When Marit Larsen releases her new album today, it’s on her own record label for the very first time.
A few months ago I saw a small drawing of a coffeemaker on Marit Larsens Instagram account. The fact that she’s somewhat of a coffee connoisseur is something I was well aware of, but this was something different. The drawing, which was created by artist and illustrator Esra Røise, was the logo of Larsen’s new record label, Håndbrygg records (Håndbrygg meaning hand brew in Norwegian). When her new album Joni Was Right (more on the title later) is released today, it’s the first on this label.
– It’s as if my music has got a new passport without a single stamp in it, she says.
– I’ve had various forms of records contracts since I was 13 years old and I cherish that experience, but I’ve never owned the rights to my own music. There’s something strange about that. Especially since I write my own songs and are very emotionally attached to them.
We meet in a café in the neighbourhood where we both live. When Marit Larsen isn’t travelling, which is quite often, she lives a fairly common life in Oslo in a house with a garden. This is the first interview she does for the new record and she projects the same kind of energy that people do when they’ve just fallen in love.
– Now that I’ve chosen to start my own business, I feel incredibly inspired. This is going to be a very exciting time, I think. I’ve learned so much about what’s important to me and how I like to work with my music. For instance, I’ve discovered that I can have fewer meetings, she says with a laugh.
So far, her catalogue of songs has been her main source of income. That catalogue has been the property of someone else.
– I’ve had a pretty clear plan when it came to how I wanted to do this, she says.
– The worst thing that can happen is that I lose all my savings. But I can afford to lose a bit of control and have a little less money right now. Besides, I’ve never made music to get rich.
She has written and recorded songs since she was 13 years old. Her father played in the Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway, which has also left its mark on her music. The new album, however, has moved away from the richly orchestrated pop music we have come to associate with her and is more inspired by folk music. Layers of vocals and instruments have been peeled away and the production has been scaled down. The five tracks on the album have been recorded in a studio in the Faroe Island in just seven days with three musicians, hail and rain beating against the window.
– Every now and then we had to stop playing because of the weather, it made so much noise. That put even more time pressure on us when the weather was good. But I liked that, in a way that’s how the whole record was made. I gave myself plenty of restrictions, which is a good exercise. You can change things a hundred times, but when you record an album in a week you have to rely on your own experience and your ability to make good decisions within a limited time frame.
Later this year a new album will be released simultaneously all over the world.
– That’s the sort of thing I can allow myself to do now, she says with a smile.
– There are five songs on the record, is that enough to call it an album?
She answers right away, indicating that it really doesn’t matter what we call it.
– One thing I have learned about myself is that I like to work in the studio quite often, to write music quite often and to play the music in front of an audience while it’s fresh. I’d like to try and juggle these elements more frequently. But I don’t want to release just singles or EPs. I’ve grown up listening to albums and some of them have changed my life.
Three of the one’s that did were given to her when she was 16 years old. Each of them by Joni Mitchell: Ladies of the Canyon, Blue and Court and Spark.
– I fell in love with her almost immediately and for a year she was all I listened to. She had an enormous impact on the way I write music, says Larsen.
She adds quickly that the music on the new album isn’t directly inspired by Mitchell, but “a mix of everything I’ve listen to and everything I’ve learned since I was a teenager.” The nod to Mitchell lies primarily in the title: Joni Was Right.
– When I was 16, I didn’t have enough experience to fully understand what she was singing about. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve been in a number of situations that enables me to understand what her music is about. It’s like when a big sister tells you things you really have to experience for yourself.
Today Marit Larsen has become a big sister in the Norwegian music industry. A veteran despite her young age of 32. In the future she hopes to publish music by other artists and give them the kind of backing she had when starting out.
– The most important thing was probably the long-term perspective the record company had when it came to my music. I’m not sure that new artists today are that fortunate. I think they are increasingly expected to create something that will sell and be played on radio.
Our coffee cups are almost empty. Which brings us to the name of her record company: Håndbrygg records. The story behind it is simple.
– I’ve become a real nerd when it comes to coffee. To make myself a cup of drip coffee has become a kind of solemn ritual in my life and something I can do wherever I am in the world. In a way I think I make music and coffee in the same way. I put a lot of love into it.
Joni Was Right is out now. Marit Larsen will play a series of small intimate concerts in Scandinavia this spring.