THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SUSANNE SUNDFOR.
The Life and Times Of Susanne Sundfør,
Although Susanne Sundfør only embarked upon a musical career in 2005, the thirty-three year old is already one of Norway’s most successful singer, songwriter and producers. Her last four studio albums have topped the Norwegian charts, including her fifth album Music For People In Trouble which was released in 2017. Music For People In Trouble sees the rise and rise of Susanne Sundfør continue.
Susanne Aartun Sundfør was born on the ’19th of March 1986, in Haugesund, in Norway. Her grandfather is the academic, theologian and linguist Kjell Aartun. However, it was neither religion nor languages that Susanne Sundfør became interested in growing up. Instead, it was music.
By the age of six, Susanne Sundfør was already taking music lessons.Initially, Susanne Sundfør played the tambourine and sang. This however, piqued her interest and by the age of eight, she started to play the violin. A year later, nine-year old Susanne Sundfør started to take piano lessons. When she was twelve Susanne Sundfør started to take singing lessons. While music was playing an important part in Susanne Sundfør’s life it was still a hobby. She wasn’t spending every waking minute practising.
Things would change when Susanne Sundfør attended a music high school, and the next part of her musical education began. Despite her musical background, when Susanne Sundfør left high school, she didn’t study music at university. Instead, she studied English and Art at the prestigious University of Bergen. However, by 2005, nineteen year old Susanne Sundfør’s musical career began.
English singer-songwriter Tom McRae was about to embark upon a tour of Norway in 2005, and was looking for a support act. Susanne Sundfør was chosen, and each night his Norwegian tour, she opened for Tom McRae. This was the break that Susanne Sundfør had been looking for, and launched her nascent career.
In 2006, Susanne Sundfør headed out on tour with the Norwegian alternative rock band Madrugada. Each night, she joined the band when they sung their 2005 single Lift Me. It started life as a duet with singer Ane Brun, but was transformed with the addition of Susanne Sundfør. The experience she gained touring with Madrugada was vital, as Susanne Sundfør’s thoughts turned to her solo career.
Later in 2005, Susanne Sundfør released her debut single Walls in November. It reached number three in the Norwegian charts and in the process, launched Susanne Sundfør’s solo career.
Sixteen months later, and Susanne Sundfør was signed to Warner Norway, and was preparing to release her eponymous debut album. It featured eleven songs penned by Susanne Sundfør. These songs were produced by Geir Luedy, and featured a band that included some top Norwegian musicians including Morten Qvenild, who played synths and autoharp on Susanne Sundfør album of folk pop.
When Susanne Sundfør was released on the ‘19th’ of March 2007 to praise and plaudits. It entered the Norwegian charts and climbed all the way to number three. The album which Susanne Sundfør described as: “folk inspired” alum showcased a truly talented singer-songwriter who had a great future ahead of her.
Just under two years later, Susanne Sundfør returned with her first live album Take One on the ‘10th’ of March 2008. Susanne Sundfør hadn’t been planning to release an acoustic album, but her legion of fans wanted to hear the songs on her eponymous debut album in their original form. They remembered Susanne Sundfør playing the songs live, with just a piano for company and wanted a reminder of these days.
Susanne Sundfør decided that seen there was demand for a live album, that she would record and then release an album of acoustic versions from her eponymous debut album. The only change that was made was Morocco was omitted, and replaced by an Interlude which knitted the album together. With just a piano or guitar for company, Susanne Sundfør worked her way through the eleven tracks on Take One.
Take One was produced by Susanne Sundfør and Geir Luedy, and was released by the Bergen based label Your Favorite Music. On the ‘10th’ of March 2008, Take One was released and reached thirty-two in the Norwegian charts. It gave Susanne Sundfør’s fans a reminder of her early days when she was starting out as a singer. By then, she was already thinking about her sophomore album.
Another two years passed before Susanne Sundfør returned with her much-anticipated sophomore studio album The Brothel on the ‘15th’ of March 2010. It featured ten new songs, with Susanne Sundfør writing nine and writing As I Walked Out One Evening Lars Horntveth. These ten songs became The Brothel, were Susanne Sundfør changed direction musically.
With a band that featured many of Norway’s leading musicians, including Jørgen Træen, Gard Nilssen, Morten Qvenild and Helge Sten whose vocal features on six tracks. He and the rest of this multitalented and versatile band and producer Lars Horntveth help Susanne Sundfør reinvent her music. Gone was the piano driven folk pop, to be replaced by a much ambitious fusion of art-folk and electronic music. This new sound marked the start of new era for Susanne Sundfør.
Critical acclaim accompanied the release of The Brothel, which was hailed as an ambitious and innovative album. When it was released by EMI Norway, it reached number one and was certified platinum. This wasn’t the end of the success for Susanne Sundfør.
Later when the nominations for Spellemannprisen, which are seen as the Norwegian Grammy Awards were announced, Susanne Sundfør had been nominated for two categories. Susanne Sundfør was nominated for the Best Lyrics and Best Composer. When the winners were announced, Susanne Sundfør won a Spellemannprisen for the Best Composer. This was a huge honour, and rounded off the most successful year of Susanne Sundfør’s career.
A Night At Salle Pleyel.
Having enjoyed the most successful year of her career, Susanne Sundfør was kept busy during 2011. She was the guest vocalist on the title-track to Nils Petter Molvær’s 2011 album Baboon Moon. Susanne Sundfør was also commissioned to record a live instrumental album for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Jazzfestival.
The remit for what became A Night At Salle Pleyel was that Susanne Sundfør had to write forty-four minutes of music. Apart from that, Susanne Sundfør was free to use whatever instruments she wanted. Initially, she decided to write a piece for a string quartet. However, midway through writing the piece, Susanne Sundfør changed her mind and it became a piece for five synths.
When the commissioned piece was written, it was recorded at Sentrum Scene, in Oslo, Norway on the ‘18th’ August 2008. Joining Susanne Sundfør on stage were four other synth players, including Ådne Meisfjord, Morten Qvenild, Øystein Moen and Christian Wallumrød. They stood behind banks of synths and played six Movements that lasted forty-seven minutes.
Three months later, and A Night At Salle Pleyel was released on EMI Norway on the ‘18th’ November 2008. A Night At Salle Pleyel was Susanne Sundfør’s second live album, and hailed as ambitious fusion of electronic, experimental and classical music. It also showed another side of Susanne Sundfør, who was a versatile and talented musician. However, this side of Susanne Sundfør’s music was one she has decided to keep separate from her solo career which resumed in 2012.
The Silicone Veil.
Two years after the release of her number one, platinum certified and award-winning album The Brothel, Susanne Sundfør returned with The Silicone Veil, which was her third studio album, and fifth album overall. It featured ten songs penned by Susanne Sundfør which showcased her talent and versatility as a singer, songwriter and producer.
When Susanne Sundfør recorded The Silicone Veil at the Pooka Studio and Kikitépe Tearoom Studio, once again, she co-produced the album with Lars Horntveth. It was her most eclectic album that took as a starting point electro-folk and incorporated elements of art pop, baroque, dream pop, Scandinavian electronica, synth pop and even a hint of baroque pop. Given the eclecticism of The Silicone Veil, Susanne Sundfør got the opportunity to showcase her full and impressive vocal range. Whether it was on orchestrated arrangements, or against an electronic backdrop Susanne Sundfør breathed life, meaning and emotion to life the lyrics to her ten compositions. They looked at a wide range of subjects which Susanne Sundfør described as: “apocalypse, death, love and snow.” They found favour with critics when The Silicone Veil was released.
The Silicone Veil was scheduled for release on the ’23rd’ of March 2012. It was Susanne Sundfør’s first album to be released in Britain, where it was hoped her music would find a new and wider audience. Before that, critics had their say on The Silicone Veil. They were won over by The Silicone Veil, which was regarded as her finest hour.
That was no surprise, given the carefully crafted, genre-melting arrangements, and lyrics that approached and challenged such a wide range of subjects. Susanne Sundfør wasn’t afraid to deal with subjects that lesser artists would’ve shied away from. That wasn’t Susanne Sundfør’s style. She was made of sterner stuff and wrote cerebral, engaging and thought-provoking lyrics that she delivered with a mixture of confidence, boldness and emotion. The music on The Silicone Veil veered between melancholy and wistful, but was beautiful, imaginative and playful. Sometimes, Susanne Sundfør sung of romance and intrigue during cinematic songs that painted pictures. Without doubt, The Silicone Veil was one of Susanne Sundfør’s finest albums.
It was no surprise that when The Silicone Veil was released on the ’23rd’ of March 2012 the album reached number one in the Norwegian charts. This was Susanne Sundfør’s second consecutive number one album. She hoped that two would become three when she returned with her third album Ten Love Songs.
Ten Love Songs.
Not long after the release of The Silicone Veil, Susanne Sundfør began writing her fourth studio album which later, became Ten Love Songs. Originally, Susanne Sundfør intended to write an album that dealt with the subject of violence. However, just like when Susanne Sundfør was writing the common A Night At Salle Pleyel, the album became something very different.
After spending some time in New York where she tried to write songs for what became Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør returned home. It hadn’t been a successful trip, and she had little to show for her time spent in the Big Apple.
Now at home in Oslo, Susanne Sundfør began to write the songs that would feature on Ten Love Songs. Before long, she noticed two themes developing…love and relationships. By then, Susanne Sundfør had decided to head in a different direction musically. This was only part of the story as Susanne Sundfør changed direction again.
Ten Love Songs would be a much more pop orientated album. This required Susanne Sundfør to write in a different way. She knew the songs would have to be much more repetitive and have a different and more direct musical and lyrical structure. This was very different to her previous studio albums. This however, wasn’t the only change Susanne Sundfør was about to make.
Having written Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør was determined to involve herself in every aspect of making an album. She wanted to involved not just in the production, but the recording, orchestration, editing and mixing Ten Love Songs. This was a huge amount of work. However, Susanne Sundfør knew this and wanted to know more about how the album was recorded.
Recording of Ten Love Songs took place between 2012 and 2014, and just like previous albums, Susanne Sundfør was joined by some of Norway’s top musicians. Two of the recordists that worked on the album were Jørgen Træen and Morten Qvenild, who were both talented musicians who had worked with Susanne Sundfør on previous albums. Co-producing the album was Susanne Sundfør was Lars Horntveth. However, Susanne Sundfør bought different producers onboard to work on different tracks, including Anthony Gonzalez, Jonathan Bates and Röyksopp. As a result, other sessions took place in America and France. By late 2014, Ten Love Songs was completed and Susanne Sundfør had been involved with every part of the music making process. She was exhausted, but it had been a rewarding learning experience.
With Ten Love Songs completed, Warner Music Norway scheduled the release of the album for the ’16th’ of February 2015. By then, nearly three years had passed since 16 February 2015 Susanne Sundfør had released an album. Her legion of fans eagerly awaited Susanne Sundfør’s fourth solo album Ten Love Songs. So did critics.
Critics were greeted with an album that had two main themes. However, there was more to Ten Love Songs than love and relationships. Instead, the album death with extremes of love and violent hatred. That hadn’t always been Susanne Sundfør’s concept for the album.
Two of the songs, Accelerate and Trust Me had been written before the release of The Silicone Valley in March 2012. These two songs were meant to be the focus of the album, which was meant to revolve around scenarios that included statues, buildings and weaponry. However, when Susanne Sundfør wrote Fade Away that was the turning point.
After that the album’s central themes were said to be love and relationships. This Susanne Sundfør clarified: “the lyrics are never really about the topic of “love” that was “corny” at the time of its release, but rather the extreme topics about sex and violence that was discussed in the media.” Ten Love Songs was in reality an album about extremes of love and violent hatred. As a result, there’s a darkness to the music as Susanne Sundfør deals with loss, grief and even the compulsive nature of love. These were subjects many songwriters were afraid to deal with and many of Susanne Sundfør’s fans had experienced. These lyrics were delivered against another eclectic album.
While Ten Love Songs was described as a pop oriented album, it featured a myriad of different musical genres and influences. Everything from art pop, baroque pop, EDM, electro pop, electronica, Europop, industrial, Italo disco, synth pop and a much more experimental pop sound was incorporated on Ten Love Songs. Given the subject matter of Ten Love Songs, there’s a cold, almost bleak sound to some songs. This works and bring a sense of reality to the cinematic lyrics. On some songs, there’s an eighties influence partly because of the synths and drum machines used. Other songs are irresistibly catchy including the Europop of Kamikaze and the EDM of Silencer. These tracks grab the listener’s attention straight away, and like Fade Away, Delirious and Accelerate were radio friendly. Susanne Sundfør had also written an album that critics received critical acclaim and was called one best albums of 2015. It also found favour with Susanne Sundfør’s many fans.
When Ten Love Songs was released, it topped the Norwegian charts, and was certified gold. Ten Love Songs was Susanne Sundfør’s third consecutive studio album that had reached number one in Norway. In Sweden, Ten Love Songs reached number forty-seven and seventy-eight in Britain. Susanne Sundfør’s music was starting to find a much wider and appreciative audience. They would welcome Susanne Sundfør’s fifth studio album Music For People In Trouble when it was released.
Music For People In Trouble.
Buoyed by three consecutive number one albums in Norway and a gold disc for Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør decided to begin work on her fifth studio album, and seventh album overall, Music For People In Trouble. It marked another stylistic departure for musical chameleon Susanne Sundfør.
By the time work began on Music For People In Trouble, she had recovered from the making of Ten Love Songs. After the album was completed, Susanne Sundfør was exhausted, anxious, suffering from flu and depressed. However, after some rest and recuperation, and some time travelling the world and had experienced life everywhere from North Korea to the Amazon jungle. After her adventures,
Susanne Sundfør was ready to write and record her fifth album Music For People In Trouble. It was going to be a very different album to its predecessor Ten Love Songs.
Music For People In Trouble was a much easier album for Susanne Sundfør to write. She later said it was the easiest album to write since her 2007 eponymous debut album. Inspiration for the album came from Part of the inspiration for Music For People In Trouble
was Susanne Sundfør’s travels and two books she read during the time she spent writing the album. This included Lawrence M. Krauss’ A Universe From Nothing and Robert Bly’s anthology of poetry News Of The Universe, which was food for thought for Susanne Sundfør.
Some of the songs were written as Susanne Sundfør sat in bed, in her home in Dalston, East London. These were what Susanne Sundfør later called “guitar songs.” After this, Susanne Sundfør headed to Los Angeles where she wrote another two more songs, Good Luck Bad Luck and No One Believes In Love Anymore. Just like the songs that she had written in London, the songs came easy to Susanne Sundfør. They seemed to flow through and out of her as she surveyed the world around her. With two new songs written, Susanne Sundfør returned to London, where she penned Mountaineers. However, Susanne Sundfør’s travels weren’t at an end and she headed to Woodstock, in the outskirts of New York where she wrote Bedtime Stories in a log cabin. The final song that Susanne Sundfør wrote for Music For People In Trouble was The Golden Age, which she recorded with the help of her longterm collaborator Jørgen Træen.
They set out to record a very different album to Ten Love Songs. it saw Susanne Sundfør return to her roots, on album that married art pop and folk. Music For People In Trouble featured stripped back, understated and spartan arrangements, that eschewed the synths and technology of previous albums. By then, Susanne Sundfør admitted she was: “tired of technology”: I wanted to feel like I was a musician again. But also, what I wanted to say needed something organic to convey it.” To create that organic sound, a piano, flute, clarinet and acoustic guitar joined a rhythm section that featured a double bass. Susanne Sundfør was going on an odyssey back to her roots.
Recording of Music For People In Trouble, which was co-produced by Susanne Sundfør and Jørgen Træen, took place at a number of studios. This included Duper Studio, Bergen; NRS Recording Studio in Catskill, New York; Tropical Hi-Fi Studio; Bella Union Studios; Amper Tone Studio and Propeller Music Division, in Oslo. Joining Susanne Sundfør were some talented and versatile musicians. They were occasionally augmented by samples, found sounds and electronic textures. Susanne Sundfør said they: ”take the songs into experimental territory,” such as “trickling water sounds, wiry bleeps and animal peeps.” Some of these were inspired by, and reminded Susanne Sundfør of her recent travels. Other sounds ranged from dry and industrial, to innocent and romantic and played their part in what was a personal, poignant and powerful album from Susanne Sundfør.
Susanne Sundfør’s fifth studio album saw her marry art-pop and folk with avant-garde, country, electronica, experimental, folk, industrial, jazz, musique concrète on Music For People In Trouble. It was a very different album from Ten Love Songs, and another album of grownup music. This was what Susanne Sundfør excelled at. She was a storyteller par excellence who neither shied away from uncomfortable subjects nor controversy on her albums of cerebral and thought-provoking music. That was the case with Music For People In Trouble.
When Music For People In Trouble was released, it went straight to number one in Norway. This was Susanne Sundfør’s fourth consecutive number one album. After a few weeks, Music For People In Trouble had reached 124 in Belgium and ninety-three in Britain. However, an album of the quality of Music For People In Trouble was destined to climb the charts.
Just like Susanne Sundfør’s previous albums, Music For People In Trouble was a carefully crafted album of genre-melting music that featured cerebral and thought-provoking music. It asks a series of questions, and deals with a variety of scenarios and subjects. Some of them will ring true with those that buy the album. They’ll have suffered the same hurt and heartbreak, or feel the same way about love or romance. Similarly, The Sound Of War brings home the seriousness of the current situation, where two megalomaniacs could bring about World War III and oblivion for large parts of the world. Elsewhere on Music For People In Trouble, Susanne Sundfør embarks upon musical experiments, as she embraces avant-garde. This is all part of another album of ambitious and innovative genre-melting album from Susanne Sundfør.
Since releasing her critically acclaimed eponymous debut album, Susanne Sundfør has continued to flits between and fuse musical genres and influences. The result are albums that are quite different as the chameleon-like singer-songwriter continues reinvents her music. It’s a case of expect the unexpected from Susanne Sundfør.
Her more recent album Music For People In Trouble was her most accomplished and gave her fourth consecutive number one studio album in her native Norway. Despite that, Susanne Sundfør is still a relative unknown in Britain and America. However, if this truly talented singer-songwriter continues to release albums of ambitious, atmospheric, beautiful, cinematic, emotive, enchanting and genre-melting music, then commercial success will come her way on both sides of the Atlantic. Especially if Susanne Sundfør continues to release diverse albums where piano led ballads sit side-by-side with epics and more experimental songs that showcase one of Norway’s top singer-songwriters who consistently releases albums of personal, poignant and powerful music.
The Life and Times Of Susanne Sundfør,