A conversation with the composer Julia Gjertsen from Oslo is long overdue.In March the lady will release her new EP "Dive", in collaboration with Juha Mäki-Patola from Finland.Scandinavian music is always something special, and not just because of the melancholic aspect.In an interview, she explains why this is the case, what cooperation with other musicians is like and what Julia will be working on in the future.
Julia's music is strongly inspired by arctic nature.
Hello Julia, nice that you have time. How are you doing right now? I'm doing well, thank you. Right now, I am excited about a new live set that I’m preparing for my next performance. I can't wait to share it with the audience!
Before we get to the new EP, let's look back. Your new album “Formations” was released in 2022. How was the feedback from the press and the music listeners? The release of my album 'Formations' in 2022 was an important milestone for me. I'm grateful for all the positive feedback I've received. It means a lot to me that this music has resonated with people and touched their hearts. I was also happy to see the album make it onto several 'Best of the Year' lists and to receive great reviews from publications such as Gezeitenstrom Musikmagazin. This album represents an exploration of my artistic vision, and it is truly humbling to see how well it has been received by the audience. It inspires me to keep creating and sharing my work.
The album was included in the sound references 2022 of this music magazine – When you read something like that, does it make you proud or what thoughts go through your head? I am humbled to see that my album was included in Gezeitenstrom Musikmagazin's sound references of 2022. Also, I feel that your review captured the essence of my album, highlighting its melancholic undertones as well as its uplifting and hopeful moments. It is an honor to be recognized alongside so many great artists, thank you so much!
Tell a little bit about your musical past. How did you get into music? Music has always been a big part of my life, even though I didn't grow up in a musical family. I remember singing a lot as a child. At the age of 7 I started taking piano lessons. My grandmother had a friend who was a piano teacher and who used to visit us and teach me, and my practicing was enjoyable and stress-free. I began creating my own melodies at a young age, although I didn't share them with anyone at the time, so this process has always been quite introverted for me. In my teenage years, I became more involved in creating music with others by playing guitar and singing in bands, as well as writing songs. However, I eventually returned to just playing the piano during my music studies in high school and continued to pursue composing instrumental music more extensively afterwards. While I never really achieved a high level of technical proficiency on the piano, it has always been my favorite instrument and a constant companion in my life.
Can you still remember the very first song that you composed yourself? How or what was it? It's hard to say exactly when I composed my first song because I've been creating melodies and songs since I was a child. I can't recall the specific details of my earliest compositions, but I do remember the feeling of joy and excitement that came with discovering my own creative voice. I created several songs that I remember more distinctly, but looking back, I recognize that they were all part of my creative journey and that I've grown a lot as a musician since then.
The piano is always a protagonist in your works. What makes this instrument so special for you? Throughout my life, the piano has held a special place in my heart. I believe this connection to the instrument comes from the sense of safety and peace it provided me in my early years. The piano is a unique and versatile instrument that can express a wide range of emotions, and each acoustic piano has its own unique soul and personality. Whenever I sit down at a piano to create, I feel like I'm connected to the universe in a way that is hard to describe. In those moments, I lose track of time and my worries fade away. It's as if I am in my own world, creating something that is meaningful and authentic to me. Although other methods of creating music give me similar experiences, nothing compares to the feeling I get when I am improvising and playing the piano by myself. I also enjoy experimenting with processing the piano with effects and incorporating its essence into my ambient and electronic works.
Collaborating with Juha on "Wide" was an enjoyable experience
Dive with Juha Mäki-Patola will be released on March 11, 2023.
Your new EP "Dive" with Juha Mäki-Patola from Finland will be released in March. How did the collaboration come about? Juha and I first connected when he reached out to me while I was traveling by ferry to Northern Norway last spring. I had already been a fan of Juha's work and felt a connection to his music, so his invitation to collaborate came at the perfect time. As I was saddened by the events in the world at that time, working with Juha helped me to shift my focus for a bit and to explore some new creative avenues. We began exchanging musical ideas, which eventually led to the creation of several compositions. Though we created many tracks, we selected only four pieces that we felt best captured the essence of our collaboration, inspired by the ocean. Some of the other tracks we worked on had a different style, and I even experimented with using my vocals. Perhaps we'll release them someday when the timing is right!
The EP contains four quite calm and peaceful pieces. Which title did you have to work on for a long time until it was perfect for you? Most of the tracks on the EP came together quite naturally for us, but we did spend some time on the track "Dive" to make sure it felt right. It went through a few rounds of reworking before we were satisfied with the final version. We wanted to create a piece that would allow the listener to slowly dive into meditative piano loops, and we worked to ensure that this composition achieved that feeling.
The track "Wide" is such a typical example of timeless sound art. How much heart and soul is there in such pieces of yourself? Thank you for your kind words! Collaborating with Juha on "Wide" was an enjoyable experience, and I believe we both infused a bit of ourselves into the track. Working on this track allowed us to explore new sound palettes and experiment with different elements, bringing our personalities into this creative process.
You often work together with other musicians, such as Niklas Paschburg or as Nico Rosenberg. Is it to get other opinions or perspectives on the music? Or because you can achieve more creativity together? Just to clarify, I haven't had the opportunity to work with Niklas Paschburg, although I'm a big fan of his music. However, I have had the pleasure of working with other musicians such as Nico Rosenberg, and it's been a wonderful experience. Collaborating with other musicians brings a fresh perspective to the music I create, and it's really exciting to bounce ideas back and forth, exploring new creative paths. Working with someone else helps me break out of my usual way of thinking, and it can feel like going on an adventure together, musically. It's also great when a collaborator brings a new element to the sound, and I learn something from this process.
Music from Scandinavia is so unique in the world. Can you describe why that is? Why are the melancholic facets much more pronounced? Or is it for other reasons? It's hard to say for sure, but I think there are probably several reasons for that. I believe that the climate and nature can be an influence on how people express themselves creatively. For example, in Norway, I think that the long, dark winters and short summers may inspire a more introspective and melancholic tone, as well as expressions of longing. The natural landscapes could also bring a sense of wonder and awe into the music. Also, I think the strong emphasis on individualism and personal expression in Scandinavia can impact the diversity and experimentation in the music scene, leading to its unique qualities.
Are you already working on a new album? Can you tell me something about that? I am currently working on my third album, where I will continue to explore the themes and ideas from my previous two albums. It will serve as the final installment in a trilogy of sorts. Although it is still in the early stages of development, I plan to begin recording this summer. I am really excited about this project because I will be experimenting with new methods of creation. I plan to relinquish some control and allow more space for improvisation and collaboration, pushing myself more outside of my comfort zone.
I would love to compose music for a movie inspired by the style of Tarkovsky
Julia Gjertsen is a pianist and composer based in Oslo, Norway.
What does Julia Gjertsen do when she's not at the piano or in the studio? When I'm not playing the piano or working in the studio, I enjoy participating in activities that help me relax and recharge. Lately, I have been exploring meditation and mindfulness practices, which have been beneficial for connecting with my inner self and improving my overall well-being.
Do you follow other music releases? What album or composer has left a strong impression on you lately? Yes, I try to keep up with new music releases when I can. One recent release that really caught my attention lately is "Colours of Air" by loscil & Lawrence English. The ambient textures on this album have a truly captivating expression. Another recent release that I thoroughly enjoyed is Andreas Ihlebæk's album "Nowhere Everything" (which is also reviewed on Gezeitenstrom Musikmagazin). I feel that his unique way blending jazzy and classical elements creates a really refreshing and beautiful soundscape.
If you could choose a series/movie, which one would Julia Gjertsen write the music for? I find stories and visuals that explore complex philosophical ideas and have a deeper meaning particularly inspiring. Although I don't have a specific film or series in mind, I would love to compose music for a movie inspired by the style of Tarkovsky, as I'm naturally drawn to slow, contemplative storytelling that immerses the audience in both the visuals and the music. Another reference to mention is Aronofsky's visual style. It would be amazing to compose for a movie or series that embodies these inspirations and qualities.
What advice would you give to young people who are talented and love to compose music but don't dare release their music because they think it's bad or nobody cares? If you're hesitant to release your music, try to acknowledge and accept your inner critic, but not let it stop you from sharing your work with others. I understand that it can be challenging to put your art out there and not everyone may resonate with it, however the reward of touching even one person with your music is worth it. Also, instead of seeking external validation, try to separate your ego from your art and remember that your work is not a reflection of you as a person. My advice to young musicians would be to release their music if it feels right for them, and if not, to continue creating for personal joy. Sometimes I also experience doubts about my work, but I still share it because it feels right for me, and it brings me joy to create and connect with others through music.
Do you have another goal in life or music that you would like to work towards? I must admit, the idea of going off the grid and living as a hermit composer does have its appeal! But in all seriousness, I'm constantly searching for new musical projects and seeking ways to expand my skills and creativity. As for the future, I envision myself spending more time surrounded by nature, allowing the peaceful environment to inspire and influence my music.
Thank you Julia for your time. The last words are yours: Thanks for having me, it's been a real pleasure!