Morten Myklebust is a young Norwegian man who does things simply and quietly. On the surface his songs seem standard singer-songwriter stuff, and perhaps they are in a way.
But they’re written and sung with such honesty and sweet charm that it’s the simplicity – of, for example, ‘She She’ and ‘Away’, from last year’s self-titled debut album – that makes them winning songs. With an appearance from Susanne Sundfør and playing with the likes of Fran Healy and Conor Oberst, it’s clear that Morten is in respected company. With a second album lined up for this year, we caught up with the Abildsø, Oslo native to find out a little more about how he got started, and what’s coming up.
What’s your musical background?
I remember my Mom sang and she played the guitar, so we had a guitar but I didn’t really pick it up until I was 16. But I was raised on cassette tapes in the car, mixtapes of mostly 60s and 70s folk and prog… very acoustic music mostly.
You began your musical education by writing for other people, so how did you go from that to making your own music?
It was basically something that happened by happenstance; my ex-girlfriend had a producer, I knew him. He was doing a project and he just called me to see if I wanted to write some lyrics for the artist he was working with, and then suddenly – because it’s such a small scene in a way – I was doing a little bit here, a little bit there, some of it got released and then I got called in on stuff. It’s not something I enjoy doing that much, but I figured I hadn’t released anything myself yet, so the possibility to be in a studio and get some experience was something I couldn’t really say no to.
So, after a home recorded, stripped-back first album, can we expect something different from the second Morten Myklebust record?
It’s pretty different for me, I don’t know how much it’s going to be for other people. It won’t be me recording it by myself; I’ll probably travel and do it. The last record was done in 2008 and it took a long time to release. Some of the songs I wrote in high school, so this time it’s over a shorter period of time.
Were those around you supportive when you wanted to take the songs you wrote and use them for your own career?
Yeah, I think so! I didn’t really share that much of it with people until it was done, and when it was done I didn’t release it for about three years! Generally people are positive but I mean everyone is more interested in what they’re doing themselves….apathetic positivity I guess!
Can we expect it to sound like your debut album?
I think it’s a continuation of that, sort of… well, the acoustic guitar and singing… but the sound is a departure in terms of I wanted it to have some friction, for it to be more sort of noisy without it ruining the record! So it’ll be acoustic guitars, but instead of some sweet romantic strings, I’ll see if I can make some friction with some fuzzy guitar pedals or something like that!
And you’ve written on the acoustic guitar again?
For about the last year now, pretty much all the writing has been on the acoustic, and once that’s done I’m playing over it with the electrics. It’s been 95% playing electric guitar the past year, which is something I can’t really do, but I’m learning!
Are there any records that have influenced the recording?
I was really late to more of the sort of avant-garde guitar players, and I’ve been listening a lot to the Stian Westerhus record. Basically the record is 45 minutes of him playing electric guitar, it’s crazy. I really like those dynamics, it’s like a Radiohead record with no singing…it’d be like a background noise for a whole Radiohead record.
Susanne Sundfør made an appearance on your first album, is she back for album number two?
She’ll probably be somewhere on the record, I’m sure. I might be going to Los Angeles to record the whole thing, and we’ve talked about her coming out and doing some arrangements and probably singing backing vocals. She’s pretty good!
How is playing live, is it something you enjoy doing?
Live playing gets more and more fun. It is still that feeling of terror right before the show but it is not as debilitating as before. Now it is more about exploring the songs, where before it was more about surviving the evening and just getting through the set. I always love the travelling though; I did my first gig in England supporting Susanne at St. Pancras Church a few months ago which was amazing.
Fran Healy of Travis has been very supportive of your career; how did you meet him?
I met Fran at a festival in Norway, Giske Festival; an amazing place. We hung out and then he invited me to support him at a gig in Berlin, then I ended up playing in his trio for the night.
You’ve also played a show with Conor Oberst recently…
Supporting Conor Oberst was surreal; he is synonymous with “singer/songwriter” and is somebody who has had an impact on a whole generation of songwriters. It was sort of the final boss of support gigs, very inspiring and strange just to be there, never saw him in person though.
And if you weren’t making music, what would you be doing with yourself?
If I didn’t play music I would probably want to be an author, or anything to do with language.