Silje's bio in brief
The Norwegian singer, songwriter and creative artist Silje Nergaard - roughly pronounced as: Sealjè Ner-guar - was born in Steinkjer on June 19. 1966, daughter of the teacher couple Hans Nergaard (1933) and Bodil Nilsskog (1935) who live in Hamar. Silje has an older sister Trude, with a background in journalisms and photography, since many years partner and video photographer of Metro Branding AS, a strategic communications agency. Silje lives with her family in Oslo.
In the eighties we see that Silje is busy writing and performing music from an early age. In addition to successes, it took a lot of time and perseverance to really break through in the end, even though Silje already attracted the attention of music lovers locally and nationally. In these years we also see her social involvement, which continues to this day.
Silje grew up in Hamar. At home she heard all sorts of music. Both her parents liked music very much and, as amateurs, father was playing the guitar, mother was singing. When Silje was ten years old she started taking piano lessons from a local pianist, after a few years of learning classical pieces by rote on the Schimmel piano in the living room. She was attracted to the music of singer/songwriters like Al Jarreau and Joni Mitchell.
In 1982, the year she started at the higher secondary school (Gymnas), Silje is increasingly performing at the musical level in Hamar. She started singing in the (Ten Sing) gospelchorus Praising, directed by Hans Jacob Torkildsen at that time, who appointed her to sing a solo latr that year. Approximately since September she was with the band HamJam, probably the first band she was in; the band was started up by Bjørn Sandnes, also original from Steinkjer. Silje joined HamJam as lead-singer till early fall 1984, when she started her Silje Nergård Band. Probably her first studio experience was when she was asked by Bertil Reithaug to sing along for the album Grenseland (Borderline) of the Krag Jørgensen Band, a formation from Hamar started just shortly before. The album was recorded in the autumn of 1982 in the Bel Studios in Oslo. .
From the beginning, Silje never wanted to get pinned down when it comes to a musical genre. She was eager to learn and took several courses. In November 1982 she attended a weekend workshop. She then formed a trio with two fellow students who called themselves Profil [Pofile] and with whom she occasionally performed in 1983 and 1984.
The year 1983 is special. In addition to performing with HamJam, Silje entered a regional vocalist competition that spring and she became the winner. As a prize, she was allowed to release a single (released in 1984). A ten-day course that summer from American singing teacher Dee Kohanna seems to have given Silje an extra push.... Later that month, on wednesday July 27. 1983, Silje was 17 years old at that time, the reporter Randi Hultin discovered her at Moldejazz, Norway's yearly international jazz festival, in the city of Molde at the northwest coast (see the line-ups for that year). Silje was just one of the many visitors at this festival, accompanied by a girlfriend. She joined an impromptu jam session on stage with pianist Delmar Brown from Jaco Pastorius' Word Of Mouth Band. Overnight she became famous in Norway by Hultins' article in the newspaper Dagbladet, entitled Sangfunnet Silje ('singing-discovery Silje').
image © Universal Music (Norway) 2007 - photo: Mathias Bothor
On December 5. 1983 Silje made her first TV appearance, in the recorded program Musikk landet rundt, participating in a Hamar jazz trio with Bård Slagsvold (piano) and Johannes Eik (acoustic bass). Silje sang the classic Lover Man, sung first by Billie Holiday, and her own ballad Radka, dedicated to the (female) singer Radka Toneff who died in 1982 at the age of thirty.
In 1984 her first single, called Silje, was released with the songs My Funny Valentine and One Of These Mornings. That year she also contributed (chorus) for the album Her Inne of the singer Greger. In June 1984 the Silje Nergaard Quintet debuted, with Silje Nergaard (vocals), Per Tomas Nygaard (el. bass), Stein Helseth (drums), Stig Lillehaug (keyboards) and Karl Erik Hedløv (guitar). Silje announced she will stop being vocalist in the band HamJam.
At the Norwegian preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1985 she was one out of ten performers with her song Si Det, Si Det. In the same year 1985, living in Oslo, the Silje Band was founded, after the summer they had several performances. Early in 1986 the band got a different name: Mellow Yellow, with Silje Negaard (vocal), Reidar Skår (keyboard), Nils E. Vinjor (guitar), Audun Erlien (bass) and Stein Inge Brækhus (drums); Stein replaced the previous drummer Ole Hamre, a member from the beginning of Silje Band.
Silje and Kristin Berglund (1953-2006) met musically in the autumn of 1985 in a joint project called Blue Girls of which at the start Reidar Skår also was part of, in 1986 replaced by Knut Reiersrud. In the second part of the eighties they performed several times, for instance for military men encamped in the north of Norway. The repertoire was varied and versatile. People like Elvis Costello, Memphis Minnie, Susanne Vega and Paul Simon were represented with songs, but self-written material also was included.
Since appr. 1987 from time to time Silje was singing in the Blue Tuesday Band (in short: BTB), the house band of Smuget in Oslo playing there every Tuesday. For instance Sigurd Køhn (saxophone) and Knut Reiersrud (guitar) played in this band in the years 1988-1989; Audun Erlien (bass) Per Kolstad (keyboard), Totto Hansen (drums) and Freddy Dahl (vocals and guitar) also played in this band.
After her single was released in 1984, Silje spent several years trying to release an LP, that had to be called ''New company''. This "Hot Project 2" with Hans Petter Gundersen, for which recordings took place at the end of 1984, seemed to have the best chance, but after being postponed several times, it ultimately proved unsuccessful. An attempt in Denmark also did not succeed. Not only was it hard work to release an album, but Silje also had to put in the necessary energy to get enough performances, which would also raise awareness in the music world.
In retrospect, Silje made a trip to New York at the end of 1987 that would lead her to the international breakthrough. She attended a concert by and from one of her heroes, the famous guitarist Pat Metheny, and after the concert handed him a demo of a song she had written for him. After his next concert a few days later he let Silje know that he found the song very good. At the beginning of 1988, when Metheny was in Oslo for two of his concerts at the start of a tour, Silje was promised that Metheny would play if this song would be released on Silje's first LP.
In 1988 Pat Metheny recommended her to producer Richard Niles (Silje's co-operation with Niles began in 1989), after Silje had given Metheney a demo of her song Tell Me Where You're Going she wanted him to play. Metheny and Niles knew each other well, because they both studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the early seventies. Pat Metheny agreed to play on the song, but on the condition they would come to Brazil to record it. Niles formed Lifetime Records with Graeme Perkins to release Silje's first single and Silje signed a contract to Lifetime. In August 1990 Silje and Lifetime were signed to a worldwide deal with the record company EMI. Silje went to the United Kingdom and made three albums with English songs: Tell Me Where You're Going (1990), Silje (1991) and Cow On The Highway (1993). Several singles were released with tracks from these albums. Besides in the UK her work was released mostly in Scandinavia and not to forget in Japan where she surprisingly became very popular. The single Tell Me Where You're Going for instance peaked in the UK at number 55 early 1991, but in Japan it was in no time a top-3 hit in 1990 in the J-Wave (Tokio Hot 100) chart, based on airplay. See the differences with the UK Chart.
By the way, don't mix her up with Silje Vige, also a Norwegian singer, coming up in 1993 ...
After four years in London she returned to Norway, where she began to sing in Norwegian and produced her own material on the albums Brevet (1995) and Hjemmefra (1996) released by the Kirkelig Kulturverksted. In spite of the language the album Brevet was spread widely in Japan. By the way, Silje composes many of her songs herself and therefore she is a member of NOPA, the Norwegian society of composers and lyricists. In December 1999 she recieved the Honorable Mention Prize for composing the song I Don't Want To See You Cry at the USA Songwriting Competition.
In the spring of 1998 Silje and Anita Skorgan started an a capella duo. Rita Eriksen and Marianne Antonsen joined them in the summer. In the beginning they only did some private gigs. When Silje started solo again, she stepped out of this quartet (1999) and they went on as a trio (later this woman's vocal group was named Queen Bees). At the end of the ninetees the Silje Trio (or: Silje, Stian, Strønen) started. This trio, with Stian Carstensen and Thomas Strønen, performed for sure till 2001 once in a while.
image © Universal Music (Norway) 2007 - photo: Mathias Bothor
In 2000 Silje returns to the international music scene after a four year break period. She had to reconsider her musical direction and used these years for instance for a survey of her vocal abilities. Since 1999 she was contracted by Universal Music. The album Port Of Call (2000), with several standard songs and a few songs of her own, brought here back at once in Norway. The album was in the Top-20 for twelve weeks. The next album, At First Light (2002), was even more successful. It became the best selling jazz album ever in Norway. From 2001 on she is touring around, mainly through Europe, becoming more an more known since. Her album Nightwatch (2003) again was a great succes: a platinum award status in Norway and within six month after the first release over 60.000 albums were sold.
At these three albums Silje is accompanied by the band formed by Tord Gustavsen, Harald Johnsen and Jarle Vespestad. The three musicans also perform as the Tord Gustavsen Trio and they released two albums during these years: Changing Places (Norway, January 2003) and The Ground (pre-release Australia/New Zealand, November 2004). Guest musicians often played as well in Silje's concerts and one of them, Bjørn Charles Dreyer, slipped into the Band. With a farewell tour in November and December 2005 in Germany Silje and her Band, joined by a string band, ended in this formation.
In 2004 Silje was awarded the prestigious honor 'Artist of the Year (2003)' at the Spellemannspris ceremonies, the Norwegian equivelant of the Grammies.
At the end of 2005 two compilation albums were launched: a best of her last albums, Be Still My Heart - The Essential, and a best of her first albums in the UK, The Lifetime Years, that was made by her former producer Richard Niles.
In November 2005 some new members entered the Silje Nergaard Band. Now Helge Lien is playing the piano/fender rhodes and Finn Guttormsen is on acoustic bass. Bjørn Charles Dreyer, playing guitar and pedal steel, already was a member of the Band since 2004, being a regular guest member in the years before, and finally Jarle Vespestad still playing the drums. The first album with the new Band, recorded in the spring of 2006, is called Darkness Out Of Blue and was released in Norway on February 26. in 2007.
In the summer of 2007 Bjørn Charles Dreyer left the Band. Since than band members are:
Helge Lien, keys
Finn Guttormsen, bass, dobro
Håvard Bendiksen, guitars / substitutes: 1: Børge Petersen Øverleir, 2: Hallgrim Bratberg
Jarle Vespestad, drums / substitute: Torstein Lofthus
In november 2007 Silje was hounered with the Dutch Edison Jazz Vocal Award for the album Darkness Out Of Blue. At the Edison Gala Silje was singing two songs with the Metropole Orchestra. Silje and this Orchastra were co-operating in two projects. One of them was the making of the album A Thousand True Stories, recorded in August 2008, released in Norway on February 9. 2009. In 2009/2010 (part of) the Orchestra and Silje did some concerts together. Another project Silje is participating in is from Danish Radio Big Band and is called Scandinavian Singers ('Nordiske jazzdivaer'), with Cæcilie Norby from Danmark, Rigmor Gustafsson from Sweden and Silje from Norway. The three recorded a CD in October of 2008 - released in Danmark in March 2009 - and they performed with this Big Band in Danmark early 2009.
In 2010 and 2011 Silje mainly is touring with two guitarists (Silje Nergaard Trio), bringing 'An intimate evening with Silje'. Silje, accompanied by Hallgrim Bratberg and Havar Bendiksen, was singing songs from her albums and some other songs. Already in 2009 the Trio was on stage once in a while.
On November 12. 2010 Silje released her first Christmas album in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with four songs composed by Silje herself and eight covers: If I Could Wrap Up A Kiss.
In December 3. 2010 Vince Mendoza was nominated for a Grammy (2010) in the category Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for his arrangement of the song "Based On A Thousand True Stories" for the Metropole Orchestra, as recorded on the album A Thousand True Stories.
In March 2012 the album Unciouded was released. On this album Silje can be heard with the two guitarists Hallgrim Bratberg and Havar Bendiksen where she was touring with (Silje Nergaard Trio), and some guest musicians. Silje is touring in some European countries and of course in Norway in 2012. An Asian (Korea) tour is announced for October 2013. On October 14 the short film 'Unclouded', made by the New York film director Steven Lippman, was presented at the Oslo Museum of Contemporary Art; the film was part of the exhibition'I Wish This Was A Song'.
In June 2014 recordings for the new album took place. On this album Silje will be joined again by Håvar Bendiksen and Hallgrim Bratberg. Former basist Audun Erlien and drummer Anders Engen will also accompany Silje. Engen produced the album. Bendik Hofseth and Arve Hendriksen are guest musicians. Singers from the former vocal ensemble Gli Scapoli will contribute with an arrangement written by Vince Mendoza. The album was released (international) in March 2015 and includes one cover song (from A-ha).
In March 2017 the studio recordings were finished for the album For You A Thousand Times. A new studio band was formed with: Andreas Ulvo (keyboard/piano), Audun Erlien (bass), Sidiki Camera (percussion), Wetle Holte (drums/percussion), Mathias Eick (trupmet), Håkon Aase (violin) and Håkon Kornstad (saxophone). The album was released internationally on October 13. that year, after publishing three e-singles.
In 1998 Tom Garretson (WildStar) became Silje's manager and his co-operation with Silje ended in January 2004. Some months Continental A/S took over, followed in the autumn that year by Pernille Torp-Holte (Unit). Since the summer of 2010 Pernille Torp-Holte left Unit and started up Heartbeat Management, from where she still is Siljes manager. In 2019 Backstage management & produksjon took over. All managers were/are from Oslo.
In the summer of 1998 Silje married the singer Heine Totland (1970), from Bømlo, for instance known from the Norwegian male choir Gli Scapoli (later the group State), his touring with Gisle Børge Styve and his role in musicals like Les Miserables and Mamma Mia!. In October 2005 he launched his solo album, in May 2009 his second album The Sunny Side was released. The family was extended with two doughters, Erle (1997) and Karla (2003), and in 2013 the couple adopted a four year old son called Jonah, born in Etheopia. In August 2022, the couple announced that they are separating.
Silje and her husband Heine Totland singing at Gule Galleriet in
at the opening of the exhibition from their friend Per Tollefsen (July 23. 2007)
Note: Per Tollefsen is/was with Silje's sister Trude; they had a child in 1997.
image © www.istavern.no 2007 - photo: Tor Kristensen
March 2009: Silje with her children Karla (5) and Erle
prior to the perfermance of Heine Totland as Harry in the musical Mamma Mia!
image © http://www.noblad.no/ 2009 - photo:
When you have additional information or corrections, please let me know!