Sondre Lerche Tunes In To 'Heartbeat Radio' The Norwegian singer-songwriter's new album, Heartbeat Radio, draws from diverse musical and lyrical sources. Indie-rock and jazz both infiltrate his sound, while unlikely topics inspire his words.
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Sondre Lerche Tunes In To 'Heartbeat Radio'

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Sondre Lerche Tunes In To 'Heartbeat Radio'

Sondre Lerche Tunes In To 'Heartbeat Radio'

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GUY RAZ, host:

The act of reinvention is one of Sondre Lerche's many talents. He's been tagged an indie-rocker, a sensitive emo kind of singer-songwriter and even a jazz musician, and all before his 25th birthday.

(Soundbite of song, "Good Luck")

Mr. SONDRE LERCHE (Musician): (Singing) I had a bad dream in which the phone would ring and drown of everything that kept me on my feet.

RAZ: This is a song of Sondre Lerche's new album, "Heartbeat Radio." He released his first album at the age of 19, in his boyhood home of Bergen, Norway. Now, he's 26 and living in New York, and his latest record seems to possess elements from his entire career. Sondre Lerche joins me from the NPR studios in New York. Welcome.

Mr. LERCHE: Thank you.

RAZ: We're listening to the track "Good Luck" off the new album. I've read that you wrote this song after a complicated year, as you say followed by a slightly more complicated year.

Mr. LERCHE: I was upset at how sometimes, you now, we like to think that luck is something that has a justice to it and that good things happen to good people. And of course, there's too many examples to mention of this not being the case. And so when you're having trouble, even if it's just a little thing, and you know, people try to cheer you up, and they tell you that it's going to work out because you're a good guy, you know, all these things, and it doesn't help because you know that luck doesn't really have anything to do with this.

RAZ: And it's such a delicate song that if you weren't closely listening to the lyrics, you'd think it's, like, just don't get your hopes up, that you might be fooled to think that this is actually an optimistic song.

Mr. LERCHE: Well, that's the thing. I wanted to try to be realistic and be sort of honest about it, but at the same time have it be sort of an anthem for people who are much less fortunate than myself.

(Soundbite of song, "Good Luck")

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) Good luck. Don't you feel so bad. Just don't get your hopes up. Oh, there's no reason why.

RAZ: There's another song on this record that's called "I Guess It's Going to Rain Today." For those who have not been to Bergen, in Norway, and I've been there, it's a town where you really don't know if it's going to rain that day because the morning might be beautiful, and at night, it might come pouring down.

Mr. LERCHE: You know, I grew up there, and I'm from there, and I live there. And I didn't realize how rainy Bergen was until I lived in Oslo, just on the other side of the country. And I was shocked at how dry that fall was. It was shocking to me.

(Soundbite of song, "I Guess It's Going to Rain Today.")

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) But don't take word for it. I don't know, but I guess it's going to rain today. I don't know, but I guess it's going to rain today.

RAZ: You've been recording since you were a teenager. Can you talk a little bit about how you got noticed as a songwriter growing up in Bergen?

Mr. LERCHE: I was very lucky. When I was 12, 13, I started playing in a couple bands. My oldest sister, she worked at all the rock clubs in town. Like, she was in that sort of community. When they had, like, open-mike nights, really, really late at night, I would be allowed on stage to play a couple songs, you know. And that meant a great deal to me because I loved performing, even though I was scared to death of it. That's when I met the producer H.P. Gunderson(ph), who brought me to the attention of a lot of people who were instrumental in getting me a deal and, like, and getting all this stuff happening.

RAZ: There's another song on this record that I wonder if it indicates how you feel about the music industry, the title track. It's called "Heartbeat Radio."

(Soundbite of song, "Heartbeat Radio")

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) You're wearing out my favorite song, and everyone else's'. Oh, (unintelligible) on my heartbeat radio.

Mr. LERCHE: Sometimes, you just can't seem to find any song on the radio that you like. I was thinking about that phrase from the Steely Dan song: Nothing but blues and Elvis and somebody else's favorite song, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

And I was inspired by that song. I was also thinking about how, in a romantic setting, instead of being yourself and being confident in your own choices and what you life, you ask what the other person likes. It's like that in certain aspects of how radio is. And I was thinking about that. That could be good for a song, you know?

(Soundbite of song, "Heartbeat Radio")

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) Tell me why you're changing the station. What comes after heavy rotation? I want to know, am I coming through?

RAZ: Sondre Lerche, there's a track on the album which has got to be one of the most interesting songs I've heard in a long time. It's about one of the characters, one of the actors who played James bond. His name was George Lazenby. And he only appeared in one James Bond film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." And I want to hear the top of your song, which is about him.

(Soundbite of song, "Like Lazenby")

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) It's a travesty. Where do I begin? The ways in which I have behaved, I'm glad no one was keeping track of me.

RAZ: So he's the one Bond no one seems to remember because he only lasted for one film. Tell me how you saw George Lazenby in this song.

Mr. LERCHE: I got the idea after watching "On Her Majesty's Service" again.

RAZ: Which a very - perfectly respectable Bond film.

Mr. LERCHE: Absolutely. I think it's terrific. And I guess the one thing that people say is that it's a shame about the guy playing James Bond. You know, they give him a hard time, but he was not an actor. He was a model.

And a lot of these actors in the film are sort of Shakespearian, British actors, you know? And I saw these interviews in the bonus material that came with the DVD, and I thought it was so interesting to see interviews with both the young George Lazenby at the time of shooting the film and also the contemporary version, you know, him looking back. And there is the sense that he sort of messed up his opportunity, you know, because he got very cocky, I guess, and he admits to this himself. He got very cocky.

So the song isn't directly about him, but the protagonist identifies very much with the dynamics of George Lazenby's career that didn't really happen the way he was maybe hoping or that it was just looking for a while.

(Soundbite of song, "Like Lazenby")

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) Like a fairy tale with blood on every page. My failures brought about some blessing. Someone must be watching over me. Even though I wonder why I did some of my doings, I'd do it all again if I had the chance, just like Lazenby.

RAZ: Sondre Lerche, I know that you now live in Brooklyn. Since you've now spent so much time outside of Norway, when you return, how do people treat you differently? I mean, do younger artists sort of look to you as a mentor?

Mr. LERCHE: I go to Norway quite a bit, and I play shows there, and you know, I record my records there. So it's not like I'm abandoning. But just the fact that people know you've moved to another country, there is some sort of distance, and in a way, it's refreshing. People are always interested in, especially America.

You know, if you have a career as an artist in America, that is always very interesting to people at home, but at the same time, it's also - there is the sense that you do sort of abandon the scene in a way, and there's a new scene that's really emerging of lots of singers and rappers who rap in their own language and their own dialect. And it's very much, I think, a reaction to the sort of scene that I came out of, and I think it's really, really great. I don't feel a part of it at all, but I think it's really cool.

RAZ: Do you still see yourself as a Norwegian singer, or do you increasingly sort of consider yourself maybe an American singer?

Mr. LERCHE: Well, one of the practical problems that I had when I wrote the song "Good Luck" that we talked about earlier were related to getting a green card.

RAZ: Oh.

Mr. LERCHE: And that is tricky, expensive and very - a process just full of disappointment. So part of that was I was stuck in limbo in the United States. I couldn't go home for Christmas, which you know, you get over that, but at least it made me think about, wow, I must really like it here because I can't leave the country. If I leave the country, they'll throw me out forever.

RAZ: Oh, you can't leave at all now?

Mr. LERCHE: Now I can.

RAZ: Now you can, I'm sorry.

Mr. LERCHE: Now I got my green card, and it's not green at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But it was quite a struggle to get it. So I must really like it here.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: That's Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche. His new album is called "Heartbeat Radio." Sondre Lerche, thanks so much.

Mr. LERCHE: No problem. Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LERCHE: (Singing) My baby's building a sandcastle, and someday, we're going to live on the shore. But nowadays we just hold our breath until the (unintelligible). And it's going through the roof. We're blowing through the roof. If only you guys should see us. Me and my baby, we bicker, but I know the talented devil inside. And so we bond over raising toes (unintelligible). Two absent minds expecting to fly.

RAZ: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Have a great week.

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