Interview "Sweet revenge"

Article in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, published July 13. 2002



  An interesting article definitely worth reading if you don't know Norwegian. Therefore here an English translation of this interview.


The online Norwegian version can be found here: https://www.dagbladet.no/magasinet/sot-hevn/65821601
Translated by Dag Sirnes.

Sweet revenge

Silje Nergaard (36) has been ridiculed and taunted. Now she laughs all the way through Europe.

Newspaper Dagbladet  https://www.dagbladet.no/magasinet/sot-hevn/65821601

Text: Bernt Jakob Oksnes
Published Saturday, July 13, 2002

- I HAVE THEM IN MY HAND. They need this. I see that they need it. Silje Nergaard had seen it from the stage. She had seen them in their eyes. And caught them. It was late at night. She stood on the steps of the proud Ronnie Scott's Club. A jazz temple in Soho, London. She was discharged. Almost at the edge.

- I'll call you when I wake up, she said. SILJE NERGAARD HAS WAKEN UP. She sits down at the table. It is not late in the day, but she says: - I need a glass of white wine. Just to calm me down. The housewife and the jazz star are affected.

- Well, I'm struggling with this life. That's why I'm so hoarse today, too. I'm used to going to bed at eleven in the evening. I do not really fit into this jazz lifestyle at all. My good time is in the morning.

Then she empties her entire make-up bag across the table. The eyeliner, blush, mascara, lipstick, concealer and the pink eye shadow that matches the clothes. She has golden powder on her shoulders and on her neckline. Silje Nergaard looks in the small mirror.

She says: - I need some hints. So, do I have too much makeup? Just be honest.

- You are beautiful.

She has long since taken Norway. Now she is seriously in the process of sneaking into Europe as well. The album "At First Light" is out in 20 countries.

And Silje is back in London. The city that destroyed her. Which took from her the splendor and honor. Who killed her hope. She is back now, with husband, with daughter, with babysitter and with band. Ready to take revenge. The eyes are shiny and bright blue. White streaks in the red hair. Pink top and denim skirt. She is sugary as an 18-year-old. That's what she is.

- I turned 36 two days ago. I was on stage. You know what? I said I was 22 years old. I said so. There are probably some who believed it, she says and giggles. - It's so fun with fans like that. Young boys of 20 years. Some of the guys come behind (the stage) to have selfies. And yesterday a boy with a rose came to me. Wow!

IT IS SOON 20 YEARS AGO NOW. It was the evening of July 27, 1982. Silje Nergaard had just turned 16 years old. She had come by train to Molde, put up a tent at the campsite and entered the jazz festival illegally.

- I chatted myself into a jam. Said I was the wife of a Negro. I did not really intend to sing. But then I sat on the toilet, I sat there on the bowl and sang. And then there was a lady who knocked on the door and said that "you should go up on stage instead of sitting there". And then I went straight up on stage and sang. Then I was in a way discovered.

Jazz journalist Randi Hultin had sat in the hall and listened to the barefoot girl with the wavy blonde hair. The next day she wrote the story of the "vocal discovery": "Suddenly Silje was standing there with the microphone in her hand. Not hesitant, but glowing. ”

- Yes, but I failed to live up to their expectations. Because there sat these hard-boiled jazz guys with pipes and claimed that I should sing jazz. That was not really what was on my mind. I was more interested in Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell. And of writing songs. She had already managed to make her first. About a blind girl who sat on the carpet in a park and thread pearls.

SILJE NERGAARD WAS BORN in Steinkjer (not far from the city of Trondheim) in 1966. The teachers' parents had moved from Troms (county - north of Norway), they were weather refugees. And when they also got enough of Trøndelag (county), they ended up in Hamar. Silje was five years old. It was in the residential area by Holsjordet that the girl began to take shape.

- I quickly became restless. I became a dreamer of living there. It was so quiet and solid. I was a lot in the woods alone. Went for long walks and was an actor. I played a scene where one said he did not love the other. And then I started crying.

Someone once said of Silje Nergaard that "she hovers more in the atmosphere than usual for a Hedmark (county) person". She was an outcast. She had a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy. Had an unusually strong developed inner world. She was small and fragile and afraid of everything.

- I think I was a weirdo. I was a lot in my own world. But I was happy. Whether I sat and made dolls or skipping ropes machines or juice machines or thinking machines ...

- Thinking machines?

- Yes, if I did not know what I was going to do one day, then the answer came out of a cardboard box that told me what to play.

- Were you lonely?

- Well ... My big sister hated me. I was a real pain in the ass for her. She looked me in the eyes, very seriously, one day. She said: "Silje, none of my friends like you ..."

- You were pretty nerdy?

 - No, I was just creative. I thought everyone was childish at the time. I took responsibility myself. Cycled home during music lessons and played piano and composed. I was not interested in the boys in the class. I got my first kiss when I was 19, in fact.

- Who was it you kissed?

- His name was Bjarne. It was at a tram stop in Oslo.

SILJE NERGAARD HAD TAKEN THE DECISION. She had packed up, filled up her father's car and broken up from Hedmark. - I wanted to study music. And had to read a preparatory course. I gave up when they started with logic.

- There are many who stop there?

- Yes, but I attended the exam. Instead of answering, I wrote a letter to my old teacher in high school and explained why “I hereby end my studies. I have so much left to do, "I wrote.

She started by traveling around military bases in northern Norway and singing. - I made a living from it. Traveled around with a friend. The Blue Girls. Song for officers and crew. That was where I had my first encounter with alcohol. I started with eggnog.

- A nic start ...

- Yes, but they were some real tough guys up there. It went wild. - That's how I went around the country and along the coasts with different bands. This is no rosy path to choose. But I can not understand what else I should have done. I have chosen to follow my heart.

- You say that quite often?

- I have not had other options than the heart.

- You were a Christian once?

- Yes, once. But it's far from me now.

- Why have you moved wobbling like that?

- I was very open, went out into the world, just as naive. My parents were very worried about me. But it has really gone well. It was not me who had let my daughter travel in a miniskirt to New York to surprise some man I had met once casually.

SHE HAS BEEN SURROUNDED by men throughout her life. It's the boys who have become her friends. - The musician environment is a fairly male-dominated environment. I grew up in a very boyish everyday life. And I must admit that I thrive very well with boys.

The 36-year-old mature woman Silje Nergaard giggles. - I have my good girlfriends too. But not someone I can call every day. I've not had that kind of friendship since I was an adult.

- Isn 't that strange?

- There has been no room for that. But I always thought I would like to have someone I can call and share everything with.

She's quiet. - I need to be alone. There are people, imprints, information, and there are children, and there is so much. The time left after I have done this and that must be used to fill with a silence.

- What about boys you like?

- That ... they make me laugh. I like the directness. I can say things straight to them. It is becoming more and more important to be honest. It's not so easy to do all this small talk anymore. I try to be friendly all the time. But I'm not like that anymore. No, it has not been difficult for me to be a girl in this male society. Maybe it's because I compose. And because I've had some visions.

ONE EVENING IN 1996, the four-year-younger Heine Totland came running straight into her life. - I sang at Smuget. And I had just found out that I was going to make a record with only boy voices. The whole boys' choir was out that night. Heine was one of them. It was his birthday. It was a bit like everyone was going to charm me, but Heine gave the bluff. But then in the end he bought champagne for everyone. That was when I saw him. Afterwards, I enticed him to carry my synth four floors up. And ... then a week went by, and then he moved in.

The couple married twice in the summer of 1998. First in the Courthouse in Oslo to get the marriage approved. So in the Church of Sweden in Rome. The year before, Silje had given birth to Erle. They moved out of their apartment at Frogner and into a whitewashed house at ''Holtet garden town'' at Ekeberg in Oslo.

- Seven minutes by taxi to the airport train when you have a bad time. Seven and a half, says Silje.

- Seven and a half?

- Yes, I have taken the time. Perfect. It is very important not to live far away from the air train. When you already travel so much, you should not travel extra to travel.

- You chose a house because it was close to the airport train?

- No, there is good air there too.

THE HUSBAND PLAYS JUDAS at Sørlandet Theater this summer. To Silje, he is a figure of Jesus. - He has given me leeway space. He's not jealous either. It had not worked. Neither when it comes to being jealous that I'm with other guys nor jealous that I'm doing very well now. It shows strength to share someone else's success. And even though he too is on the steps to a career, he knows that now is my time.

IT WASN'T WE who started talking about ex-boyfriend Gerhard Helskog. It was her.

- We are neighbors now. Gerhard and I.

- What?

- Yes, we have children playing together and everything. We're fine.

- Are you having a coffee?

- Yes. I have a good relationship with my ex-boyfriends. According to my father, I have had an incredible number of boyfriends. I will not name them all. You have to go through these reletions. It has been all languages and all countries. I am in favor of trying a little before you commit.

- How many girlfriends, did you say?

- I do not know. But it was a driving force to be in love. It's a state of mind that is very inspiring to me.

- Have you never had a downturn on the road?

- Yes. Loss and defeat. But it is I who have broke up most times. I just have to move on. Fast. My life has not been A4. Going to work ... I admire everyone who does. What have I done? I've had a week at the bakery. Eddies bakery. I remember sitting on the tram in the morning with everyone else. Then I felt part of society. I never knew when money would arrive in the mailbox.


- You were on the verge of something big?

- Yes, I was kind of there.

Silje's debut single "Tell Me Where You're Going" quickly climbed up the English radio charts when it came out in 1990. It was also on the Top 100 sales list for 15 weeks. In Japan, they named wines after her. She was pictured on phone cards. On large walls. Silje Nergaard is sitting there now, she is sitting with her wine glass in Soho, and says that she is a little annoyed.

- I was a "nobody". The passion must be strong to bother being in such a vague industry. Where you can not trust people. It's a pretty immoral place to be, she says.

- I've had my shocks. I had a lot ... But they did not manage to keep "Tell Me Where You're Going" on the lists. And then they said that :  -  'Now you have to make a new "Tell Me Where You're Going" '. Then I got a write lock. I just heard  'hitsingle', 'hitsingle'  in my head.

Then it was over. The joy disappeared. She remembers those winter days where it looked darkest. It's now Silje comes with an admission: - I dressed up, put on my knitted hat, and then I walked around and bought my own single. Which had me on the cover. We drove around in a cold car, all over London. Every record sold was valid, to keep hope alive.

HOPE RUN OUT. But there was a change in Silje's life between 1996 and 2000. She did not release records, but she came out of her own thinking machine. She had seen the light. - There has been a commotion inside my head. But after I became a mother and had peace of mind, I realized that I was too playful and impulsive. Thus, I jumped over to the music I have always felt at home in, without being able to say exactly why it took so long to get there.

She had returned to jazz. Someone pointed out that "the unpleasant air pressure that had characterized her vocals in the past" was gone. That she «sang better as a mother». That she suddenly owned a "self-confidence that transformed the scene into her own playground." That her being finally cheers of self confidence. "Silje is a winner. She is an artist many in the music community have laughed at and yet others rejected as too easy for jazz and too strange for pop. Now she is taking a nice revenge, "wrote an Oslo newspaper.

- Success comes when you least expect it. It was a friend of mine who said that, it's been ten years now. I was offended, because I thought it had to come then. But he was right.

OCTOBER 9 LAST YEAR (2001) Silje Nergaard entered the VG list as number one. A jazz record had never topped the sales list in Norway before. - Number one. It has always been a foreign word to me. I sat and composed a waltz that morning. I was sitting in my nightgown. And then they called from the record company with the news. Then I thought, "OK, now I'm discovered." And then I continued to grease a packed lunch for Erle who was to have a day of hiking in the kindergarten.

But Silje Nergaard has always struggled. Norwegian record companies have said no and no to her. She has often thought, "Now it may be the end." But she has never really taken these nos so hard.

 - What I have never been able to get used to is that people do not respond. Or turn away. It's like ... She's stopping. - Yes, it's like someone who will break up with you and not really tell ... I have never accepted that attitude. I want a no, or a yes. If I'm not told, I'm going crazy.

Rumor has it that she was nominated for the Spellemann Prize (Norwegian Grammy Awards) this year only for commercial reasons - after the jazz jury had not found her worthy of a nomination. There are people in the innermost jazz community who believe that her music is by definition not real jazz. - I have never fitted any fixed style. I'm really proud of that. But I discovered something interesting when this was going on. That maybe it's so that not everyone wish me this. I experience many of my colleagues as very generous, but then I also realize that not everyone thinks this is well deserved. All right. They have the right to think so.

Says tender Silje, with the sensual breath in her voice. Who draws her own tonal scales in the air with her right hand while she sings.

IT IS SOME DAYS LATER THAT SILJE NERGAARD'S TAXI stops at Dagbladet. She has her daughter Erle in the back seat.

- I'll be gone for ten days this time. I'm going to Germany. Canada. Then Italy. And Spain. I do not know which country I'm in on Wednesday. I do not remember, but just call me.

And then we thought about what she said a few days before: - Having children is an enormous joy. But at the same time a twofold joy. Because you are always vulnerable to losing her or leaving her. Or that she's going to lose me. I have always carried a vulnerability inside me. But I have been strong-willed. Few others have been there on my behalf. I have felt a little alone. Even though I had someone who believed in me, they have dropped out because it has taken a long time to build something. People have not had time. Not until now.