Ina Wroldsen is one of those artists whose voice and lyrics you’ve probably heard more often than you think.
As the voice featuring on Calvin Harris’ smash hit “How Deep Is Your Love”, and the writer behind songs of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, the Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears – she’s no stranger to global success. And yet, it seems as Ina Wroldsen is only just now truly making a name for herself as a solo artist. We asked the Norwegian singer-songwriter a couple of questions about her latest single “Haloes”, what inspires her, and what’s next.
You’ve just released your new single “Haloes”, which you said is about capturing the moment of euphoria when you’re in a crowd of people and having a wonderful time. Was that inspired by your own experiences, or by seeing your fans connect at your own concerts?
There is magic in seeing a bunch of strangers come together in something that once only belonged to you. Hearing a crowd of people singing your words back cannot be described in words. It is truly amazing. Equally, I have been in many of those crowds myself, linking with strangers in the joy of music, so there is a synergy there that I think is very euphoric and very pure.
We live in such a fast-paced world, that we don’t even fully realise our own experiences half of the time, it seems. Yet your songs tend to focus exactly on capturing these micro-moments of human emotion and connection. Is that a deliberate choice? What inspires your writing?
Good question. I am inspired by everything. From Commercials I see, to books that I read and podcasts I listen to. I get inspired by other people’s music, from things people say, to things people do. I sometimes wish I could turn my brain off. So far, the only thing I have found that seems to slow it down a little is puzzling. But I suppose that is what happens when you make a career out of your hobby. It’s just always there and after all I am grateful for that. The reading part is essential though, I read all the time and always in English. It’s so important to keep the word flow steady and because my first language is Norwegian, I find it crucial to keep my brain fed with constant English language in books and surroundings.
You’ve been writing hit songs for almost a decade – has there ever been a track that you wanted to keep for yourself throughout the years?
You know what, not really. I have been very good at separating the two Ina’s. But a couple of years ago, I felt like I didn’t have full control over what fell out of my head anymore and I had to make a choice. Do I give away what is essentially my sound? Or do I try and sing it myself. I think this is a crossroad every songwriter hits sooner or later. There is no right or wrong turn here, but I believe in following my gut. My gut said; “No regrets Ina, try.” So here we are!
If you look back, is there anything that’s changed overall in your artistry and how you go about creating new songs?
I think, in order to get better, one’s creative process has to evolve, both with the times and with yourself. I also think it is very important not to hold on to anything too tight, a song is just a song, let it out there. Actually, that runs true for a lot of things in life in my opinion.
Nina Simone said it best when she said that an artist’s duty is to reflect the times. All I can do, is try and stay true to myself as I grow and learn with it.
We’re seeing more artists these days come up as songwriters first, before they take a shot at being directly in the spotlight. Do you think that’s a current trend that’ll continue in the future? What made you decide to focus more on releasing solo music, rather than just writing for other artists?
I applaud that trend, standing ovations. Because I think; whatever label you wear, it should stem from yourself. Only you know who you truly are, and you are the only one who knows what you truly need. You want to sing? Sing. You want to write? Then write! You want to do both? Go and do it. I spent so many years fighting this need I have to express my art with my voice. I wouldn’t change anything about my life, I think most things happen for a reason and I am very grateful for all I have been blessed with. Still, it took me too long before I really listened to myself. And like a painter has to paint. I have to sing. It’s not rocket science, but it felt like it was for a long time.
What is the best part about being a songwriter, and what’s the best part of being a performer for you?
Best part about being a songwriter; You get to live on your own time. You get to release music without having your head on the “chopping block”. If a song doesn’t work, you’re just on to the next one. You get to stay anonymous, spend time with your family and work normal hours. Don’t get me wrong, I am painting this to be a fairy life, it’s not. It’s stress full and full of competition and battles. It is a big part of the music industry, with all that this entails. But it is also an amazing outlet for all kinds of musical creativity. You get to act out all these different personalities. And when working with an artist, you have to try and understand how they think, feel and then try and put yourself in their shoes. It’s the funnest and most rewarding part of songwriting I think. It’s a job where you learn to know people really well.
Best part about being an artist; You get you cater only to yourself. You write about what you want, and you take part in the full expression of what becomes the end product of your art.
Its an enormous amount of work, and you will have to travel and be away from your loved ones ALOT. There is a lot less “music” in artistry than there is in songwriting. All of a sudden, there is press and media and socials and all of a sudden you are not so anonymous anymore. That is a big adjustment. But, when I am on stage and I get to experience a crowd of people singing words I wrote on a melody I made, it makes every bit of work and change totally worth it. Its impossible to describe the high and the gratitude I experience in those situations. Pure love. I can’t believe I get to do both. I feel very very lucky.
You wrote “Haloes” together with your good friend Steve Mac, who’s also seen as one of the best producers in the game right now. How did your friendship develop over the years? Do you often bounce songwriting ideas off of each other?
Steve has been my mentor in the writing game since the beginning and he is very dear to me. Steve is brutally honest, suffers no fools and he has taught me so much, not only about myself, but about this industry. That guy knows music business. We have been writing together for a long time, and long may it continue. Also, if I may add, I know the charts points a flashing arrow at him right now, but he has been one of the best producers in pop music for decades. I feel very lucky to have him in my life.
Scandinavian artists are traditionally linked to the greatest pop songs, including ABBA’s discography. Some even speak of it as a specific genre – ‘Scandipop’. Would you consider to be part of that genre as well? Do you think there even is such a thing, or does it undercut the enormous diversity in sound that’s out there?
I think there is for sure a “sound” that is “Scandipop” And the swedes have been frontiers for this. Personally, I think this has to do with their fearlessness when it comes to pop music. From Abba to Ace of Base to Robyn to Max Martin. They just know how to make great, sparkling, Cristál style pop music. Our seasons gives us the hopefulness, the melancholy, the despair and the joy. Its severe up here you know! The winters are long and dark. The autumn is fast and revealing. Our spring is breathtaking in its flowering speed and our summers are so beautiful, dim and light. I think it makes for great emotional change. And great emotional change as we know, makes for great music. I love Scandinavia so much. If anyone classifies what I do as Scandipop, I wear that badge with the utmost pride.
You’ve been steadily releasing singles over the last couple of years – what’s the next goal you’ve set for yourself? An album, or a tour?
I am hoping that I will have an album by the end of 2020. Ina version 2.0 ? Being the saddo that I am, I am inclined to like the poetry of that one. I am so excited for these next few records I am releasing. I feel at home in them, I can see them in my head and I can’t wait to find out if you guys will love them as much as I do. I feel like I have tapped into an honesty that I was lacking before I started writing for myself. It is a very liberating feeling.
I am getting back into songwriting, I have missed it and I am looking forward to opening that vent of creativity once more. I also hope I get to play more live shows outside of Norway as well as within. There is nothing I love more than being on stage, singing with the beautiful people that actually left their homes, stood in line and paid real money to hear me sing. Can you believe that? I bloody still can’t.