Behind the Music: Interview with Vaarin

‘The music I make is a description of what I feel that day, that year, that moment – I never know what tomorrow’s song will sound like.’

Following our discovery of Vaarin’s stunning new EP ‘Imaginary Movies’ a few weeks back, we chatted with the Nordic singer-songwriter about the influences behind her tracks, what she feel this new release says about her as an artist, and the film soundtrack that she would have loved to have composed.

Hi Vaarin, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Introduce yourself to your future listeners.
Hi everyone! My name is Vaarin and I’m a 24-year-old Norwegian artist with an old soul. I feel like I’m born at the wrong time and my music is my way of being what I feel inside. I feel like the reason I’m here in this world is to make people feel something through my music and that my music is a big part of my identity! 

So when did you first know that music would be an important part of your life?
I knew from the moment I made my first song. It just felt right, like music was my language instead of speaking. I felt more like myself after I found music and started singing melodies to my father’s guitar chords as I came home from school. I made a song called ‘Who Knows’ when I was 14 and that was the start of it. It was about everything we humans don’t know about the world and about our lives, and it was my way of coping with my thoughts. 

What would you cite as your main musical/non-musical influences?
I was born with Norah Jones, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Kate Bush, Radka Toneff, Susanne Sundfør, Ane Brun, and CocoRosie on the speakers at home. I think they are some of my favorite musical influences, role models, and women in the world. I got my Rhodes piano because of Susanne Sundfør and that piano is a big, big influence in my writing. I am also a very big fan of Tom Waits and Thom Yorke, and I’m very inspired by their storytelling, lyrics, and authenticity. My mom and dad listened to a lot of jazz and folk and I think that is something that sticks with me to this day – it’s in my body. I also love art and visuals.

I also love art and visuals and my mom is an artist/painter. She influences me every day just being who she is and living in a home with so much visual, aesthetic, and nostalgic feeling. Our house in Hokksund – the small town I’m from – is from the 1700s and I think that has influenced me a lot. My mom is a big influence on how I became who I am. Ballet, movies, theatre, and textual beauties are huge influences too. 

‘I think this cinematic vibe is something that’s very ‘me’ –
it feels very good to show that side to my audience.’

Do you have any other creative skills then?
I love to write and I wanted to become a journalist when I was in high school, but ended up writing songs instead. I write sentences, essays, and poems every day both in Norwegian and English. I think every song is a result of a writing idea at first, so this creative skill makes the songwriting process flow a little more. Also, I have been on stage from an early age and performed in a lot of theatres as a child playing Cinderella, Tweedledee, and a Harpy in the Ronia The Robber’s Daughter. This was the start of me finding my place and feeling strong and powerful in my voice. 

Turning to your truly captivating release ‘Imaginary Movies’, what’s the meaning behind the title and the concept?
The ‘Imaginary Movies’ EP is four cinematic songs for the movies inside our minds. I think in the last few years humans have lived and dreamed a lot up in their heads because of the staying at home part of the new everyday life. I wanted to release this EP as a gift to everyone who needs to feel something, the ones who feel a bit blue inside. I hope everyone who listens takes a second, thinks, and directs their own movies with the emotions they need to get out of their bodies, or the emotions they want to feel but haven’t got the chance to. That is the concept of the EP – to get the listeners to direct their own movies and feel through it. 

There are most definitely huge cinematic tendencies in those tracks. Do you compose with a storyline in mind?
I have a storyline in my own mind too, yes. These songs are cinematic, descriptive, and also a direct story from my own life. The storyline is different from track to track but every one of them is about a relationship between humans and my perspective of it. ‘Lighthouse’ is a metaphor for feeling unsafe and chaotic in a relationship, while ‘Darling’ is a metaphor for a love so huge but yet so common we tend to forget it. ‘Ballet Dancer’ is a metaphor for beauty in the pain and in our flaws, and ‘Auteur’ is a metaphor for death and life, as we all are writing our very own book called life. Every song is a story that has evolved in my thoughts the last few years. 

Similarly, the release showcases your love of ethereal textures and orchestral instrumentation. What drew you to these? 
I think I have always been interested in these from the day I was born. I love details and authentic productions, and both the songs and the concept needed these things to stand tall. Since I am telling a story from my own life, while drawing a world around the listener, I wanted to keep every texture I could so it would feel alive and real for the listener as well. The instrumentation makes the emotions bigger, clearer, and more dramatic, with the storytelling exploding through the strings and orchestral instruments. We figured out that was the way to tell these emotions as authentic as we could. 

Thinking about your recording process, which element of this would people be most surprised by? 
I am always moving like a chaotic dancer when I record. I just can’t stand still when I’m singing, so if someone was watching the recording of the vocals they would be surprised by how much motion and how much hand movement I would do. It isn’t a calming recording, it’s a very dramatic and dance-like experience.

Reflecting on your releases to date, what has led to the contrasting atmosphere between your debut and those on ‘Imaginary Movies’?
I feel as though I am growing like a flower throughout my career. I am slowly, each day, figuring out who I am and what I sound like. Maybe you can hear more of me in this EP, more of my original sound, and closer to my heart because that was the concept – to tell a story without keeping away the flaws. I think this cinematic vibe is something that is very ‘me’ and to show that side to the audience feels very good. I am many things, in different shades and forms, but I think that side is new from what I have released before. 

So do you feel that ‘Imaginary Movies’ signals a new sonic direction for you?
I have to wait and see what my direction will be. I feel like the music I make is a total description of what I feel that day, or that year, or that moment, so I don’t really know what the song I make tomorrow will sound like. But, I feel like I am in a very inspiring place and the ‘Imaginary Movies’ EP has a lot of new and different ideas, a lot of things to keep, and I’m very excited to see what my next release will be like. I think the cinematic vibe will keep on growing though and I am on my way to finding out who I am.

Nordic artists always seem to have an extra special sound quality to them. Why do you think this is the case and which Nordic artist are you loving right now?
Maybe it’s the cold winters, mountains, our nature, and longing/dreaming that makes it? I don’t have a good answer to that but I feel like nature is a big part of why I sound like I do. There are so many good Nordic artists and songs out there, and right now I’m loving Louien, Eivør, Ane Brun, Thomas Dybdahl, Agnes Obel, Monica Heldal, Ásgeir, First Aid Kit, and Alice Boman. 

‘The storylines within Imaginary Movies are different from track to track,
but every one of them is about a relationship between humans and my perspective of it.’

What is your earliest musical memory and why does it stay in your mind to this day?
My first musical memory would be listening to Maj Britt Andersen’s records as a child. I remember singing and having such fun in my room. I also sang ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ by ABBA at the age of 8 and I enjoyed it so much. I felt like I was totally myself on stage. My mom had an old old music box too that I loved to use. 

So to what extent do you feel your childhood experiences influenced you wanting to become an artist?
The support from my parents is important and the music my parents showed me made me who I am. I think if my dad had not been playing the guitar every day, and my mom singing old folk tunes, I wouldn’t have become who I am. My dream started with them making me believe I could make it. 

And finally, bringing it back to movies, what film do you wish you had created the soundtrack to?
It has to be one of my favorite movies, ‘The Piano’ (1993), which tells the story of a mute woman Ada and her daughter Flora. Ada doesn’t speak but she plays the piano to communicate. The movie tells a tragedy but it makes the tragedy so empowering and beautiful. The music is by the English composer Michael Nyman and it’s so fulfilling, sorrowful, and heartbreaking that it makes me cry by the first note. That theme and the music emphasises the essence of the story so well, in all simplicity, with small grips to change the range of emotions. This movie and the music is something I will never forget ever, and it would have been out of this world to be the one who created it. 

Thanks Vaarin for chatting with Listen to Discover
Photography Credits: In Article: Marcus A. Edvardsen, Featured Image:
Jørgen Klüver

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