Widely known for possessing one of Norway’s greatest country voices, Malin Pettersen‘s career has been a whirlwind since the release of her new album Wildhorse. As the winner of the prestigious Spellemann award (Norwegian Grammy), the Americana artist’s fragile voice and unique musicianship have made her popularity grow internationally.
Text & Photo : Lena Saugen
Stylist and co-art director: Silje Bjordal
Horse owner and handler: Hanna Wensaas
Thanks to : Heidi Grønvold and Gro Wensaas
Location: Lommedalen, Norway / Anne Wensaas
As the true horse lover she is, we couldn’t resist asking Malin for an interview. She might not be a horse addict in a sense we usually refer to; it was more her fascination of horses that paid our interest. But let’s also mention that we are truly inspired by her music, that deeply touches our souls and hearts. And for her, being surrounded by beautiful horses for a day was our gift in return.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
“I am a musician, songwriter, friend and mother who loves science/philosophy and plants. I strive to make great art and understand the world around me better.”
“Wildhorse is about life being complex and experiencing several feelings at once – sad to leave a place behind, yet excited about where you’re going, happy to take chances, yet scared of what will happen if you fail “
When did you find out that you wanted to be a musician/ artist?
“I’m really not sure when the exact choice was made to make it my job, but I’ve been singing, making songs and expressing myself through music since I was a kid. I think I knew from an early age that I wanted to be some kind of a performer – I loved dancing and acting as well and have done a lot of that through the years. When I became a part of ‘Lucky Lips’ (the band) in 2007 I think my journey to become an actual proffesional musician started for real.”
Who do you consider as your most important influencer in regards of people that have inspired your journey? Both as a person and musician?
“I think both my parents have inspired me a lot. My mom has always been a really hard worker and has the mindset that ‘almost anything is ‘achievable’ if you put in the effort, and that has motivated and inspired me a lot. My dad, who’s besides being a hard worker, has also been a musician himself, has definitely influenced me. Besides that, I’ll never forget the first time I met Brennen Leigh – a musician and songwriter who was visiting Norway from The US when I was 18. She was so good, knew so many songs, and I just remember thinking I wanted to become as good as her. I’m still working on it, and she still blows my mind to this date. “
Describe your music and your creative process when you make a new song?
“I have three main ways of writing a song, and they all combine at times and intertwine with one and other. I’ll either start with a melody idea, a lyrical idea, or I’ll improvise both lyrics and melody at the same time. I also try to use different techniques when trying to get new inspiration or pull myself away from my usual writing path. I use drum loops or other vocal effects to spark new ideas and so on.”
Being an artist is a tough road, especially in these Covid times. How do you cope? Do you get more creative, or do you feel the opposite?
“I have not been very creative musically during covid. It’s been strange not having the same kind of motivation that I’m used to, but it’s been really good to allow myself this break as well. I think I needed it. I have been creative in other ways, though. I’ve been drawing, painting, making merch etc. And it’s been really nice to reaquaint myself with that side of me. Generally, having this job is the only job I think I’m cut out for, but it’s definitely no walk in the park still. I’m also a person who experience ups and downs, and that’s definitely a challenge. I try working with myself to take the pressure off when it comes to meeting expectations by the outside world, and in my experience, that helps. But life is a work in progress, and you never really reach the finishline – once you start working on it, it’s a lifelong thing, and doing the work is a goal in itself.
“But life is a work in progress, and you never really reach the finishline – once you start working on it, it’s a lifelong thing, and doing the work is a goal in itself.”
…. And some horsey questions
Country music, cowboy culture and horses are naturally connected – do you have any reflections on that, and why do you think it touches so many people?
“I think people connect to the music because it’s so emotional. Be it sadness, joy, heartache, or just telling the story of people’s lives – it invites us in and lets you be who you are, no questions asked. And I think the horses and the romanticized lives of the cowboys also offer some kind of escapeism appeal. To be at one with nature, the horse, feel what you feel and be who you are. Add some rhinestones to that, and no wonder people get fascinated. Myself included!”
What is your relation to horses, and how do they influence you?
“I am a lifelong animal person, and naturally, horses has always been a fascination. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to ride some too as a kid, and I’ve always felt like the connection people talk about with horses is very real, yet very much so on the horse’s premisses. It’s so clear to me when you look into their eyes, look at how they move, and how they react to their environment, that they have inner lives we’re privileged to see glimpses of. I would love to ride more and learn some of what I was taught as a kid again. There’s really no other feeling like being on a horse.”
What is the song ‘Wild Horse’ about?
“It’s about doing things on your own terms, following your own instinct even if you don’t know exactly where it’s going to take you. It’s about life being complex and experiencing several feelings at once – sad to leave a place behind, yet excited about where you’re going, happy to take chances, yet scared of what will happen if you fail etc. It was written mostly on a plane, which is one such special situation where you’re right in the middle of two very concrete places, leaving something behind but also headed towards new adventures.”
The best and worse thing about being an artist?
“The best part is the actual musical part of the job: Writing, recording, playing live, and doing so with your friends! The worst is probably the fact that it’s very difficult to make a living as an artist in Norway. So you have to take a lot of other things into consideration as well to actually get your art out there. And that can be stressful, difficult and not always fun. It’s also a challenge that your job consists, to such a great extent, of who you are – so when people measure your work, or if your art does not resonate with others, it is difficult to separate that from your own person. I am working on that, though, to not make that such a big deal in my life.”
What inspires you?
“I am inspired by so many different things. I try to do something I haven’t done in a while if I feel like I lack inspiration; read if I haven’t in a while, listen to this or that kind of music, seek new knowledge about certain subjects, etc. And other people – other people inspire me a lot! What they do and say is a huge inspiration giver.”
What are your future goals?
“I hope I’ll make some great music! I don’t know yet what my next solo album will be, and that’s exciting and scary at the same time.
I hope to create stability with my projects that will allow me to make more long term goals and work with longer timelines without stressing about paying rent. And I want to continue working with the mental state of being an artist and constantly remind myself that the art is the main focus and the reason I am doing this at all.”