Sondre Lerche may not be a known name in the UK, but the 27-year-old Norwegian singer/songwriter has more than proved his worth on a global scale: 2002’s Faces Down even made the Rolling Stones Top 50 Albums of 2002 list! Now that the chirpy chappy has conquered the States, he is wanting to try his luck on this side of the pond. Bringing with him his guitar, Lerche is ready to unleash Heartbeat Radio (album number six) on the British public. zap! bang! grabbed a few minutes to find out what took him so long.
Has your success increased the popularity of the name Sondre in Norway?
Hah! Not that I know of, but I think it got more popular after the 94 Olympics as it brought attention to the old skier Sondre Nordheim who invented the Telemark nedslag style!
How did you first come to know that music would be extremely important in your life?
Falling asleep listening to “Take On Me” (by A-ha) blasting over the speakers down the hall in the living room when I was four.
Success came at the tender age of 19, did you life literally change over night?
To me it has always felt gradual, but I guess you could say it was pretty sudden: I went straight from finishing college to releasing my first album and travelling the world with my music, which is very cool, fortunate and unusual I guess.
What do you think is the secret to your popularity?
I have no idea, but when I manage to write a song that I like I guess I just gamble that someone else out there might enjoy it too. I do find that among singer/songwriters nowadays there’s not a lot of people interested in the same type of harmony and styles that I like so I guess I fill some sort of gap in between all sorts of things.
You have won many accolades for your work in the past decade, which has meant the most to you?
To me it always means a lot to feel that the songs and lyrics communicate directly with my audience in concert. Secondly, I always find it flattering when people I admire and have been inspired by appreciate the work I do.
Why do you think it has taken so long to get noticed in the UK?
I have no idea — it’s all a gradual thing. But perhaps because I’ve done so many different things thru the years, by the time it has caught on with an audience I’ve moved on to the next one? I don’t know. But I hope in the future to build a steady audience in the UK. I wouldn’t mind having an excuse to go there more often.
Your music has been called “deeply melodic pop” with a style that blends multiple sounds. How would you categorize it?
I think that’s a pretty good description that covers a lot of ground. I don’t think so much of my sound, I guess I just gamble that I’ll sound like myself no matter what I get myself into. I have a rooting in pretty distinctly harmonic pop that is influenced by jazz, Brazilian stuff and more modern pop. The trick is to make it all sound effortless and natural.
I went straight from finishing college to releasing my first album and travelling the world with my music…
What do you think the key to a good song is?
I like the part where everything changes or you think you know where it’s going and then it doesn’t.
Norway isn’t known for its music scene in the UK, can you tell us a bit more about it?
The music scene in Norway is excellent — so varied and quite open. There is a lot of great pioneers in Jazz, avant-garde, noise and Black Metal that really are acknowledged in those communities but because they’re not part of the mainstream styles you don’t hear so much about them. There’s also quite a good singer/songwriter and electronic scene that is ongoing and quite successful.
On your blog you mention your home town of Bergen and in particular John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen. What made you choose this duo in particular?
They just stood out to me (they’re not a duo by the way — a band) because they sing in their own dialect and sing about quite different themes than what’s been tackled by other Bergen pop folks lately and it seemed sort of refreshing to me, observing via internet all the way over Brooklyn. They are doing very well nowadays, deservedly so.
The music scene in Norway is excellent — so varied and quite open.
What was your experience creating Heartbeat Radio?
It was absolutely exhausting but ultimately very rewarding.
Has song writing become easier as your career has developed?
No, I find it gets harder and harder because you’ve done certain things that are essential to what you like and the trick is finding new things that feel essential to you, whether it’s in words or music. But if you work hard and don’t go for the shortcuts it’s is very rewarding at other end of the long dark tunnel that you traffic when writing.
You have had the chance to support many of your musical heroes on tour (Elvis Costello, A-Ha). Which was the most rewarding?
Well, A-ha was only one night so it was brief and exhilarating. I couldn’t believe it was happening — my boyhood dream! Now I’m friends with Paul from A-ha and we see each other quite often but I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I love their music so much. Elvis was a rush cause it was a full month of gigs and it was very inspiring to see how hard he and the band worked every day and how much he put into it. He is also perhaps my favourite songwriter so needless to say it was a kick. A true gentleman.
Who else would you like to support?
Vampire Weekend and Wilcox come to mind. I think they are superb. Also, Phoenix are terrific. I’ve always loved them.
If you could choose any band to support you, who would they be?
Hmmm… I’ve been lucky to be supported by some great singer/songwriters who have also become friends: JBM most recently and Sylvie Lewis. Both amazing writers I’d recommend highly to anyone.
What can people expect from a typical Sondre Lerche gig?
It’s a dynamic affair, it’s conversational and fun — I like stupid jokes and interaction and I like to play songs that may not work.
You are the same age as me. An older journalist told me over lunch that our generation has nothing left to offer the arts. What do you make to this statement?
I make that your journalist friend is a bitter old doffs, with senses shut and his curiosity dead from old age. It happens. I do hope he paid for lunch.
Don’t worry, he did! Where do you hope to be in a year’s time?
Right now I’m out touring, missing home so I hope to be home in Brooklyn, recording new songs in about a year’s time. Wrote a new song this mooring. I think it’ll be track#1 on next album.
Heartbeat Radio is out now on Rounder Records. For more information visit sondrelerche.com