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Artist of the Week – Jarle Bernhoft

November 16, 2015 by ·


Interview with the Norwegian musician Jarle Bernhoft by Dessislava Berndt

Standing ovations for an extraordinary musician: This happened on 31.10.15 at the New Fall Festival in Robert Schumann Hall Düsseldorf.

Bernhoft, a fantastic vocalist, guitar player and entertainer from Norway played there with his band.

Bernhoft, Photo: Fred Jonny

I discovered Bernhoft on the Traumzeit Duisburg Festival in 2011 and brought him to your attention with the following interviews:

Artist of the Week 2012 – Jarle Bernhoft

Artist of the Week 2011 – Jarle Bernhoft

Because he has lived and toured in the USA for the last three years, Bernhoft has not been able to be in Europe so often. So, when I heard that he will be again in North Rhine Westphalia I arranged to meet him in Düsseldorf. There, I was lucky to speak again personally to the Grammy nominated artist and to ask him a few questions.

Jarle, you are in Düsseldorf today. Do you have time to discover the cities where you play?

Not really. Actually, it is kind of sad the way we travel around. We come to a town or city and we set up our instruments in the venue, do sound check, eat something and start the gig. Straight after we finish we should go to sleep because the next day we have to wake up early to get our next flight. I’d like to see more of the places I visit because despite I’ve travelled all over the world I’ve seen very little.

Robert Schumann Saal Düsseldorf, Photo: desenze

How did you receive the invitation for the New Fall Festival?

The festival organizer just called and asked if I would like to play. So, I said yes.

New Fall Festival at Museum Kunstpalast, Photo: desenze

Tonight, I’ll play for the first time with my band outside of Norway. It will be a different experience compared to the solo gigs with a very high energy. We’ll play something from the first album but it might be in a different version; we’ll also play some new stuff.

The idea is to free myself from the whole recording and looping and to play with people. Because playing with myself is a kind of masturbation and no more the real thing.

Your 3th album is called “Islander”. Why has the water got a special meaning to you?

It is strange, because I really didn’t think about water and such things until I saw the lyrics of the album; actually before I had the name for the album Islander and before I had a real thought about what I was writing.



But, as I’ve looked at the lyrics I said to myself: Wow, it is all about maritime stuff like boots, bridges and water”. We all know the importance of water for us but water is also a big divider.

In regard to that, what do you thing about the current situation of the refugees because water is now also between the zones of war and security? It is a very difficult situation.

This is a super difficult question. It is very important to remember that there is a big crisis in Syria. As Europeans we might think we won’t war and we will be flooded by the refugees. There are about 250.000 coming to Europe but in Syria they are 19 million. That’s the important number to have in mind I think in this situation.

It is a shame for us because we treat this crisis as a threat to our culture. Sorry, I am getting angry when I just think or talk about this topic. But it is good that Germany is taking in refugees.

Yes, Sweden too. But what about Norway? Do they have fear?

Yes, In Sweden they also have fear but the government is more brave and it is guided by their moral compass which I think is a good compass. But, the challenge is that the people, from a democratic perspective, are not with them; the people fear for their culture in both countries, but the governments are slightly different in the ways they are dealing with it.

So, the anti-immigration party becomes the second biggest party in Sweden now. And of course this is the price you have to pay if you are politician who is brave and willing to do the right thing even if it is not popular. You might not be re-elected but it is important to do the right thing anyway. I have much more respect for the people who don’t get re-elected because they do the right thing.

Unfortunately, the government people in Norway are not doing enough right things because they are too worried about their re-election. Democracy has also its drawbacks.

Bernhoft, Photo: Fred Jonny

Even if there was a land between Europe and Syria it would be a challenge, with a lot of people coming. I mean it is pretty natural: if you are scared of getting killed you will go somewhere else. It is still the most natural thing, even if you are not scared of getting killed, to want to go somewhere you can find food, work and resources. It is the most natural thing in the world. People have always done this. Animals do it too. They go from one place to another. But they do not do this because they want, they do it because they must. No animals would leave their habitat. And so would not humans. And if we think that those people are coming to Europe just because they are seeking more money I thing we are on the wrong path.

You lived for a while in America and had the opportunity to get different opinions on this?

I am lucky to be able to move from America to Europe and back. There are lots of differences between America and Norway. One of these is about the refugees and how you are looking at it, but the big difference is how you look at the society in general. America is very much individualistic country, Norway is a social democracy. The labor party is shaping the country. There are values like equality, equal possibilities for all, strong state and welfare system. Norway has been doing it for hundred years. And how controversial is the Obama care System…

We last met in 2012 in Zeche Bochum. How do you see your development as a musician so far?

To be honest, I think I’ve been doing quite the same thing. I am just moving to another confusion. When I get confused I write different stuff and I try to look for the red threat, then I go on tour, time is never really set when to write and when to stop writing, so I get confused again. Right now, I am starting to get my head above the surface. I am in the middle of the ocean, trying to swim. I guess, three years ago I was more clear about what to do. Right now I enjoy the confusion. It is a good state. And I enjoy to swim.

Bernhoft “Wind You Up” official video from Bernhoft — Official on Vimeo.

And I have been touring for almost one and a half year, but have also been at home, trying to be a good dad.

I have lived in America for two years and have learned a lot there. It was great to see the world from a different perspective. But I have been also homesick. I don’t know whether I could move there or not. I’ll do some music and in America they know that type of music, it is like their folk music in a way. I wanted to find out whether I can cut it or If I was good for the region and if I can “cut the mustard”, to be up there with the best.

The plan was to stay one year and then one year became two years. But because of my son we moved back to Norway because the school system there is better. But it was a huge learning for me in the States about the different ways of thinking on life and society. Probably, there will be a new album lying on there.

Do you like to discover talents?

I find that I get picky. I am pickier now then I was before. When I hear something it should be not just good but rather very special for me to get impressed.

Maybe, you will be soon part of talent shows juries?

Yes, I’ve been asked a number of times but I never had time for that. But I will be a host now for the Norwegian Grammy equivalent.
Maybe, when I am tired from touring I’ll become a teacher and will stay for a while at home. And then start again with touring…

What can you tell us about the coming tour this November and December in the USA?

I will be support and go and play for half an hour before Allen Stone and hopefully steel his audience:)

I think most of the people will not know who I am. But it is going to be good; gwe will play in Apollo Manhattan, in Harlem. It’s going to be amazing.
How goes the app “Islander”? I saw the video where you explained it and wanted to have the app immediately.

I don’t think it is a smash hit because you need a lot of space. But I really like the app and can really recommend the app; it is a very cool thing, very natty.

What are you wishes and dreams for the future?

I will continue to do what I am doing in a nice balance between writing, performing, touring and maybe doing some other stuff.

I’ve done three albums till now in this kind of style. Maybe it will be cool to find out something new and to re-invent myself. Because I did this before, moving from rock band to soul music. And who knows what will come next?

Jarle, thank you very much for the interview and good luck for the tour!

Jarle Bernhoft is a Norwegian singer, multi-instrumentalist songwriter and guitarist.

Bernhoft co-founded, and performed lead vocals for the rock band Span in 1999.

After their split in 2005, Bernhoft became a solo artist. His first studio album, Ceramik City Chronicles, was released in 2008. It reached the Nr. 4 on the Norwegian album charts.

In 2010, he released “1: Man 2: Band”, where one half is a recording from his solo show at a jazz café in Oslo (Kampen Bistro), and the other half is a recording from his concerts in Rockefeller and Molde Jazz Festival with a full band.

In 2011, he released his second album “Solidarity Breaks”. His 3th album is called “Islander” (2015).

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