INTERVIEW: Norwegian Americana artist Malin Petterson

Pic by Solveig Selj

Hi Malin, welcome to VENTS! How’s it going?

 – Hi! Thank you, thank you! Right now, I got to say, things are good. I’m excited to release some new music.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Pause”?

 – Sure! I’d love to give you some background on it. It’s a part of a collection of songs where I wanted to present the songs just as they are, like I would play them in my living room. I wanted to challenge myself to do that and not put any other elements between the listener and me.

Did any event, in particular, inspire you to write this song?

 – There was definitely a number of thoughts that came together in this song, related to different themes such as growing up, getting old, who you are through your whole life, and social norms – I was dwelling on those issues. But the thing that finally gave me the key to wrapping all that into one song was a documentary I saw on people suffering from dementia and their families. It was heartbreaking and got me thinking about how fragile the human mind is. That also transfers to everyday life and being a part of society. I love writing philosophical songs. To reflect on life is what’s getting me through it.

How was the recording and writing process?

 – This was one of those songs that came very natural to me. It unfolded and presented itself to me in a way songs sometimes do. It is a very special song to me and I knew as I was writing it that I managed to say something I had been wanting to say for a long time. When I found myself with the six songs that would become the EP – “Pause” being one of the very last ones I finished – almost on a whim I gave my favorite studio guy (Marcus Forsgren at the amazing Studio Paradiso in Oslo) a call and asked if he had any available dates. And he had. Like, that following week. Everything was recorded with my Josephine mic from Ear Trumpet Labs. That and a room mic. We did very little to it, mixing-wise and it just felt like a very right way of doing those songs. I love making music like that.

How did the process of putting together your upcoming EP Alonesome differ from your previous releases?

 – So References Pt.1 was my solo debut that came out last year. I produced it myself together with longtime friend and musical partner Stian Jørgen Sveen. I spent about four years on it from idea to finished product. It was a full band production, and except for Stian I had never really worked with the people we asked to play on it before. I wanted to challenge myself to be in charge and along the way find what my taste was, trust my choices, make something completely the way I wanted it to be. It was a very very personal project. «Alonesome» is taking it one step further – what would happen if I did something completely by myself? Would it be less good or could it be something worth someone’s time? Could I dare to do something like that with nothing to hide behind? I am proud of myself for giving Marcus a call that day to record these songs. And I am excited to show something quite different from References Pt. 1. It is important to me that every project I do can stand on its own and I hope my musical life will be filled with many different chapters.

What role does Norway play in your music?

 – For one, I think being born and raised here gives me a different viewpoint maybe than if I had been born and raised in, say, The United States – the home of country music. I wonder if it maybe gives me more freedom when it comes to exploring genre boundaries, as there is no large country music industry to be tempted to be a part of here. On a side note I’ve also gotten very into the history behind country and old-time music lately and I hope to discover more about whether or not Norwegian immigrants ever played a role in the development of it.

What aspect of your life did you get to explore on your upcoming EP?

 – On most of the songs, except “Pause” and one other song, I got to explore feelings I haven’t felt myself in a long time. I am very happy with my two kids and life partner, and the feeling of being alone and heartbroken is something that is not present in my life at the moment. But I do have ups and downs and I have been very alone and very heartbroken. So I wanted to explore those feelings from where I am at the moment. Choosing different aspects from my life and other people’s life to write some heartfelt songs. But “Pause” is really a very thankful song – I wouldn’t be scared of losing or forgetting anything if I didn’t have something great to lose.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

 – I specifically remember getting the idea to write some more vocal based songs after hearing Andrew Combs at Americanafest last year. He played a beautiful set with Charlie Whitten at The Station Inn. After releasing my full band solo debut that year I kind of missed having songs I could play in a more stripped down setting like that, and not feel like there’s anything missing. Also I wanted to try to see if I could get some of my jazz inspiration in there, so that definitely inspired me. And just listening to music where the voice and lyrics are the center of attention, getting the message through. Iris Dement I find is a great example of that. How amazing is she?! I also listened to Brennen Leigh’s Lefty Frizzel album a lot in the year leading up to writing these songs and I think that way of phrasing lines and turning the melody to unexpected places is something that has inspired me too.

Any plans to hit the road?

 – Yes! I have a pretty full summer. It is divided between my solo project and shows with my musical family, Lucky Lips, along with Amund Maarud whom we started working with last year. We are getting my fall release tour together as we speak as well and I hope to be doing a couple of dates in the US too.

What else is happening next in Malin Pettersen’s world?

– Touring is definitely going to be a large part of my life from now and probably through fall, which I am very excited about. After winning my first Spellemannpris (Norwegian Grammy) I really want to be building a steady foundation for my music and put a lot of effort into making it so that I can do this for a living for the rest of my life. It’s the only thing I know how to do it feels like and I am forever grateful for the time I get to do it, however long that might be.

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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