Jens Carelius music hit me at once. It´s one of these rare fortunes to fall in love with a record at first spin. Carelius debut “First Songs” has been released a few months ago and his music becomes more and more famous. His playfull guitar picking and the beautiful voice may lead to the conclusion, that he´s a reincanation of Nick Drake. Maybe this is farfetched, but at least it´s safe to say, that “First Songs” is one of the best Songwriter records in the last 12 months and definitely one, that has deserved some attention. After listening to his songs for 350 times in the last few weeks (says Mr. Last.FM) I have decided to send him a few questions and. here´s what I have received as response.
S.Jegorow: Jens, how did you obtain your first guitar and start making music?
Jens Carelius: My mother sent me to a tutor when I was about 10 years old. I stayed there for a year, playing mostly Beatles and stuff, but eventually quitting and putting down the guitar. Together with some old friends I started a band where I played electric guitar. As a shitty band with shitty songs ( as usually highschool bands are ) we spilt up. It’s only during these last 5 years I have been making my own songs. First electric blues songs in my band the Guests, and so solo, as Jens Carelius.
S.Jegorow: Could you tell us something about the recording and songwriting process for the “First Songs” record?
Jens Carelius: The songs have come to life during the last 2 -3 years. It’s only the last 3 -4 years where I have felt able to create own songs, acoustically that is. Songwriting is a very tricky thing, being an emotionally procedure. The guitar parts would come to me rather easily, getting the key structure, and then develop the chords and giving it it’s own style, but the lyrics takes time. Some of the lyrics took up to 6 months to write. As an eager poetry reader I do write very esthetic in my mind, visually, so wrapping the message in balanced words takes time. Also being a rather new game to me, it has been a long learning procedure. We recorded all songs in 2 -3 days. I think I brought like 16 -17 songs to the studio, but only 12 ended up on the record. Maybe some of the outtakes will be included on the LP ( In the press now ) . I don’t know exactly the reason why, but the recording sessions were very hard for me. I was constantly nervous during the takes, probably in awe for the situation. I was also rather unprepared for the sessions, (I didn’t have any plans of recording at that time, but ÿyvind, the producer, and the studio was free, so I just went along) so as I went through the songs, I had to write a lot of extra lyrics, change songs and so. This is maybe a natural thing to do in studio, but I think I would gain a more complete sound if I was more prepared.
S.Jegorow: The sound of the record reminds me of the old school songwriter records by Cohen (especially ‘On Through The Morning’) Drake or Hazelwood. Was it something you wanted to achieve?
Jens Carelius: I am a true lover of the old music. Especially the early recordings of artists, before they had to make their “perfect” and polished debut. The sound is often raw, and displays the talent without any other extra instruments. The First Songs were recorded on a Tandberg 3300x, an old reel to reel player from early seventies. Being only a two track player it compresses the sound very much, and gives it a warm sound. I would say the strings on “on through the morning” is very influenced by John Simon and his drop lay effect with the strings. Cohen’s first release is a favorite of mine, it´s very rare. Though the retro sounds and visuals, It was never in my intend trying to make it sound exactly like the 60’s. Releasing something in 2008, and making it sound exactly like 66 would be to foolish, I am fully aware of that it’s another time now, both playing and recording. But there are certain elements I would borrow, like the tape sound, the warmness of certain mics and so. A lot of today’s acoustic music releases sounds to stiff to me, guitars sounding to cold, straight and without a presence. With so much stuff released these days, I would say a certain production key must be heard. But the songmaterial was mixed and mastered digital, so it’s not like we were carrying around the tapes all the time.
S.Jegorow. Many musicians have certain rituals like using the same notepad, getting drunk or being at a certain place during their songwriting. Do you also have any rituals?
Jens Carelius: No, not yet. Nothing I can pinpoint at this time. But, being the blues, summer days with fun and great weather does not bring out the songs. Luckily I am living in cold Norway. For instance, the song “summer skin” was written in 5 minutes because I was in the perfect drunk at 3 am. So getting drunk brings out a songwriting pattern, probably because it won’t let you think so much about what you’re writing. So it just comes out, without all the annoying stops you usually get.
Sonic Reducer: How do you spend your days in Norway except making music?
Jens Carelius: Norway is a very nice, but a cold and little country. Creating a living from music is hard, like it is everywhere. Though we get a lot off funding and stuff, there are few who lives off their music. Apart from playing I work as an art director in my own company, anorak. Mostly graphic design. I think it’s a strength being able to do different things. Especially with today’s downloading and dodgy record sales, you need to create a living otherwise. The money, music vise, comes through concerts and merch.
S.Jegorow: Refering to your info you have been influenced by many artists from the 70s. Which of the contemporary bands or songwriters do you like to listen to?
Jens Carelius: I saw Tyler Ramsey in Oslo, and his last record is wonderful, rare music. Of course Tom Waits, In my mind the biggest and by far coolest musician today. It’s been a lot of hip hop during the 90’s, like Nas & Talib Kweli, both great poets. But to be honest, I rearly listen to music that’s made after the 60’s. I like Elmore James & Charlie Parker.
S.Jegorow: You¥re also a part of Blues Run The Game. What¥s the story behind this project?
Jens Carelius: Blues run the game is a band/scene/project I got going with some friends. The last year I’ve been playing a lot with Arild Hammer¯, a great guitarist and songwriter. We talked a lot about presenting a folk scene in Oslo, especially case it’s all about indierock over here. Kristian Berg from the Guests came along and then Siri & Marius joined. We do both Norwegian & English songs. Hopefully we’ll manage play at a regular basis, cause it’s great fun. All great musicians, and Siri has got a wonderful voice. The guitarplaying with Arild is very cool as we’re both great fans of Jansch/Renbourn and their “guitar dueling” playing.
S.Jegorow: Your songs are available through itunes. What¥s the best way to get a hard copy of your record?
Jens Carelius: I think it will be out on amazon soon, but for Europe you can order it through www.cdon.com. Or you can contact me through myspace.
S.Jegorow: Even though your current record was just released a few months ago, do you already have any plans and songs for a “Next Songs” record?
Jens Carelius: Yes, I have plans of going in the studio in October. At this time I got around 6 – 7 new songs. I hope it will be a lot more diverse, not so hung up in folk and the sixties, but I don’t know. Only thing I do know is that ÿyvind, producer of the First Songs, will produce this one too.
S.Jegorow: Our typical question, full of hope: any plans to play some shows in Germany?
Jens Carelius: I sure hope, I am touring Britain in September and Norway after that. My family, Carelius is actually from Germany, Hamburg, so it would have been very nice to go home. Last time I was there I visited the Hagenbück zoo, where I have been told my family used to work, cool.