Interview: Heather Nova

Foto: Sacha Blackburne

Sirenen og kvinden Heather Nova

Heldigvis sker det jævnligt, at Heather Nova gæster Danmark, men det er ikke så tit, man har mulighed for at møde kvinden til en snak om hende selv, hendes opvækst, om livet som turnerende musiker og om rollen som moder. Mens jeg stod og ventede uden for Vega, tænkte jeg på, om Heather Nova er lige så smuk og eksotisk, som hun fremstår på scenen, og om hendes ellers så private væsen ville gøre det svært at snakke om andet end musikken.
Inden for og foran mig i den mørke lædersofa sad en afslappet og smilende kvinde med begyndende rynker om øjnene og med en ligefrem attitude, der hurtigt skabte en afslappet atmosfære. Smuk og elegant på en ganske naturlig måde, og veltalende og reflekterende, som havde vi kendt hinanden længere end blot ti minutter.

DISKANT: Do you remember the first time you played in Denmark?
HEATHER NOVA: No, not really. Was it here in Vega?
DISKANT: It was in something called Pumpehuset, and there were about 75 people that night.
HEATHER NOVA: Well, that was my first tour, just after the release of Oyster, and I remember Denmark being slower than the rest of the countries to connect with my music. But I do remember a gig with an intimate crowd, tables with candles, and we talked with people after the show, that’s right. That must have been my first show in Denmark.

DISKANT: Let’s talk about your new album 300 Days at Sea. I was really surprised, when I heard the rawness of the sound.
HEATHER NOVA: I love it, I love the rock-thing, and I’ve always loved it. I mean, the last album I made, the acoustic one, I’d always wanted to make a stripped-down album, but I realized when playing live, I really enjoy rocking with the band! And these songs that I wrote, it felt like they needed a full band.
DISKANT: The album seems very organized.
HEATHER NOVA: Well, yeah, for sure, I don’t start recording before I finish the songs, and until I have a plan. And I knew I wanted to make a rocking, but beautiful sounding record. I knew I wanted to get that sense.
DISKANT: Were you trying to rediscover your roots?
HEATHER NOVA: Maybe. In between Oyster and this one, there were a few records there that I felt like they felt too produced. It was a problem for me, and it has always been a problem for me. As soon as you go in the studio, you need some of that rawness. And I’ve never felt, I’ve made an album that captures, what we do live. So this one isn’t like live, but I think there is a little bit of rawness in it. And I don’t think it is overproduced. An album like South and even Redbird I think, they felt overproduced. They are polished too much. But maybe I needed doing that emotionally or something. My first two records were so raw and emotionally, and in a way I felt so exposed that it felt almost … too much – and maybe I was protecting myself a little bit on those following albums. But on this one I’m not afraid anymore!

DISKANT: It’s interesting, because on one hand you expose yourself 100 %, and on the other hand you seem like a very private person.
HEATHER NOVA: And that is the biggest contradiction, and I don’t even understand it myself. I mean, I’m very shy, and I’m very, very private. Maybe that is why I need to do that in music. Because I’m so private, I need some place, where I can sing my heart out and say how I feel, because …the rest of the time I don’t. That’s what music does for me, and allows me to … to be my raw self, and especially singing live, I love that feeling of just letting go, you know!

DISKANT: Tell my about “Gloomy Sunday”, that you have made a version of.
HEATHER NOVA: I think I write many of my songs from a dark place, but it is always in a hopeful way. But it’s funny with that song, you know, the version that I recorded and that I sing. In the middle there’s an A-section in it, which was actually added later, because people found the song too desperate. You know, it goes: “Dreaming, I was only dreaming …”, but that was not really the song. The song is very dark, suicidal. Before, there weren’t lyrics on it, it was a piece of instrumental music, and people would commit suicide and leave that playing on the gramophone. But it’s a beautiful melody, and that’s why I play it!

DISKANT: What would happen, if you woke up one morning and you wouldn’t be able to play your guitar?
HEATHER NOVA: Well, I don’t think that would stop me, I would still sing! But I don’t know, what I would do without music, I definitely need it. But even if I wasn’t releasing records, I would still make music. But the thing is, there is something that happens in a live situation, because you project … you think stronger than you ever do. You think stronger than you do, when you’re at home in your living-room. It’s something about being on stage and having the audience there, and it makes me completely … wow!

DISKANT: The last tour, you were playing acoustic, and that was very different.
HEATHER NOVA: Oh yeah, that was beautiful at the Concert Hall, very intimate. And yeah, it’s different, but I don’t get the same kind of relieve, as I get with a live band. But it was very pure, and I enjoy that too, but it’s a different thing.

DISKANT: About your childhood and living on the boat Moon. What is home to you today?
HEATHER NOVA: It was a very extraordinary upbringing, that’s true. But it is funny, because I didn’t have a sense of home for a long time. All during my twenties and thirties, I was touring a lot, and I was always looking for a place that I could feel like was home. And in the end I realized I needed to go back to where I’d started – so I went back to Bermuda – and that really feels like home to me, and it has to do with the physical landscape and the sea, but it also has to do with the familiarity of the smell of the air from when you were a child. And it has to do also with the sense of root, like I know that my grandfather, my great grandfather and my great-great grandmother were all in the same place. And it is something that I really like – that connectedness.
DISKANT: You feel connected to Bermuda?
HEATHER NOVA: Physically I do, yeah.
DISKANT: But you’ve also lived in London for a number of years.
HEATHER NOVA: Fifteen years! But I never felt emotionally connected to it. It was exciting, it was where I started my career, I found my band, my manager. It was hugely important to me, it was buzzing, there was so much music around, and art, but I just woke up one morning and felt disconnected from myself, because I was disconnected from nature. And I realized I was really a nature-person, and I needed to live a place, where I could walk outside every morning in bare feet and be – in nature!

DISKANT: I know you have some kind of connection to Denmark.
HEATHER NOVA: Yeah, strangely enough, but I’ve had three different Danish musicians in my band. One led to another, and I started playing with a guy, Nikolaj, who was the gitarist playing on Siren. And then, when I was going on tour, he recommended his brother as bas-player, and I played with him for a long time. And then there’s Berit Fridahl on guitar, we’ve been playing together for fifteen years now. And there’s something about all of these people – and I don’t like to make generalizations about a country – but all these people are very wonderful personalities, very relaxed, and very dedicated to their craft and to what they do. And they have a sense of humour, and it’s something you really need, when you’re on the road! Nice people to be around, and they’re not just good at their instruments – they’re having the right feel, the right attitude.

DISKANT: What do you do, when you don’t compose new songs, when you’re not creative?
HEATHER NOVA: Well, I’m a mother, and I find that a full time job, and I home-school my son, so that takes a lot of my time. Most of the time, I’m with my family, I have a home, and like any woman I have all the things to do that involve having house and a kid.

DISKANT: What inspires you to write songs?
HEATHER NOVA: The songs come from the life I live, but songs come from the inner world most of the time, and sometimes that is connected to the life you live and sometimes it’s not.

DISKANT: Is you and your son on tour like living on the boat, you lived on as a young girl? The way you’re travelling?
HEATHER NOVA: There are similarities for sure. But he has more stability, because we only tour for two months a year. The rest of the time he lives at home, he’s not constant moving from place to place, like when we were kids. But I really think the travelling experience is a really good thing, and he get’s a perspective on people and how they live – he gets aware and appreciative about different lifestyles and cultures, and I see that as part of his education. And because we live on a small island, when we go on tour, we get the chance to take him to a lot of museums, and he is very excited about going on tour, and this year I told him he could design a t-shirt – for kids – which he could sell, if he helped on the merchandise-stand. So he made a t-shirt, and he had to sell a certain amount to pay back the costs, and so he’s learning about the math. And when he makes a profit, he can make some money and buy the Play Mobile, he wants to buy!!!

DISKANT: One last question: You’ve made a couple of albums on vinyl, why not all of your albums?
HEATHER NOVA: But I don’t think people have vinyl anymore…
DISKANT: I do!
HEATHER NOVA: You do? I’ll make one for you then!

I det samme stak tour manageren hovedet ind ad døren og bekendtgjorde, at tiden var slut. Heather Nova afsluttede vores møde venligt og lovede, at aftenens sæt ville indeholde både nye og ældre numre, et løfte, der også blev holdt.

Tilbage står billedet af en komponist og musiker, der forener sit professionelle håndværk med den nerve og intensitet, der kommer fra moderen og kvinden og det liv, Heather Nova lever på sin lille ø nede ved Bermuda. Eksotisk og besnærende, ja, men også helt naturligt på en livsbekræftende måde, der gør Heather Nova til en helt almindelig kvinde med et usædvanligt talent for at udtrykke sine følelser og tanker gennem hendes musik og tekster.

Tags from the story