Egil Olsen is a singer/songwriter. He writes songs and sings. (And I'm practically quoting one of his songs...) And he does it pretty, pretty well.
Egil is from Norway and used to work as a filmmaker before starting his musical career (he spent a few years in California, all very well documented in his songs). Since then, 3 beautiful, clever and heartbreaking albums were released: I am a singer/songwriter (2007); Nothing Like the Love I Have For You (2009) and Keep Movin - Keep Dreamin (2011).
Egil is a storyteller. The kind of musician that has a very simple and almost naive way of expressing ideas and that's exactly what makes his music stands out and kind of leaves you unprepared for moments like "On Saturdays we'll go down to the Farmer's Market / Sundays we could go to church to kill away the darkness..." (You and I (and the dog); or like In the Middle of Norway's last verse "I don't mean to be mean, I mean / A guy like me a guy with dreams has needs you see / I'm not that brave I'm just afraid / To give up and go home / Get a life and a loan and get stuck in the middle of Norway".
Why would you need clever words when you have a sensible guy being sincere with his feelings and showing them in such a delicate and charming way?
He's songs wander around subjects like love, self affirmation, leaving Norway (staying in Norway) and pursuing dreams. Oh, have I mentioned that everything is wrapped around a crystalline indie pop with acoustic guitar accompanied by violins, flutes, trumpets, pianos, banjo, tuba... and Egil's fragile voice?
It doesn't take much to love Egil (I dare you to try and read his bio without smiling) and his music. It doesn't take more than a 2 minute song to relate with his lyrics. Song after song you feel his honesty and purpose.
Beautiful, unique and inspiring.
And read our interview now.
01. What are your earliest musical memories?
I remember when I first heard Kiss. I had been a fan for a while, without hearing the music. I had these Kiss collection cards and was very fascinated with their makeup. I was probably four years old. I remember being excited when I borrowed a tape from an older neighbor. Having probably only heard my mom singing lullabies, I was shocked and scared when I heard Kiss' diabolical sounds of rock. I was a bit disappointed actually, but to be cool, I kept listening to it and eventually learned to enjoy it.
02. If you had to materialize your music into a planet or landscape, how it would look like?
A small blue and purple planet. Possibly empty, but with hints of life. A little bit of texture, some unexpected cliffs and rocks and a few very deep lakes.
03. You give a really beautiful ‘About’ on your website… and it is so interesting that I could make this whole interview just asking you to talk more about some episodes you cite there. If you had to write about your current situation, what would you say?
After being investigated by the Chinese police, my extensive China tour got a sudden stop. I returned to Norway, released my new album and did a few more shows. The chief of police even gave me permanent permission to perform in my home town. On twitter.
I tend to run back to my studio and start working on new music when I release something, but now I just want to do as many live shows as possible and give my three albums a bit more attention. There will also be a live album soon. And I already have many ideas and sketches for new records.
04. For some time you worked as a film maker, even winning awards in Norway. What made you change from movies to music?
I was very technically interested in film making. Special effects and such. I still love that kind of stuff. Music to me was a deeper, more serious and emotional thing, although I'm very technically involved and love the mechanical, hands-on and nerdy things in music as well. But music was a place for me to hide and be emotional and creative. Unlike film making, which usually involves a lot of people, music can be made alone. I really enjoy collaborating with people, but most of the time, for me, it's a solitary work process. I hope I'll have room for a film project in the future.
05. The first time I heard your music I thought “Wow, this is a male Hello Saferide! mixed with something Daniel Johnston-esque”… I could mention at least 10 songs that have extremely consistent lyrics. There is a simplicity and fragility on your verses but the construction of ideas isn’t ordinary or aiming to a common place. How’s your creative process? You seem to be the kind of guy that is drinking a coffee and suddenly grabs a piece of paper and write something down…
My creative process varies. I really like it when songs come to me in a flash. But even if they do I tend to work on my songs for a while. Although I might end up with the simplest thing, there's often a lot of work behind it. At the same time it's very important for me to keep it real, spontaneous and creative.
06. Now the albums (specially Keep Movin – Keep Dreamin, released a little over a month ago). How did you recorded it? Tell us what was going on in your mind while making in it… what were your ideas, aspirations and days in that period?
Most of my music is recorded in my own studio at home. On my new record, keep movin - keep dreamin, I recorded some parts in a studio in Los Angeles and a few things in a very fancy studio in Norway called ocean sound recordings. This has been my most difficult record to make since most of the sounds are accoustic, like guitars, banjo, violins, tuba, upright bass etc. The production is also very detailed and arranged with a lot of tracks, yet simple and minimalistic. I also recorded much more than i ended up using.
Lyrically I knew I wanted to write about dreams vs reality which included things like greener grass and escapism. I like making albums with a hint of a concept, not a big rock opera, but a collection of songs that fit and work together for a greater whole. Keep movin - keep dreamin made me face a few things and was often a self revealing and at times uncomfortable process. In the end I think I grew on making this record and I'm very happy with the result.
07. Could you talk a bit about your music videos? Just like your music they are so simple and yet so touching… and they seem to have some sort of aesthetic unity, working like parts of a bigger picture. The song Singer/Songwriter by itself already is a tearjerker (at least for me… I have to confess that the first time I heard the chorus lines I said to my roommate that if I heard you singing live that, I would totally start screaming ‘Marry me! Marry me!’ because you sound so honest and fragile…) and then you come up with that video extremely simple and with the amazing idea of putting ‘people’ in it.
I've always wanted to work with film, so making music videos is always for me. I usually plan many more music videos than i ever make. As soon as a record is out and a video or two has been made, i get sick of my own face and just wanna start making more music. I always put music first, but sometimes I can get an idea to a video while writing or recording a song. I always write these ideas down. My mind is always spinning on stuff like this. The singer / songwriter video was actually something I did with a friend of mine who's a director. It was a complicated production, but the result is very simple. The "people" are still in my basement. For some reason, maybe moist or maybe something to do with the glue I used, they have all turned green.
08. Do you get to live of your music or are you still making “music videos to local bands in the category dance bands…often with matching suits, saxophones and a six string bass.”?
I pretty much make a living doing this now. I never feel safe and some months are harder than others. Every now and then I do other work like drawing, designing and video making for others. Not as many dance bands anymore. But I enjoy working on other projects every once in a while. Then I can take a step back and get a fresh look at my own stuff.
09. A place and time to hear your music.
You can always hear my music everywhere online, on CD or on vinyl. I will try and tour as much as I can and will do my best to set up a show close to you in the near future.
10. A music video you think everyone should watch.
Rockettothesky, now known as herself; Jenny Hval, has made one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. She looks out of this world in the music video, in the best possible way.
11. Anything else you feel like saying?
Let me think. I wish I had a glass of milk right now. Today I'm finishing a video for my friend Robert Post, who does backing vocals on a few songs on my latest album. My dog is getting impatient and needs a walk. He knows a lot of tricks and can, believe it or not, say his own name; Hellboy.