I don't know if this is about senses in that way, but I find it very interesting how some people think of different colors when they hear a song. And it gets even more interesting when it turns out we don't even think about the same color. I also think about colors for days. Thursday is blue, Tuesday is yellow, and Saturday is pink.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
A lot of my lyrics have been political, and a lot of them could be called a social commentary. It's more about my feelings about these themes, what some things makes me feel. I can be very upset by aspects of how we treat our environment, about right wing politics, and about Norwegian government's immigration politics. It makes me feel better when I write about it.
The album I'm releasing now has more themes about mental health, but there are also some political songs.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Somehow I think there are some songs which can touch some feelings inside of people which I don't think words can. I don't know why, but it makes sense that a message feels stronger when it's backed up by different frequencies hitting us, mixed with the combination of notes, vocals and all the elements hitting us all at once. And a song might even be performed in a studio or at a concert by a person feeling all these things; so it would be weird if no listeners were receiving these feelings. But when a person perceives a song as bad or annoying, I think this overrides the emotions which might be behind the song.