The Northern Belle is a Norweigan band who are pioneers of the Nordicana movement, which is a movement that combines their native Scandanavian folk music with American music forms and includes artists like Darling West, Daniel Norgren, Malin Pettersen, and others. Their latest album We Wither, We Bloom, which was released in late August to rave reviews, is an exciting blend of ‘60s pop, country, folk, and country-rock that stands out as one of 2020’s most inviting Americana records. Recently, I spoke with frontwoman and prolific singer-songwriter Stine Andreassen about the band, her musical influences, and their new album. Our conversation is below.
Americana Highways: What is it that you love about American music?
Stine Andreassen: I love the storytelling tradition! The lyrics have opened up a new world for me as a writer and musician. Some of the songwriters that have influenced me like Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, John Prine, Guy Clark, and others have written lyrics that I believe fit every occasion. They can mend heartaches, release anger, and give you peace and clarity. Some of the lyrics I feel are written about me and for me. I love that about music – that it gives you a place to belong and a feeling that someone understands what you’re going through.
AH: Who do you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
SA: My biggest musical influences are Gillian Welch, Jackson Browne, Taylor Swift, The Cardigans, and Fleetwood Mac. But if you ask me tomorrow I’m sure I’ll give you a different answer!
AH: Who are some of your favorite current artists?
SA: Oh, there’s so many!! Kacey Musgraves, Jenny Lewis, Khruangbin, Phoebe Bridgers, Whitney, Laura Marling, Kathleen Edwards (she’s finally releasing new music), Courtney Marie Andrews, Margo Price, Erin Rae, Waxahatchee, The Highwomen, Bedouine, Amason, Brent Cobb, and Israel Nash.
AH: How would you describe the chemistry of the band?
SA: We are a big family! We can bicker like siblings at times. Some of us can be quite feisty, but I love the passion. It’s also nice to work with people you trust and can be yourself around. They will let you know if you’re acting like an ass or overreacting. I also feel like we’re just a group of friends who’ve got each other’s back and get to do what we love!
AH: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges you face as a band that is not based in the U.S. and that is trying to break into the American market?
SA: It can be hard to find the right people to work with if you can’t meet them in person. That’s one of the reasons why I spent three months in Nashville. I met so many amazing people and I miss them every day! Also, it can be hard to sell our music to the place where it originally came from. I’m nervous that people won’t like that we use the Hardanger fiddle instead of the normal fiddle, but then again that might be a strength. I love the sound of the Hardanger fiddle and it’s unique. Also, I’m always nervous to show my lyrics to Americans because it’s not my first language. But the reason I write in English is because I grew up with this pop culture and I love the sound of it. It sounds so good singing it and the words are beautiful. I also love the fact that more people understand what I’m singing about. There aren’t that many people who speak Norwegian.
AH: How did you all meet each other and how did you decide to come together as a band?
SA: I moved to Oslo in 2010 to study popular music at NISS (Nordic Institute of Stage and Studio) and that’s where I met the band. We just clicked and the rest is history! It all started with us being friends and sharing the same love for country, blues, pop, rock, indie, and Americana music.
AH: How do you decide as a band which songs to include on your records?
SA: I write down ideas, both melodies and lyrics, and sometimes a whole song. Then I bring them to the band and we get together and jam. That’s when the magic happens. It can be hard when the band hates an idea, but it’s good to get feedback on what you have written! If I really like a song I’ll fight for it with all my power. When we choose songs for an album we talk through all the material we have and figure out what we like and what fits together. This time we included our producer Marcus Forsgren in the process and he had some really cool input.
AH: Your new album We Wither, We Bloom was just released at the end of August. How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect its release?
SA: The pandemic has affected the entire industry. We don’t know what lies ahead for the live market, if the venues will survive being closed and out of business for such a long time, and we just have to follow the rules our government gives us. We need music now more than ever, so it felt like the right decision to release the album even though we don’t know if we can play concerts this fall or not.
A big part of our income is playing live music and selling merch at the concerts. But we are trying to think of new ways to play music like streaming and also to come up with fun ways to promote the album. We have made some awesome music videos and are already writing new music. Our favorite record store in Oslo, Big Dipper, will get their own limited vinyl edition to sell. That’s quite awesome as well! We are really looking forward to playing concerts again and hopefully, we can travel to different countries in 2021.
AH: Do you feel like the album has an overall message or theme you were trying to convey with the songs?
SA: All of the songs vary in tempo and style, from the melodic rocker “Gemini” to the string-laden “Born to Be a Mother,” and “Remember It” which is a fiery tell-off to a horrible ex (“I wanna hurt you and remember it”). “Tailor Made” is a tribute to the band’s Nudie suit-wearing heroes of the past, while “Late Bloomer” in a way sums up the album title – a song about taking time before daring to pursue music. I’ve struggled with the feeling of not being good enough, being labeled because I’m a woman, and that I should have had kids already and that the clock is ticking. I’ve destroyed friendships and made new ones, but I’m left feeling stronger than I was before because I’ve confronted the things that hurt me in my songs.
I actually wrote the title track after we finished recording the album and convinced the band that I had to record it. I feel like the song sums it up. Relationships they wither and they bloom, but you’ll come out even stronger on the other end of it.
AH: How do you think the album differs from your previous records?
SA: First off, I wrote almost every song in Nashville and it was such an inspiration! This is also the first album I have dared to write with people outside the band. It was terrifying but such a relief when it clicked. The sound was developed further with a string quartet, stronger harmonies, more flavors of pop, indie, and rock’n’roll, more 12-string guitars, and also a super cute 12-string Mandocaster. It also has more slide guitar this time. Personally, I think the songs are stronger as well. I also love that we still mix the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle with a pedal steel. The album was both easy and hard to write at the same time. When it clicked the songs came pouring out.
AH: If, as a band, you could transport yourself back through time and share the stage with any artist or artists from the past, who would it be and why?
SA: That’s a hard question, BUT I would have loved to be a part of The Last Waltz concert from 1976. That DVD is a classic within the band! And we love the artists that joined The Band on stage.
AH: What do you hope the future holds for The Northern Belle?
SA: I hope we can keep on making music and play all around the world! I love meeting new people and seeing new places. It’s so inspiring. A dream of mine is to play at the Ryman Auditorium and The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. I would cry if that happened! And maybe a duet with Dolly Parton or Stevie Nicks? The band would not mind that!
We Wither, We Bloom, the new album from The Northern Belle, is now available on their Bandcamp page .