My Interview with Bernhoft

It’s not long until one man musical machine Jarle, known by most as Bernhoft, will be in the UK to perform in the stunning Union Chapel in Islington. In 2011 his studio album ‘Solidarity Breaks’ reached the top of the charts in his native Norway and lead to him being awarded with two Grammy’s, a theme of success that followed when the work was unleashed on the rest of Europe – the single Stay With Me’ was awarded Best R&B song on iTunes in Germany.
Having spent time in various bands, being signed to major labels and completing successful tours as part of unit, I wondered how he copes with the various aspects of being a solo artist. I was aware that in the past financial constraints had played a part in his diminished set up, but I wondered how much of his artist self misses the solidarity of being in band – perhaps this isn’t an apt word to use. Does his recent run of dates with a full band, and his time in the studio writing with album Producer Fred Ball, singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt and songwriter-producer Jimmy Hogarth hint towards the answer?
A craze or frenzy isn’t accurate a description, but there was a definitely buzz  felt surrounding his performance at Great Escape Festival, and the sold out show at Cargo bolstered the chatter that the UK may be the next European destination to full for Bernhoft’s charms in a big way. And I can’t of a more perfect gig setting to begin a new musical romance…
Back in 2010 I was lucky to witness a performance in the Union Chapel by the multi-genre/multi-sensory Unkle. Of course their music alone would have been enough to make the gig one to remember, but something about the environment gave it that extra magical element and helped bring on more than a few lumps in throats amongst the seated audience. I predict the combination of the fascination element of viewing Bernhoft’s personal craft, his naturally soulful voice and the unique venue will create an equally special evening on October 15th.

Hello Jarle, How are you…
I’m fine. I’m hugely jet-lagged, I just arrived from New York… but other than that I am pretty fine.

Oh sorry to disturb you…
No, that’s cool, that’s cool.

It’s not long till your show at The Union Chapel. How are your nerves ahead of a big show like this? Are they starting to rumble?
Na, not really, I think I think I tend to be in reverse when it come to nerves, small shows I tend to be nervous.With big shows I shut off. It’s not bad nerves anyway, always good nerves!

Did the response you got earlier in the year at The Great Escape give you a confidence boost about shows that followed?

Yea… I’m not sure whether that’s connected to what I’ve done in Britain afterwards, but you know everything helps I guess, it accumulates in a good way I hope.

Apart from the acoustic benefits, how do you predict the beautiful venue of the Union Chapel may affect your performance?
um, I dunno, I tend to think atmosphere in rooms always, kind of like, effects shows. I’m very responsive to how people react to my music, so almost in a kind of feed-backing loop if u want. So if the room is very serene and beautiful that may affect people and that may the effect me. Everything goes round it a circle, but it is hard to tell. Maybe it will be a very nice sit down gig, maybe it will be very energetic. It’s impossible to tell in advance.

You touched upon it just now,  but you have said numerous times that communicating with an audience and even learning from a performance is important to you. Is that easier to achieve in intimate venues?
Well its not easier, but it’s different. Maybe that communication in an intimate venue will be more like one to one, I may pick up on someone, a particular person. In a bigger venue it tends to be more of a collective thing happening and me picking up on a collective vibe rather than small quirky stuff happening?

How do you cope with TV performances,  looking down a camera lens and performing for an audience that may well be staring back blankly?
Yea the hardest part is the camera lens. If there is an audience is there I won’t accept that they are going to stare back blankly, I will produce something firecracker enough that they will be go bonkers. But that camera is no friends of mine. It’s kinda dead isn’t it.

When someone like Ellen invites you on her show is that an instant Yes response, or are there other factors that you consider?
Geography (laughs). I got invited to do it at a time when I was in America so it was easier than if I was in Europe. If not actually I would have turned it down because at that time America was not a focal point for me at all , and still isn’t…but it might be in the future.
I think for Americans, you know it’s broadcast every day, so I don’t think it’s that  big a deal.. well it might be.

I think it’s quite a big deal but I’m not American so can’t really comment..

I think it is totally bigger over here, in Norway. It certainly did more for me here than it did in America.

You just said that America was not really a focal point, is that for a particular reason or more about funding etc?
To be honest it’s to do with time. It’s more of a continent than a country it’s so huge. It would need a substantial amount of work and I like to do things properly when I first do things. I’m also a Dad, I have a son that’s two years old. I like the way things are going now. I do a sound-check and can call home and do a Skype thing. When I was in America, in LA, there was one hour in common awake time. It was hard to sustain family life.

You have said that Norway there is a lot of support and funding for music artists. What are the notable differences when you come to the UK?
The level of equipment in venues is the biggest difference. It’s always like clubs in Norway are part of a funding system where they are given A class gear. So in many ways Norway artists and bands are very spoiled from traveling in Norway because everything is top notch.We come to Britain and things don’t work, the Treble on the left side has gone for instance.. but hey you go for it. So that’s the main difference I think.

You recorded the Album in London, did you notice a direct impact from doing it here?

Well yeah, the language thing was a major factor, because with me speaking in English, having daily contact with the language, something I don’t have in Norway for obvious reason.Slight Cultural differences as well, but not much. All people after all. I think the language thing was the most important.

You wrote and collaborated with various people including Ed Harcourt. Was that your way of  showing that you miss the band days of jamming out ideas? Or do you simply enjoy the process of sharing ideas?
Yea, both I think. I enjoy the process of sharing ideas and I think working with Fred, Jimmy and Ed was a very fruitful process. Just tapping into someone else’s mind…and it was a sign of me being ready to open up to other people again after a time of being very self centered for a while. And at the same time doing so much solo stuff as I do spawns a need for playing with other people. I’ve done that over the summer, I brought a superciliously economically inefficient troupe of twelve people plus crew on tour. It’s been a blast, but I’ve lost tons of money.

Worth it though?

How do you cope with having to take criticism and taking on other people’s points of view?

I’m all over the spectrum. I throw tantrums, then I reel myself in, and realize they are probably right…and sometimes I realize I was right… and sometimes they do. It’s a mess. We get there in the end I hope!

Are you someone that looks back on the album and obsesses over things, pulling it apart and looking at things that you’d wish you’d done differently or can you accept the results and move on to the next?
I might move on to the next thing and not being necessarily happy about it. But what can you do, you released it? It’s almost like its not yours anymore, its someone else. It’s the audience’s album now, so you have to let things go you know.I mean it’s no use to think about what you could do different about an album you released two years ago. You have to move on and try and do a better job of it next time if you are not happy.

Despite working in the studio with other musicians and occasionally touring with a band, everything pretty much falls on your shoulders. How do you deal with the pressure of being a solo artist?
No it’s hard, but certainly I am able to deal with it. I’m not sure I may end up raving mad in a few years.. and in therapy. But at the moment I think I’m handling it. But good people have gone bonkers before.. you never know. I may end up driving a garbage truck!!

Considering the gadgetry you use and the way you work, how easy is it to write on the go? Can you record on your phone for example or do you have to make a concerted effort when you want to write?
More like a concerted effort. I have been ferociously shit at creating work while…It’s almost like using a different mold of thinking. I am also having to conserve all my energy on to tour to focus on the hour, hour and half on stage, and the rest of the time is rehearsing.
Im trying to combine the two worlds in a way. When working and not gigging it’s almost like I’m half human, and when I’m gigging and not working its almost like I’m the other half human. Its a very schizo process. Up till now its been the only its been able to work. I’m trying to improve.

Recently played on your Ipod?
Um, complete silence. I’ve been sick of music. I have that every now and then. The last thing I played was Van Morrison.

Best story from touring with Joe Cocker?
Dadadadada (thinking). I think it was the time he was spitting on a heckler of mine.The guy was sick of the support acts and was sick of spending any time on anything other than Joe cocker, who he had paid to see. He was directly in front of me and was shouting.. – something in a foreign language – laughs…which means ‘Fuck off’. I told Joe, and he said ‘I’ll spit on him while actively singing,’ and he did.

Person you’d most like collaborate with?

Lewis Taylor. I think it is highly unlikely as he is a reclusive spirit but if anyone can lure him out.

Guilty Pleasure?
I don’t have any. I am a open person. I think the concept is kind of strange, it implies that you like something that you think you really should not like. I can’t think of anything less Rock ‘n’ Roll than being ashamed of anything you like.

Something surprising about you that people may not know?

I am a great online pool player.

Do you have a name that we can search and find you?

Muhahaha, I do but I won’t tell!!

Would I be able to work it out? Is there a link to a song title or something?
Na, I don’t think so.

Cryptic hmmm… fine then
(Laughs heartily) It almost sounds like a guilty pleasure, but it isn’t it is just my private room..
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