Since this feature interview, Mette has been in the studio recording new songs for the album Simple Matters.
With her original new single “Dry Wood” rapidly climbing the charts, Mette Kirkegaard and her unique brand of well-honed folk/singer-songwriter music is rapidly becoming a musical success story, thanks in large part to her impeccable melodic instincts.
Like folk/singer-songwriter music? Many do, perhaps in yearning for a return to great musicianship and melody. Here is an artist who ably serves the sentiment. Originating from Copenhagen, Mette Kirkegaard has quickly risen on the strength of her new award-winning single “Dry Wood.” Recently, the critics had this to say about her work: “Mette Kirkegaard has an extraordinary voice – matched in pitch perfection only by her compositional instincts – and this small treasury of folk songs is so lively with invention it’s destined for wide recognition among pop listeners too.”
With her new single steadily climbing the charts, Mette Kirkegaard seems destined for the global limelight. Reporter Andrew Edwards recently caught up with the talented artist to learn more about what inspires her to create her unique brand of folk/singer-songwriter music and what we can expect from Mette Kirkegaard in the near future.
ANDREW: When did you first get that feeling that your music career was gaining momentum?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: When I was working on the “Dry Wood” lyrics and when I was working on the ep Dry Wood in Berlin.
ANDREW: Your song “Dry Wood” is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: I felt very happy that it reaches out to listeners worldwide. Ever since I began writing songs, I’ve felt an urge to send messages out through music.
ANDREW: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: I guess most women have been through the feeling that you can’t talk with the guy! The main imagery comes from a road trip across the states where you could see the wood fires – and a relationship falling apart. The story of the man who is “dry” as wood and the woman whose princess dreams fall apart.
ANDREW: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the “catalyst” or “fuel” for your desire to create music?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: I grew up in a house full of music, but the final core was when I was going through hard times at the age of 21, and I found out I could write songs. It was a turning point, a hope that made me go on.
I guess many teenagers take their time finding their way, and we want to be part of groups as well as trying to find our individual style.
I recall feeling a need to be authentic toward myself and my dreams.
One day I made a decision to follow this direction, and then music came out of the blue as the turning point, as I one day sat down and began to write words and use the guitar again.
I had studied at the university, but I really needed a break to feel real life. I studied speech, but I needed life experience.
I realized that I love music so much that it would always be part of my life. It actually saved my life, I feel, and I am grateful that somebody must have seen me and thought it was my chance to find something meaningful to fill what can be a complex life for each and every one of us.
ANDREW: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: Fun-loving and serious. Positive-minded, curious, but always sticking to my music roots.
ANDREW: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: It’s always been extremely inspiring, life changing, and something I learned a lot from. Full of love, fun, bridges being built, visions, hope.
All of my recordings have been born from a true hope to create something great.
With Brio T., who produced “Dry Wood,” it was like a very big dream coming true.
Everything was organized, I could feel that this was the right way we were going, and we worked after one o’clock every day, in a fixed schedule, we never overworked, we kept the heart in the song, and there was a great professional chemistry. And at night we would eat a burger called vampire or something, and have beers at a Berlin bar that played rock music.:-)
ANDREW: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: My grandmother was said to be a good singer in church. And my grandfather as well. But no professional musicians. My mother played the guitar, when she studied to become an English teacher. And she played a lot of American folk music when I grew up. Mostly Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Cohen, and Baez. My later boyfriend introduced me to Cat Stevens, Lucinda Williams, and Van Morrison, the book of music.
I am of the opinion that you don’t need the newest melody to be inspired. It’s all about the lyrics.
ANDREW: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: Most rewarding is how much spirituality we gain from music. How many stories we collect in the world – from different inspirations – and how this puzzle actually transforms into new songs that inspire people.
I like the fact that people are moved by music. This is why I was attracted to songwriting – when I realized how you can move people through a song.
I remember my other producer Ken Rose (US) saying that lyrics are like children, they know where they belong. I like that image. It states that there is a spirituality in a song, that the song attracts inspiration. Now it’s getting deep….
ANDREW: Who are your role models in music?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: Johnny Cash for following his dream despite hard times.
Lucinda Williams for being on the road.
Annie Lennox for her masculine voice before masculinity was accepted for women.
Joni Mitchell because she expresses a woman´s whole caliber of emotions in one song.
Adam Cohen for his courage to step into his father´s music yard and stay in the road.
Bruce Springsteen on stage for his contact with each and every person in the audience. For speaking up.
ANDREW: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
METTE KIRKEGAARD: Best: I was going to play an intimate acoustic concert in Berlin. Airport staff asked for passengers to wait for the next flight if possible, so I volunteered.
However, there were still seats left, and they now upgraded me to the best seat in the flight.
This is how I met Lou Reed’s band, his guitar player sat beside me, and they were worrying about my guitar when they saw the cargo taking it into the cold luggage storage.
“Oh no, that doesn’t go well,” they said. Turned out they were musicians on tour.
“With whom,” I asked.
The guitar guy whispered, “Lou Reed.”
“Where is he?”
He then pointed, and behind me sat an elderly man sleeping like a lamb. A lamb with wrinkles if I may say. Lived life.
Lou Reed sat behind me. I had a chance to greet him a year before he passed away as we walked out of the flight. It meant something to say, “I really like your songs.”
ʼCause I do really like them, and I heard his albums. And once when I worked as a school teacher, the class sang one of his songs … I like songs….
After this meeting, I met a German woman on the bus who wanted me to perform at an event. She came to hear me perform a very intimate and beautiful concert. So much for that story.
Big surprise: I learned that wishes come true in many ways.
There is a known folk festival in Denmark (it’s known in Europe as well as America) called Tønder Festival, where top folk artists perform every year.
I always wanted to play there; I came and played for free some years at their open stage.
One day I was going to help another musician performing in Denmark in the month of October, so I wrote many letters to people. I knew that I myself wanted to play at the end of August…. Anyway, now suddenly there was a guy on Facebook who asked for my music – he wanted to hire me – to play for a well-known Danish performer, Hausgaard, as a guest in his show! That was awesome and an almost unbelievable stroke of luck.
ANDREW: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: The Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said that in the feeling of security lies the most feelings of uncertainty … so he believed in the ability to doubt as an important skill. He didn’t give a dime for people who act like the most secure creatures on earth – ʼcause a soul who doubts has a possibility to free his inner spiritual potential. And being spiritual is what separates us from being just animals.
To be unsure is part of being an artist. That is where the nerve to create art comes from. Just be sure to be guided by it, try out things. But just don’t go too much upstream if your music roots are in the traditional genres, ʼcause it won’t help you. You are only gonna like what plays for you in the long run. Accept having a life besides music, and use the life you have lived in your songs. Let life be your biggest mentor.
Listen to reviewers who encourage you to make certain moves. Don’t rest in self-assurance. Feel it in your guts, and follow your hunch when you know there is something that needs to be done….
I remember a reviewer who encouraged me to meet more new people who could improve my talent; and I did go and meet these people, and I did end up making Dry Wood.
So learn from the good. Meeting them in unions or workshops is also a good idea. Do also go to open mikes, and try things out.
ANDREW: What’s next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
METTE KIRKEGAARD: The next thing I am working on is a short book debating relationships. It will come out as part of a programme where I also will perform new songs. I hope to come out with a single or an ep when this project launches.*
I also believe the ep Dry Wood has another great song called “Free” for airplay. Besides this, I have released a highlife single called “If You Want My Love.” It’s a song about loving ourselves in order to love one another. It’s a highlife song, where “Dry Wood” is a pop-folk Nordic Americana song.
ANDREW: It’s been a blast talking with you. Thank you for your candid answers and we can’t wait to hear your new music.
Mette has a.o. since then released the well reviewed album Simple Matters