Rebekka Karijord hailing from Norway is someone who is beginning to make waves across the ocean. She recently grabbed my attention, when her new album ‘We Become Ourselves’ came into my inbox the other week, featuring a set of tracks, with haunting, tribal beats, male choirs, guitars and organ music. Not to mention those haunting, romantic, yet sad and mysterious lyrics. I think to understand Rebekka we need to first look inside her memory box.
Her biography reads rather interesting......born and raised in Sandnessjøen, south of the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway to a pair of carefree teenage travellers, who spent a great deal of their life busking around Europe in a Volkswagen bus. Whilst Dad busked to make ends meet, her Mother sold handmade beaded jewellery. Unfortunately they split up when Rebekka was just three, and she remained with her Mum, whilst her Dad took the wrong path and developed a heavy drug addiction, which lasted 25 years, which subsequently meant her contact with him became hit and miss throughout her childhood, and they soon lost touch. Around the age of thirteen she found an her Dad's old handwritten notebook in the attic, containing songs, drawings and poems that he had written when they were a family unit. Rebekka became resolute about being reunited with her Dad once more, and years later when they did finally meet again, it was a somewhat bitter sweet experience, but one which left its mark. He gave her two bags full of his own lyrics, and slowly over a long period of time, she began to piece together his life, through the loving written words. She started to write her own melodies to those lyrics, then eventually progressing to writing herself. Now twenty years down the line, an accomplished singer/songwriter we bare witness to the beautiful words and music of her new album.
So I decided to grab a little chat with her about Norway, and her new album amongst other things.
MEL: What was it like growing up in the wonderful Norwegian landscape, were you exposed to music from an early age, if so what – and what do you listen to now?
REBEKKA: It was lovely growing up so close to the quite extreme, North Norwegian nature, it has shaped me a lot as a person. I always think clearer when I’m in the nature.
My dad was a musician, and my Mum’s record collection was filled with the great 70's singer songwriters, like Patti Smith, Buffy Sainte Marie, Leonard Cohen, but also alternative world music, like Norwegian folk music and classical music.
MEL: I believe you found your Fathers old notebook in the attic at the age of 13, in which he had wrote songs and poems about you and your Mother. Have you ever thought about using any of them in your work, or indeed have these influenced/ inspired your own writing at all?
I actually wrote a play with my dad’s lyrics when I was 22. Since then I don’t think they have influenced me directly, but my childhood and the absence of my dad surely has been important. I think artists often circle around the same vulnerability in themselves, and this is certainly one of my trigger points.
MEL: It seems that your Father was instrumental in you becoming a singer/song writer. What does he make of your music, is he supportive?
REBEKKA: My dad was a heavy drug addict when I was little, and since I grew up with my mum I didn’t know him very well. So it’s only now recently, that he is clean, that he has been able to get to know me and my music for real. He is very supportive now.
MEL: You started a formal music education in Oslo, but didn’t finish it? Are you more or less a self-taught musician and what instruments can you play?
REBEKKA: I finished my musical education, but then I studied at The Royal Academy of Acting in Stockholm- and quit, when I realized I wanted to be a musician. I played piano and violin since I was little, but kind of still consider that I am self taught. I play harp as well, but not classical. I have an electrical harp and kind of use it instead of guitar. I also program, produce and mix for myself and other artists.
MEL: How do you begin to write a song, is there a formula, where does it all come from?
REBEKKA: That varies. Usually music comes first, easily, and then the lyrics take months. But most of the ideas come from my diaries and notebooks I always carry with me.
MEL: It’s been a long slow road that you have travelled since releasing your first record in 2003, how long did it take before you found your own style of music that you were happy with after years of experimenting? I believe your on your third album is that correct?
REBEKKA: This is my fourth studio album, but second solo album. I believe it has taken me so long to bloom as a musician simply because I was not confident enough. I didn’t dare to listen to my gut feeling, and ended up trying various different styles. Somehow I’m really grateful for that, since it has given me competence. Still I don’t think I’m a person that sticks with one genre or style though; I’ll probably always experiment. There are so many exciting ways to go in music, so many possibilities. But now I know that certain factors are crucial for me to be able reach my listeners, I think I’ve learned a bit more about my my musical strengths and weaknesses.
MEL: I believe there is a personal story behind your wonderful new album; can you share some of it with our readers in your own words?
REBEKKA: I fell in love pretty hard a few years ago, and with that came a lot of weird fears and anxious feelings, hand in hand with all the euphoric ones. I started to write a bunch of songs concerning that duality, and realized what I wanted to make a double album project about masculinity and femininity. So this first album is my love letter to the men in my life. The next one will be about women.
MEL: It seems like you have reached a highlight in your career, with the release of ‘We Become Ourselves’ – so how does it feel to finally be proud of your latest work? How has the album been received so far?
REBEKKA: Thanks; I hope it will be a highlight! It has received really good feedback so far. I try to not read reviews though. I’d rather read the feedback from fans on Facebook and Twitter. I am very fond of my previous album too; “The Noble Art Of Letting Go” was an important step for me to take, but this one feels even closer to what I want to express with my music- so it feels really good that I managed to capture the songs on tape.
MEL: How difficult was making the album, as you seem to tackle head on a lot of issues, from ageing, life and death, femininity, masculinity, love, and sexuality?
REBEKKA: It was actually quite tricky! Not writing the songs, but to find the right sound for them. I had this quite ambitious idea for the sound picture, and actually had to record the album twice before I was happy. I felt the songs were so direct and raw in the thematic, so they needed to be captured in a way that preserved the vulnerability, and allowed them to have “the heart on the sleeve”.
MEL: Talking of ageing, can you tell us about the theme of the video for ‘Use My Body While It’s Still Young’ which I think is fantastic, in which Siv Ander, a 75 year old ballet dancer appears.
REBEKKA: To me Use My Body While It’s Still Young is a lot about embracing life. It’s about keeping away darkness with the warmth from another person. Sometimes another human beings skin is the only thing that can comfort you. I wanted to have some sort of a contradiction to the very direct text, and pretty soon pictured an old body, but shown in a sensual, strong way. When I found Siv Ander it all fell in place. She kind of looks like me a bit physically, and she’s born on the same day as me. Quite weird. I feel she is the face and body of the song, and I am solely a part of the organ, which to me represents her heart, beating, driving her to dance.
MEL: How do you think you might approach the inevitable, getting old and possibly frail of mind and spirit?
REBEKKA: I have liked ageing so far, I like getting more in touch with myself, and less afraid of what people may think of me. I have many old friends, and they are some of the sharpest minds I know, still curious and vital. I hope I can become like that!
MEL: The album has many strands and layers, boy choirs and various instruments. How do you feel about the comparisons being made to Florence + The Machine, and PJ Harvey - I personally hear a little Bat For Lashes too?
REBEKKA: They are all great artists, so I’ll take that as a compliment- even though I’m not very influenced by any of them.
MEL: Finally your on a tour of European cities at the moment, when can we expect to see your live performances in the UK, and indeed what can kind of venue can we expect to see you in?
REBEKKA: It seems we will tour the UK in the first week of December. Don’t know the venues yet, but check in on my webpage in the coming weeks. It’s a great five-piece band with double drums, loads of voices, energy and dynamics. I really look forward to coming back to your lovely island and meeting the audience with these songs!
Thank you for taking time to do this interview – Mel www.mudkiss.com
Interview by Melanie Smith