"Whatever you do, do it to the bone," says songwriter Erlend Ropstad when asked about his motto. Another one could be "keep it real", as Ropstad loves telling stories but dislikes metaphors and symbolism. His current album "Roy, it ain't over yet", despite the strange title, is "nothing but a story among others" about a friend who works as a cartoonist.
Ropstad enchants the listener with an intimate athmosphere, lyrics sung in a low voice with a melancholic flavor. "Roy, it ain't over yet" is pop music that may appear unspectacular in the first moment but enthralls in the second with it's directness...
Carina Prange talked for Jazzdimensions with Erlend Ropstad
Carina: For the production in "Roy, it ain't over yet" you had a very renowned team in Davide Bertolini and Andy Walter. What were their roles for the music respectively? And why did you decide to work together?
Erlend: I've worked with Davide many times before, both live and in the studio. And he knows what sound I'm after, so working with him is easy. And of course I'm certain that the result is good. Andy Walter in Abbey Road studios was suggested to me by my label. He hadof course!excellent reference-artists, since he had been working with people like Coldplay and Radiohead.
Carina: The album was recorded in Bergen and mastered in the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. What influence do locations like that have on the sound-quality of an album? Or on the feeling of a recording?
Erlend: The feeling in the "Grieghallen" studio in Bergen is phenomenal. Very relaxed, and a great sound. Good people. And the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra next door is very convenient!
The Abbey Road studio has been a life long dream of mine to visit, as I guess it has been and still is for any musician around the world. Working with art and music, being in a place with a certain atmosphere is very important to me.
Carina: You dedicated your songs to the journalist and cartoonist Roy Søbstad. Why is Søbstad so important in your eyes that you decided to make an album for and about him?
Erlend: (laughs) He's not that important really! I just happened to start with the song "Roy, Don't Do It". A song where both me and Roy appear as characters in the story. In the end I just chose it as the title-track of the album, because I thought the title was funny. Songs about myself have no real importance to anybody else, as stories about other friends of mine are not really important to other people. Only if the stories are good, and have some kind of value as a story by itself. I like writing about real stuff. No metaphors or symbolism! Keep it real. That's is what's really important to me, not Roy Søbstad.
Carina: What is your connection to Roy and what can we learn about him through your music? Did you have to draw a line to not include things that might be too private?
Erlend: Me and Roy are good friends. We hang out a lot, and talk often. Still do, even after the album! (laughs) What you can learn about him through my music… Well, in the song "Roy Don't Do It", you can learn that his friend gives him crap love advice. Other songs are even more loosely based on myself, him or other people.
Carina: What is your most personal song on the album?
Erlend: The "Allnighter" song. A lullaby written for my kids.
Carina: Another question that hopefully doesn't sound too trivial… As a look backwhen did you start to play the guitar and when did you start to sing?
Erlend: I started playing guitar at age twelve. Started singing at around sixteen. Then I stopped, to get a "real" education and a steady job. At 27, working as a teacher and journalist, I said: "Forget it! I'm a musician. Who am I kidding? I must make music full time!"
Carina: Did you have a vocal teacher or did you find other means to develop your voice?
Erlend: Nope. Never had any teachers on anything! …well, not since my guitar teacher, when I was thirteen.
Erlend Ropstad (by André Løyning)
Carina: In the same breath with you some media people mention Ane Brun and Eivind Aarset who are quite known outside of Norway. For myself I do not see that many similarities between the three of you…
Erlend: I agree. I also don't see any similarities between me and Eivind Aarset. Both me and Aarset play guitar, that's about it! (laughs) However, I can understand Ane Brun being mentioned. But I think we all have very different artistic intentions.
Carina: Could you put into words what you think is unique about your music?
Erlend: I've just explained it on a radio show today as "loose pop". I don't know why I said that, but it's probably wrong. It's hard to describe my music, I find. But the central thing, my main agenda, is to tell stories. Both in my lyrics, the way I perform and the choices I make in the studio. To make my stories believable and in some sense universal, I keep a minimalist approach to writing, playing and recording.
Carina: What would be the intention you'd identify with most: Trying to change the world, entertain and uplift the audience or just tell your personal stories? Or do you have a completely different reason to play music?
Erlend: A bit of all three! I'm trying to change the world by uplifting the audience by telling my personal stories.
Carina: A primary element in your songs appears to be melancholy. Is that kind of a "basic attitude" or just an artistic pose you need for your songs?
Erlend: I can not see that my music really is that melancholic. I like sad songs. I find a sad song uplifting, it makes me happy or at least gives me a good feeling. Those emotions are something that I'd like to project to my audience: "Sad songs say so much," as Elton John puts it. I don't think there are any poses in my music, but I'm not depressed either. I just like sad songs. Listening to them, writing them and performing them.
CD: Erlend Ropstad - "Roy, it ain't over yet" (Rec 90 Records RID 071)
Erlend Ropstad im Internet: www.erlendropstad.com
Rec 90 Records im Internet: www.rec90.com