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Artist of the Week – Jarle Bernhoft

May 7, 2012 by · No comments

Interview with the Norwegian musician Jarle Bernhoft by Dessislava Berndt

The first time I heard Bernhoft was at the Traumzeit festival in Duisburg last summer. He was incredible. Such a live performance is not very common. “Bernhoft is a one man show” it was said. Yes, he is. That means playing guitar, recording himself while singing and playing, and then integrating it to the show, joking with the audience – and all this at the same time. You stay there and you are so fascinated that you cannot move away from your place.

And as I wrote about his tour in Germany it was sure that it should be done again. This possibility cannot be missed. And I drove to Zeche Bochum and was lucky to meet this extraordinary singer and musician personally.

Jarle is not only a fantastic and versatile vocalist, guitar player and entertainer. He is a very sensible and intelligent person. And he can tell you stories in German…

He was the front man of the bands Explicit Lyrics and SPAN and he explored punk and heavy rock. Even involved in side projects like Green Granadas and Funky Hot Grits, he was great playing rockabilly, funk and soul. His solo work since SPAN has focused more on soul music and nowadays he has developed his truly original style, using pedals, tapes and loops to perform as a one-man-band.

His second album Album „Solidarity Breaks“ was number one in the charts in Norway and Harald Schmidt, the well-known German entertainer recommended his live performance.

And all that began on the opera stage in Oslo…


Jarle, you have a big tour this year. How is it going so far?

I’ve done quite a few shows with my current band: drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, guitar, tree background singers, and two horns. It is very huge because I play my own music but not alone. That’s enormous.

I’ve done few shows in Denmark and one arena show in Oslo with a capacity of 10 000, that was sold out. Very cool. We are going to do festivals in Norway and Denmark with the band and in the rest of Europe I am going to play alone.

I can recommend you also Thea Hjelmeland my support for the tour in Europe. She is “Spitzenklasse” (

Thea Hjelmeland, Photo: desenze

Her debut album entitled “Oh, the third..” was released February 2012. It was recorded in ØRA Studio in Trondheim and produced by Jostein Ansnes (Kristin Asbjørnsen, Dadafon) and me. I also played several parts on the record.

Bernhoft – the gig in Zeche, Bochum was part of the tour 2012, Photo: desenze

What are your plans after the tour?

In September I’ll take two weeks to sleep. Then I’ll take some time off to write songs because I am not very good at writing songs when I am on tour. I need to be alone and stare at the wall.

And I have a two years old son. So, I’ll try my best to spend some time with him.

What is source of your inspiration?

The source of my inspiration can be every single place, but you need to work with that inspiration and turn it to music, I guess. You have to sit down and be alone.

Bernhoft in Zeche, Bochum, Photo: desenze

Do you remember the Traumzeit festival in Duisburg?

It was great touring in Germany. And for this year I think we doubled the capacity for the tour in Germany. It means that people were telling their friends about me…

How was the gig at the Harald Schmidt Show?

Very good. But I have to tell you that I felt so sick that day. I woke up in Oslo and I felt very bad. May be I ate something bad or my son came with something from his kindergarten. I had a stomach bug and in the plane I was holding my seat not to throw up. On the television I was feeling very sick and prayed to god that I can handle it.

After that I’ve seen the footage of the show but it doesn’t look that bad.

Did you spoke to Harald Schmidt?

Yes, he is a nice man. His sense of humor is some kind British.

Do you know something about Bulgaria?

The only thing I know about Bulgaria is a kind of singing with female choir and I love that kind of music. Apart from that I know nothing about Bulgaria. I’ve never been there. It is close to the Black sea. Wait, the capital is Sofia, isn’t it? I remember that from school.

Did you hear that Sofia will be the first stop of Lady Gaga’s European tour?

Oh, great! I’ve read some interviews with Lady Gaga. She seems to be the biggest saint in pop business when she speaks to the media. She seems so smart. She knows how to manipulate the audience and the media.

I don’t like her music so much, but she seems very smart when I read her interviews.

Who should be reached by your music?

I think that my preferred audience is the thinking audience: people that are able to dance and think at the same time. I think that my audience is from all ages. I am amazed that my music seems to transcend people even kids e.g. my son is a cool guy and loves my music and he is 2 years old and up to people 60-70 years old.

Bernhoft in Zeche, Bochum, Photo: desenze

For instance Nirvana is very generational band appealed to young people, mostly young man I guess in the age 16-25 not finding their place in the world.

It is not that way with my music. I hope that my audience is clever. But that had nothing to do with specific age only with the attitude to be open-minded. Because it is the way I speak to my audience.

Do you feel better with the band or alone on stage?

I love both formats. I like the unpredictability of the band. When I play alone I know what I am doing; with the band it is different. But both of them are fantastic.

And I like the anonymity when I am not on stage.

Do you have a big crew?

When I am alone they are three people in charge for the sound, lights and the tour management. With the band I have 11-12 musicians around.

Where is the best place to be in Oslo? Which is your preferred place there?

Home! But there is very vibrant music scene in Oslo. There are few clubs there e.g. Mono, the first place I played my own music with 200 places capacity. But you have also places with a capacity of 15 000 like in Rockefeller Music Hall. You have there 15 000 people but it is at the same time intimate and you can communicate with everyone. I played there for about 9 700 people and it was strange because you cannot identify the people. It is like a big mass of people and you cannot separate one face from another. And the people on the back are so far from the stage.

Bernhoft in Zeche, Bochum, Photo: desenze

I like the smaller places where I can communicate with the audience.

Is it not too hard to be today in Bochum and tomorrow in Berlin?

No, I know how to relax in the car, even when I am driving.

I am a bit too old to get drunk every night after the gig. I am a bit of a health freak when I am on tour – enough sleep and bit of work out that’s good.

It looks so easy when you play. But what is the most difficult part of the show – to play, to sing, to handle the computer or to make jokes?

To speak in German. That is difficult.

It was a hard work to prepare the show. But now it is easy. It is like driving a car. You have to deal with certain pedals and don’t heat the person. Oh, there is also a car… If people can drive a car then they can also have a conversation with the people in the car. It is not so difficult. But it is a new technology and only few people can do it.


Bernhoft will be again in Germany performing at the Zelt Festival Ruhr in August 2012

As a guitar player it is important to keep certain position of the shoulder and the neck because otherwise the nerves there will be overstrained. So I am concentrated on sitting correctly all the time. I am also not a trained singer and I can feel the strain after 3 gigs and 3 days.

And you are in touch with the audience the whole time during the gig…

If you lose the contact with the audience while concentrating on what comes next or dealing with the pedals you are lost. If you just pay attention on your feet nobody will see it…

You played in the opera; you was a rock star and sang blues. And now?

I am back to play again in the opera this autumn (16.10.2012), 30 years after my first appearance there. I was a child and this was my first solo performance in the opera in Oslo.

It is so cool to be there again. The building is fantastic. And they play there as well as well-known as modern works. My dad was an opera singer.

I can enjoy opera, a good opera. A bad opera is the worst think that can happen to you. I like Madame Butterfly and Turandot, the latest opera Puccini’s. The story fits the music and it was a great performance at the opera in Oslo.

Thank you very much for the interview! We will enjoy the gig tonight!

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 the second album “Solidarity Breaks”.

Online Promotion: Anke Baumann

Tour dates:

Trondheim Jazz Festival (N)
Cargo, London (UK)
Le Trianon, Paris (F)
Stereolux, Nantes (F)
Theatre de Cognac, Cognac (F)
Victoire 2, Montpellier (F)
Bird, Rotterdam (NL)
Spiegelbar, Utrecht (NL)
Paradiso, Amsterdam (NL)
Bernhoft w/ band – Working Class Hero Festivalen, Drammen (NO)
The Great Escape – Brighton (UK)
Bernhoft w/ band – Midtsommerjazz, Ålesund (NO)
Bernhoft w/ band – Wrightegaarden, Langesund (NO)
Bernhoft w/ band – Over Oslo Festivalen, Grefsenkollen (NO) | SOLD OUT
Bernhoft w/ band – Bergenfest, Bergen (NO)
Bernhoft w/ band – Sam Eydes Plass, Arendal (NO)
Bernhoft w/ band – Hamar Music Festival
Bernhoft w/ band – Tahitifestivalen, Kristiansund (NO)
Roskilde Festival (DK)
Nibe Festival (DK)
North Sea Jazz Festival (NL)
Jazz Festival, Nice (F)
Bernhoft w/ band – Odderøya, Kristiansand (N)
Bernhoft w/ band – Hvaler Gjestgiveri, Skjærhalden (N).

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