Today is the release day of Lars Jakob Rudjord's new single "Pharos", which is first musical sign after his critically acclaimed LP "Indiepiano" (2016). The Norwegian pianist and composer is currently working on many new compositions and is going to release in the upcoming months other singles. In this week, I had the chance to chat with him about his personal and musical background. So enjoy this interview here!
What is your musical background and when did you start with composing your own music?
I come from a music and art interested family, and grew up listening to my mother playing Bach and directing choirs. I started out taking piano lessons as a kid, but was actually not that interested. Then, when I was around 15, I got this enormous kick on a piece by Edvard Grieg, and started to practice classical music for real. I played in a rock band at the same time with my friends, and we wrote our own songs. I have been composing my own music since then, but became more serious about it when I took my degrees, first Musicology at the University in Oslo and then jazz piano at the Norwegian Academy of Music.
Originally, you are from the beautiful Southwest coast of Norway. Would you say that the sea, your „windswept hometown“ and all the fjords are some of the most important inspirational sources for your music?
My music is inspired by a lot of different impulses. The nature and fjords here are very important to me, but I consider them even more an inspiration in life in general. Watching the horizon, walking in wild nature and feeling the weather (both winter storms and warm summer days) on your skin, helps me clear my mind in some way. I think my affection for this area is often reflected in my music, although in a more general manner.
Your father Reidar Rudjord is also a very creative mind and is known for his landscape paintings. So how much do your father and his work shaped your music?
My father was always searching for the right colors, the right mood and the right «story» in his pictures. He enjoyed creating, and always believed in working hard to make his paintings better. Although we never actually discussed this so much, I think that his way of thinking about art and creativity has influenced me a lot.
Collaborating with other musicians/artists is such a wonderful thing. So can you tell us more about your previous work with artists like the Norwegian singer Ingvild Koksvik?
Yes it is! Ingvild is my most important musical collaborator. Fortunately, she is also my wife! We first started playing together a while after we became a couple, and have been writing songs together ever since. I am usually in the band for Ingvild’s shows, and we have been touring a lot in Norway and Europe. We run our own label Fyrlyd Records together, and pretty much collaborate in some way on everything. We have a studio and office in the ground floor of our house, and when we are not traveling, we usually spend time there working on music. We are a strong team, and I find it very inspiring to create music together. I usually also turn to Ingvild for feedback and input on my instrumental songs. Being two artists in the same household, it’s really great to have someone in the other end that just understands everything!
How would you describe your compositional process?
This depends a lot on what kind of project I am writing for. But for my own instrumental songs, very often the ideas comes from sitting down at my piano and just play until something that seems like a good idea appears. I often start with chord progressions or a rhythmical pattern and then try to shape a melody around it. Sometimes I start with a melody and then build chords around it. I often scribble down ideas on paper or record them on my phone to remember them. Usually, I start recording and producing at an early stage, as I think the production is an important part of the composition itself. Some songs are completed quite fast and some songs I can work on for months and years.
On which pianos did you record your albums and the latest single „Pharos“?
My first album «Clockwork» was recorded in a beautiful studio called IsitArt, in the deep Swedish woods, and they have a nice, old Bechstein grand piano. I went to New York and Studio G Brooklyn to record Indiepiano, and for the acoustic pianos we used a really old but very good Bösendorfer grand piano, and, I think, a Samick upright piano. And then there are a lot of vintage keyboard instruments, like Hohner Clavinet D6, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and an analogue rack synth controlled by joystick. For «Pharos», I used a white(!) Yamaha LU201C upright.
What are other key essentials things for you in the studio and what software do you use for editing?
Black coffee is very essential. I am infected with a bad hoarding disease when it comes to keyboard instruments and my studio is quite filled up. But I think that besides my Mason & Hamlin grand piano from 1920, my 1960’s Phillips Philicorda transistor organ is the most used piece of gear. I often use it for subtle pads and usually send it through my RE-301 tape echo. And since a while ago I have been using a Novation Bass Station II for all bass sounds. Besides those I don’t really have any key essential instruments that I always use, but like to experiment and try new things.
For recording, producing and editing I have always used Logic Pro 9. I learnt everything in Logic, and feel so acquainted with it that I never considered trying other DAWs.
„Pharos“ is your first piece since your album „Indiepiano“ (2016). What can we expect from an upcoming EP or album?
For now, I am planning to release new music more often, and there will be a series of single songs coming this year, and maybe even an EP. There is a new album planned next year, and I started writing songs for it.
You are going to play some live shows in this year in Norway and Germany. What do you like most about touring?
I am very fond of traveling. I love airplanes and airports, and I also like cars, driving and autobahns. It is nice to get out and see new cities and areas, and I think it is inspiring to meet new people. But I think the thing I like most about touring is going on stage and creating something special together with the other musicians and the crew, and being in this special situation where you play music that means something to the audience.
Last but not least, I have some "either/or" questions for you. Let’s start.
Philip Glass or Keith Jarrett?
Live shows or studio sessions?
„All Melody“ or „Spaces“
All Melody. Although «Felt» is my all-time favorite.
Small town or metropolis?
Small town, given that you get to go to a metropol every once in a while!
Vinyl or music streaming?
I use both a lot and think they both have nice qualities.
Analogue vs Digital in Music Production?
I believe in a healthy combination of the two. What matters is that the music sounds great!
Summer or winter in Norway?
Summer, by far! I’m not much of a winter guy.
Thank you very much for the interview, Lars!