Norwegian singer and songwriter Herald K resides in Vienna, Austria. He is currently working on 10 brand-new songs titled “Mythologies.” On June 24, 2022, the single “Arethusa,” the first of these, was made public.
His first release was the album “Strange Delights” in 2019. (Lindo Records). The resulting tracks have been compared to the sounds of artists like Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake thanks to a group of talented instrumentalists from the Vienna scene, including Stephan Steiner (Hotel Palindrone, Harlequin’s Glance) and Katie Kern. Following the release of his album, Herald was given the chance to create a special music video for his song “The Light Of Your Eyes” with director Leena Koppe (‘Die Vaterlosen,’ ‘Der Boden unter den Füßen’).
The song “Arethusa” was inspired by the water nymph Arethusa of the classical Greek mythology. A song about transformation, passion, temptation, and yin and yang.
The lead single from his upcoming album, “Mythologies,” is this. It has an interesting instrumentation and a unique group of musicians with Nyckelharpa taking the lead instrument. Check out the single Arethusa and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
HERALD K: First, thanks for having me around for this interview!
I’m from Bergen, Norway. I currently live in Vienna, Austria.
My initial ambition was to become a writer of some kind. Perhaps a novelist. So at first, to hone my writing skills, I tried writing poetry. But I felt quite soon that I would need to learn some singing, and an instrument, and turn my poems into songs, in order to reach more people. So I did that.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
HERALD K: I’m mainly-self taught. No formal training. But that said, I absorb the best I can from music I hear and like. And I always try to pick up things from musicians I’m around and get to play with. So I don’t really think of my musical skills, or even the songs I create and perform, as just emanating from me really. I got the impulses and skills from somewhere in the first place. Music is essentially community.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘HERALD K’?
HERALD K: People are confused anyway about how they should spell and pronounce my first name (Harald). So I just added a twist and started spelling it Herald, which incidentally also means a messenger, a proclaimer. I wouldn’t say my songs always contain messenges or proclamations, and I avoid the didactic the best I can, but I guess I always try to convey some tidings of sorts to the listener. K alludes to my middle name, and also Franz Kafka’s main protagonist in ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’.
I grew up listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, as my dad used to play him a lot. I wasn’t much into him, until one day, at the age of 17, something clicked, and I became a fan too. But I also started listening quite a bit more to Bruce Springsteen, Daniel Lanois and Leonard Cohen round about the same time. I guess those four were most important, as I was deeply into them at an age when music tends to leave a strong imprint.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
HERALD K: I’d say my lyrics are key. Although I hope my music sounds good also without paying attention to them. But I try my best to produce clear vocals on my tracks, so that every word can be heard. And I aim for an acoustic natural sound. Instruments made of wood. Sparse arrangements tend to be my preference.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
I guess music has all of those functions mentioned above. As for my own creative attempts, I just aim to convey my own particular words and melodies to the best of my ability. Trying to make something resonate in a certain way could sometimes mean favouring certain sounds and rhythms over a specific message. Sometimes accidents sound better than honed detail. I try to avoid being too cerebral.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
The creative process itself is rewarding enough for my needs. Even when taking into account all the various frustrations that go with it. I’m pretty stoic about that. The lack of monetary reward I’m pretty stoic about too. I expect that will improve over the years anyways. One has to take the long view on things as an Indie musician, and keep carving out one’s own little thing, and keep working hard at it.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
So far I’ve been doing pretty much all songwriting on my own. I tend to start with the words. A song can sometimes begin as just a line that sounds good when I speak it (silently in my mind). Then I start associating from there, find what I can build from it. The first steps tend to be more intuitive. Another approach can be starting with a concept or a story I want to develop into a song. This tends to take a more conscious and technical route. My latest release, ‘Arethusa’, was a combination of the two. I’d had the concept, the Arethusa myth, in mind as something I’d wanted to make into a song for years, but had somehow never got started with it. I needed something that came from somewhere else, somewhere unconscious perhaps. Then one line got stuck in my mind: ‘He saw your beauty, Arethusa…’ and I somehow knew this was gonna be a song. A few hours later it was.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
HERALD K: Like most of us, the experiencing and processing and fear of death, I think. Not easy to comprehend, those experiences tend to linger in our unconscious. I touch upon it in a couple of my songs, and when I do, I think it is partly fuelled by an unconscious need to process such anxieties. I have an upcoming song on my current album project which is all about that: It’s titled ‘Charon’.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
HERALD K: Perhaps playing the opening set for Canadian songwriter Freeman Dre in a fine music club, ‘Music Star’, in Hamburg this last July. I got to join him onstage for a final encore. Very special to get to share an evening like that with someone you’re a fan of!
But it could have easily ended up in the section above, because a month earlier I had caught Covid, and it was touch and go as to whether my voice would hold up, and I didn’t get to rehearse as I would have liked. The gig was filmed with multiple cameras, and soundcheck ended with a coughing fit! But somehow I got through my set without any mishaps. The adrenalin must have held my throat together!
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Photo credit: Funky Eye