ALISON STEWART, host:
Singer-song writer Sondre Lerche hails from Bergen, Norway. His songs are wistful, sensitive, melodic. He's had five albums since 2001, and he's only 25 years old.
Now in a world where artists take two, three years to put out a release, this year Lerche released not one, but two albums: "Phantom Punch," recorded with his band in L.A., and the soundtrack for the movie "Dan in Real Life."
Sondre stopped by at the BPP studios yesterday. He told me the film's director, Peter Hedges, asked him to create the music for the movie before production had even started.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. SONDRE LERCHE (Singer, Songwriter): So I got access to auditions for the actors, location scouting, being on the set, helping out actors with some musical things that they were doing. And there's a scene where Dane Cook and Steve Carell, who star in the film, are doing a song that I helped, sort of structure and make sure that it worked. And all these things made it a really organic process to me, and that become my main inspiration.
STEWART: I can imagine it also caused you to stretch, because there are tracks in that record which are 50 seconds long. There's one's that's just a humming song…
Mr. LERCHE: Yeah. That's…
STEWART: …that you had to do.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LERCHE: Peter wanted a lot of humming. He was obsessed with the humming and the sloppy trumpet.
STEWART: Let's cheat our listeners anymore. Let's actually hear one of the songs from "Dan in Real Life."
Mr. LERCHE: All right.
STEWART: What are you gonna play?
Mr. LERCHE: This is a song that I actually wrote on the set. I was waiting for Steve Carrell to finish a scene so that I could teach him how to pretend to be playing guitar in a scene. And while waiting, there's a lot of on those film sets. I was surprised. I wrote this song and I played it for the director, and he said, yes, that's the song I want. And it's called "To Be Surprised."
(Soundbite of song, "To Be Surprised")
Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) I'm not gonna say, did you every stop to thank God along the way? But baby, be prepared to be surprised. You'd better be prepared to be surprised. Oh, honey, be prepared to be surprised. It's all I know. I'm not gonna speak of these observations everybody makes. But baby, be prepared to be surprised. You got to be prepared to be surprised. Oh, honey, be prepared to be surprised. It's all I know. The weight of the world and the hurt and the dirt can make you discouraged, but I hope, but I hope…
But when I wrap my arms around you, every mistake we make crumbles. When I wrap my arms around you, everything echoes a new song. I'm not gonna whine. The screaming, I'm so tired (unintelligible). But baby, be prepared to be surprised. You better be prepared to be surprised. Oh, honey, be prepared to be surprised. It's all I know. The weight of the world and the hurt and the dirt can make you discouraged, but I hope, but I hope…
But when I wrap my arms around you, every mistake we make crumbles. When I wrap my arms around you, everything echoes a new song. I'm not gonna lie, saying everyone would be all right and fine until we die. But what else can you do about it? Hope and pray and say that we'll get by. And be prepared to be surprised. You better be prepared to be surprised. But you got to be prepared to be surprised. Oh, honey, be prepared to be surprised. It's all I know.
STEWART: You're listening to Sondre Lerche, performing with a song from the "Dan in Real Life" soundtrack that he wrote. One of the things I think is kind of interesting, on your Web site, you wrote about being at the premiere for this movie where you wrote all the music.
Mr. LERCHE: Yes.
STEWART: And you're very sweet about it, because you really are kind of a fan.
Mr. LERCHE: Oh, yeah, yeah.
STEWART: Like, your guard is totally down about being at this premiere with all these actors and all. It sounds like - it just seemed like you were just truly excited.
Mr. LERCHE: Oh, no. I got to tell you, this is not my world. This is not what I'm used, you know? So one thing, of course, is, you know, writing the music for a big Hollywood film with lots of great, famous, talented actors, you know, that in itself is crazy enough for me. And then, you know, then, of course, I get invited to come to the premiere and - anyway, it was just ridiculous. My wife and I were there, and everybody's taking pictures and they're screaming your name and they want you to smile. I thought I was smiling all along. I looked at my wife and, aren't we smiling? And apparently not, because they're screaming, how about a smile? And we must have had a very like - I don't know how to describe it, but like Snoopy when he gets that, like, really…
STEWART: Little - where it's like, oh, I'm dour. Maybe you looked a little dour.
Mr. LERCHE: Exactly. That's probably how we looked. We thought we were smiling, but it turns out we looked like that. But, no, it was so exciting because I - the whole cast, almost the entire cast from "The Office" were there, and I'm a huge fan of them.
Mr. LERCHE: So they were all there. So I got my picture taken with Dwight Shcrute and Phyllis and Stanley and all these characters. Even Patrick Swayze was there. It was just…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LERCHE: It was crazy.
STEWART: I want to talk a little bit about your own album you released early this year. We were talking a little about how you produced the tracks on "Dan in Real Life." But you chose to work with a different producer on your new record than the producers you have previously worked with.
Mr. LERCHE: Yes.
STEWART: You chose to work with Tony Hoffer, who's worked with Beck, right? And Grandaddy?
Mr. LERCHE: Yes.
STEWART: What did he get out of you that you didn't necessarily know within you?
Mr. LERCHE: You know what, it was - to me, the important thing was the change of scenery, because I'm from a city called Bergen in Norway. And my first three albums have been recorded there with the band that I record with, the Faces Down. And I just wanted, for the "Phantom Punch" album, I wanted to take us somewhere where it was all about the recording. And these guys, they have kids. They have wives, and that's lovely.
But when we record at home in Bergen, you know, everybody goes home to sleep in their own bed and pick up their kids - you know, all these things. I wanted -for this album, I wanted total focus. And I wanted to go somewhere else, and I thought about this guy Tony Hoffer because he had actually contacted me when I was recording my second album, "Two Way Monologue."
So I was so flattered that he was interested in my stuff. But it wasn't the right time there and then, because I was in the middle of another album. But I thought about that. For this, I said, well, maybe he's the guy. Maybe, you know, I'll send him the demo, see if he's still excited about what he hears or - and he liked the demos, and he was very interested. He made - you know, we made it work, and found ourselves spending six weeks in Los Angeles recording an album. And that was a big thing for us. It was very exciting, and we were definitely isolated from - you know, Los Angeles is nothing like Bergen, I'll tell you that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEWART: One of the neat things on the CD cover is there's ripped out pieces of paper - pictures of - with your writings and your scribblings, and there is always a city and a date up on the top.
Mr. LERCHE: That's right.
STEWART: Is that where you actually wrote the songs?
Mr. LERCHE: That is, that is. I put - I wanted this to have a very, you know, sort of, a rough, very real feeling, the cover. So I put it together with, actually, my sister-in-law, who's a graphic designer. Yeah. So it says the city, sometimes the cities - because a lot of these songs were written partly here, and partly there. There's one that, I think, it's Bergen, London, Hawaii or something. You know, it's written in bits and pieces here and there. But, yeah. I wanted it to read sort of almost like sort of a, you know, like my own personal notebook, sort of.
STEWART: Yeah. Can we hear another song?
Mr. LERCHE: Absolutely.
STEWART: All right. What do you want to play for us, Sondre?
Mr. LERCHE: I'm want to play a song from the "Dan in Real Life" soundtrack. I wrote this for a scene where basically, Dan, played by Steve Carrell, is told by his oldest teenage daughter that he has to stop hitting on his brother's girlfriend. It's one of many low points for him, and I put together this song for this scene. It's called "My Hands Are Shaking."
(Soundbite of song, "My Hands Are Shaking")
Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) My hands are shaking from carrying this torch, from carrying this torch for you. My lips are bleeding from kissing you good-bye, from kissing you good-bye every night. My sheets are tearing from sleeping in too long, from sleeping in too long with you.
My hands are shaking from carrying this torch, from carrying this torch for you. My head is wet. It's always been. If only I knew well. My feet can't find ground no more. It seems that I don't care.
My hands are shaking from carrying this torch, from carrying this torch for you. My lips are bleeding from kissing you good-bye, from kissing you good-bye every night. My heart is pounding yes, yes, yes. My mind just second guessed. My love is full. I teach you that. I'm such a man.
My hands are shaking from carrying this torch, from carrying this torch for you. My lips are bleeding from kissing you good-bye, kissing you good-bye is all that I do. My hands are shaking from carrying this torch, from carrying this torch for you. I said, my hands are shaking from carrying this torch. I'm carrying this torch for you.
STEWART: So Sondre Lerche, you're about to wrap up a solo tour. On Thursday night, you'll be all done. When you finally relax and kick back, what are you going to remember the most about this particular tour?
Mr. LERCHE: Well, I think I'm going to remember all of the laughs that I've had with my audience.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LERCHE: It's - there's something really, really, I think, disarming and flexible and fun about being up onstage by myself, because there are no limits to the fun we can have, you know? But when I'm up there by myself, it's just me and them, you know? And why not, you know, try to get some, sort of, conversation going. It's very exciting.
STEWART: That was singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche. His most recent album is the soundtrack of the film "Dan in Real Life." And you can watch a live performance that he did for us right here in the studio by going to our blog at npr.org/bryantpark.
A whole lot more content online as well, like the latest adventures of biker Jill Homer as she trains for the human Iditarod - 350 miles of ice and snow on a bike. And she blogs about it on our Web site.
I'm Alison Stewart. That wraps up this hour of THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.