Nive Nielsen: Stemmen Fra Grønland

Nive Nielsen er fra Grønland. Hun debuterte med singlen ”Room” og fulgte opp med fullengderen Nive Sings! i 2010. Plata ble innspilt i Montreal, Bristol, San Francisco, Gent, Tucson og hjemme i Nuuk, og laget i samarbeid med Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), John Parish, Eric Craven (Hangedup, Godspeed You Black Emperor), Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) og Arlen Thompson (Wolf Parade) – for å nevne noen.

Nive, what can you tell us about the song ”Room”?

– ”Room” is the first song I ever wrote. My boyfriend Jan De Vroede gave me a little red ukulele when I was studying in Canada. He thought I needed a hobby. I goofed around on it a little bit, and all of a sudden I hade made this song. It just gulped out. When Jan came to visit and I played it to him – really shy cause I never sang in front of anyone – he was real surprised. And I decided to learn how to record cause he loved it.

– A bit later, during Christmas holiday, I was back home up north in Greenland, and we recorded my voice and uke. Then Jan went to visit some of his friends in Montreal and got the idea of fleshing Room out by adding some stuff during a sleepless night with his pal. The next day it was done!

What’s it about?

– It’s about longing. And missing. It’s rather personal. I used to play it over and over in my room in Canada, missing home and my boyfriend and kinda singing myself asleep. That’s why it’s called Room. Every time I play it, and we played it a lot since that time, I can vividly see and feel that room in Canada again. And I’m so happy I’m not there anymore, but travelling and playing and living little adventures. Yay!

Could you present yourself for our Norwegian readers. Who’s Nive?

Ha… well, I come from Nuuk, Greenland. I’m an Inuk, an Eskimo. When I was a kid, I wanted to become an adventurer, yknow, like an explorer. I thought that was a real job. Playing music comes pretty close – I get to travel, see the world, meet people. That’s real important to me. Greenland is so far away from everything else. I love it there – it’s where my house is. But I also need interaction, input, experiencing new stuff.

– I studied anthropology. Make documentary films – there’s that exploring thing again. I’ve acted, too – even in Hollywood, with Colin Farrell. Adventures, yknow!

– Music is what I love most though. I really really enjoy sitting down and feeling the songs grow in my head. I love messing around with my pals, arranging them, trying to get a feel for what that specific song wants. I hope I get to play and travel for a loooong time!

How’s the environment for your kinda music on Greenland?

There’s not really a scene in Greenland, let alone different scenes. There’s a lot of music, but very little of it gets out to the rest of the world. There’s not really any record stores; and up until real recently the internet was so slow that just streaming a song took forever. So, unless you travel or have music loving friends abroad it’s hard to be exposed to non-mainstream music. It’s hard to get your hands on old or used gear, too – Jan fixes amps and pre’s and mics and old synths we collect when travelling so that we can play around with old and weird instruments. There’s little of that in Greenland. There’s no visiting bands either – or none to speak of. It’s pretty isolated.

So you’re ‘one of a kind’ over there?

– What I do in Greenland is unheard of – I’m really the first “indie” musician there. I was real afraid of what my friends would think about my songs – there’s not much back home that resembles what I’m doing. But as it turned out, everybody is really supportive and very very proud that there’s one of us who gets to play around the world!

What has been your major musical influences during the years?

– Oh, there’s been many. Definitely Giant Sand. JJ Cale. Old blues records. The Clean. Cat Power and early Eleni Mandell. PJ Harvey. But mostly stuff that has nothing to do with what I make – I listen a lot to ethnic field recordings for example, and to punk rock and things. Arthur Russell. I can be really smitten with a certain sound even though I don’t like the actual music. Or vice versa. So I’ve been listening a lot, trying to figure out how a certain sound came into being, or why a certain song makes me want to cry, or jump around.

When or how did you find the “artistic sound” of what you are today?

– I dunno – we kinda stumbled upon a sound I liked and went with it. Now, after playing live more – the record was mostly arranged on our attic in Greenland with just the two of us, so that kinda directs the sound a certain way – and also cause I’m constantly making new songs, the sound evolved a bit. I like that – I’m really open to change. But the record, that sound came basically from working with just what was lying around – broken gear, self-fixed guitars, beat-up amps… pretty much make-do and try and make that work. I’m real happy with the results.

Are you inspired by traditional eskimo music in any way?

Sure. Not directly I guess – but it must‘ve crept in. I sing in Greenlandic as well as English. There’s certain imagery that would be typically Greenlandic – ways of saying things that are not literal yet not merely metaphorical either. Does that make sense at all?

Where’s your home base now?

– Nuuk. But we’re spending a lot of time in both Montreal and in Antwerp (Belgium ) – it’s just way easier to travel like that.

How did you hook up with Howe Gelb?

– I’ve been listening to Howe since I was tiny. And I always dreamt of seeing him play live – easy if you live in Europe or the states but tricky when in Greenland. A couple of years ago I decided I’d try and get Giant Sand to come play Greenland – I was so sure that many people would love them just as much as I did. So I wrote Howe and said ‘wanna come?’ That must’ve cracked him up! But well, we met in Denmark and hung out eating watermelons and he was real nice. That was around the time I started making songs. I played him one and he was enthusiastic. A year or so later I got the chance to go record with John Parish and Howe came by to record some stuff with me. That’s how we hooked up. We later went to Tucson to do some more things.

Your up-coming album is also made by assistance of the ‘Montreal-crowd’. What can you say about your connection with those people?

– Well, I studied in Canada for a couple years. In Ottawa. Which was boring as fuck. So I went to Montreal a lot – and Jan came to visit often. We started meeting people at shows. Jan curates festivals of underground music so he knew a bunch of people already. And what we tend to do when travelling is hang out, play music, eat good food – y’know, just have a good time.

– There was a lot going on in Montreal that I liked and could relate to – and we ended up playing small shows made up of “insta-bands” – just whomever was around for that specific occasion. I still do that a lot when no money is available for flying in my band. Anyhow, we hooked up with people like Alden Penner who played in Unicorns, and Lisa Gamble (Hrsta, Evangelista) and Arlen (Wolf Parade). They liked my stuff, and we worked together whenever there was a chance. That’s how that happened.

What can you tell about how you work out your songs?

– I make the songs – lyrics, melodies, chords. When I feel a song is ready I play it for Jan. He might suggest to swap some chords around here and there, or not – and then that’s the song. After that Jan records me singing and playing – just one or two mics, in our attic or so. And then he disappears with them recordings to listen to them over and over again until he sees a certain arrangement. He’ll record that – y’know, guitar lines, a bass, or a cello, etc. – until he things that’s the vibe it should be. Then he plays it to me. And we start fine tuning it together until we’re satisfied.

Your album Nive Sings! is almost finished. What can we expect from you on this one?

– Hi-hi, I dunno really. It’s a rater diverse album, with tracks in both English and Greenlandic, recorded all over: Tucson, Nuuk, Montreal, San Francisco, Belgium. John Parish produced. Loads of people are playing on it. There’s horns. And drums. And ukuleles.

– It’s a little record. One that makes me happy!

Bjørn Hammershaug
Intervjuet er tidligere publisert på i april 2010.

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