She’s about to perform in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the acoustic dream for every aspiring or weathered musician. The intimacy of the small room is just perfect for her original style. Norwegian Silje Nergaard. I got myself a ticket front row. Yes!
I can hop on my bicycle and get there in less than 15 minutes. (But meanwhile… please, don’t rain on my parade.)
The joys of living in Amsterdam, with its incredibly inviting cultural extravaganza. Most of all, I adore the fact that many venues are within biking range. 15 – 20 minutes. At any speed.
Did you know that many Amsterdam inhabitants consider it the plain outback when having to commute over 20 minutes to reach you? I’m sorta guilty too….
Silje Nergaard certainly lives in an outback – to Amsterdam standards. She resides in Oslo – where she writes her beautiful pieces of art.
Silje entered the music scene at the age of 16, moved to London towards the end of the 1980s, to work with producer Richard Niles. Her debut record “Tell Me Where You’re Going” made it to no. 1 in Japan. With the unexceeded Pat Metheny on guitar. Talking about a dream start commercially! In Japan, she also got a wine brand named after her… Cheers!
Her musical influences range from country and western to pop, from traditional Norwegian folk music to jazz. In her albums, you see reflections of this. One of my personal favorite songs is Be Still My Heart. You can find it on her album At First Light (2001).
There’s this poppy yet jazzy feel with the brushes of the drums, the hypnotizing piano, her light vocal timbre, the backing vocals, the muted trumpet. And then the lovely melody, the lyrics! Love it! I melt hearing this song any time, anywhere.
With her album Nightwatch (2003) she boldly further developed her musical style. This album contains lots of original work by Nergaard and her copywriter Mike McGurk. By now, the Grammy-nominated singer released another 5 albums featuring her own songs and she continues to travel the world to perform.
You may wonder, how does she do it? How does she find songs? How can you do this too?
How to develop YOUR writing skills? How to become a singer-songwriter?
I think you need to feel a certain urgency. A need, a passion to write your own commentary on daily life, on love and life, on dreams and schemes, on hardships and challenges.
You certainly need to develop your musical skills. Your feel for melody. Rhythm. Harmony. You can sharpen your ears by listening to great music a lot. A LOT. And then some!
Check out lists like “When on a deserted island, which albums do you bring” by great musicians.
COPY & ADJUST
You don’t have to invent everything yourself from scraps. Maybe you hear a beautiful chord progression: use it and create a new melody to it yourself. Maybe you stumble across a powerful poem: write music to it.
You can write music and words all by yourself, or you can look for someone to cooperate with. Silje often writes the music, while the lyrics are done by someone else. Maybe there is a poet hiding in you, maybe you are fantastic at finding metaphors. Or maybe you are great at finding enchanting melodies, but you need someone to help you with the harmony.
TRIAL & ERROR
Build your repertoire. Try out your repertoire. Perform them for your mum. On Open Mic Nights. For your cat. Record yourself. Keep what you like. Skip what you dislike.
And then… record yourself. Do you like what you hear? Send it to producers. Or go through the whole process of recording independently. Get yourself out there. There’s SO much fun to be had!
I hope you found some ideas here. And maybe we see each other at Silje’s concert for even more inspiration: Thursday, March 21, 2019: Concertgebouw Amsterdam. I’ll be there at 8 pm.
With love, Ilse Huizinga
My album tip for you:
At First Light, 2001 (Emarcy)
Silje Nergaard on Wikipedia: