We’ve been blown away by the music of Herald K recently. His songs touch your heart and stay with you, and his choice of instrumentation is always unique and exciting. He has a knack for choosing the best instruments and the best collaborators to make songs that sparkle. Herald K writes and sings songs. About seizing the night. About old souls. About witches of antiquity. About weird sisters and gigolos. About temptation. About passion. About love…
ʻMy love for music was awakened in childhood. I listened to a lot of music, and especially Bob Dylan, with my parents,’ says Herald K, who used to want to write novels but came to choose a shorter form – the poem. From there, it didn’t take long before a new transition came about: He took to the guitar, and poems soon became songs. The wide field of ʻAmericanaʼ serves as inspiration, but in a place where one could also encounter people like Leonard Cohen, having a drink with Charles Baudelaire. Yet: ʻSimple three-chord songs are often the bestʼ, says Herald K, and refers to one of his favourites – Hank Williams.
The Vienna-based Norwegian singer-songwriter presented his debut album ʻStrange Delightsʼ in 2019. On this album, he was helped by a cast of excellent instrumentalists from the Vienna scene, including Stephan Steiner (Hotel Palindrone, Harlequin’s Glance, Cantlon) and Katie Kern. Jürgen Plank (Erstes Wiener Heimorgelorchester, The Wichita) contributed to the album as producer. The result: well-received songs that have found their way to listeners, playlists and radio stations worldwide.
We caught up with Herald K and got to know him a little better…
You take inspiration from so many different places. How do you decide what to write about?
I love reading old literature. I find it just as relevant as anything contemporary. It is often full of creative spark, delivered to us down the generations by some inspired souls of the past. So I try to find my creative seeds for songs there quite frequently. Once you start working with an old story or poem or the like, some kind of almost automatic creativity kicks in. It’s like your mind wants to claim the story for itself, and starts adding, tweaking, re-presenting the original out of an innate need… So this is a good resource to have: going to some other writer to pick up some seeds of inspiration, and then letting the subliminal parts of your brain have a ball with it…
If I feel I have an idea or a motif that for some reason resonates extra strongly, I try to take that further and develop it. But I often don’t realize why I chose it in the first place. That sometimes becomes clear years later. Other times my motivation for writing a song just remains obscure.
We learned from you about the most beautiful instrument – the nyckelharpa. Please teach us more about this gorgeously ethereal instrument
I wouldn’t be the one to teach anybody about it. My friend Stephan, who plays it on my recordings, would be a better person to ask. I only know that it is an instrument thought to have come into use in medieval times, and was played throughout Europe then. Later it has remained most prominently in use in Sweden, where it is considered a typical folk instrument. It has a unique timbre, and although people sometimes confuse the sound with violin or cello, it really has some special characteristics that distinguish it from those, including a beautiful wooden clicking sound, as the instrument actually has tangents! Listen closely to our recordings, and you’ll notice those details!
What kind of music do you prefer to listen to when you’re not creating your own?
I try to be open to different genres, as a little eclectic listening can be quite inspiring. But I must admit I always seem to gravitate towards songwriters, and what people nowadays call ‘Americana’. I like a few of the legendary ones like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt etc, but also more recently emerging ones like Birds Of Chicago, Anna Tivel, Anais Mitchell and Sierra Ferrell, just to mention a few.
You work with other artists to collaborate to get the best sound and instrumentation for your songs. How do you find these musicians?
In each case, I summoned up courage, and just asked them if they’d like to record with me, and astonishingly all of these people agreed! I’ve been very lucky with my collaborators. In most cases, I knew them a little beforehand, from just hanging around the same haunts at times. But it is undeniably an honour to get to play with people you’d like to pay money to see anyway.
We particularly liked your duet with Lina Louise. Do you have plans to work with her again?
I’m already working with her again! On live stuff. We’ve got a few more songs, outside the ones we’ve recorded together, that we’ve started doing live from time to time. I like singing with Lina. So I hope there will be more recordings together too!
Tell us about your best gig experience
Maybe one of my early ones. It was just three songs at a Hank Williams/Townes Van Zandt tribute evening. But at a dedicated music venue. Everybody on that programme was quite an experienced performer, and I had next to no stage experience. I remember bringing a Hank Williams biography with me that night. If I was to fail completely, I had planned to just read a couple of passages from that one instead. But it went well. I got through my songs without any major glitches, and that just felt amazing at the end!
…and your worst?!
My first one I think. I had just learned my first chords and some fingerpicking and had no business up on a stage really, but I forced myself because I wanted to feel how it was. But it didn’t go well, and I realized I needed to learn a whole lot before ever going on stage again. The nervousness that I felt at that time was terrifying. I’m glad it didn’t make me give up music altogether. It easily could have.
Aside from music, what are you passionate about?
Literature. Film. History. Sport. Certain old philosophies. Mythology.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
A certain old message that I first became conscious of through a song written by Dutch/Swedish folksinger Cornelis Vreesvijk titled ‘Ballad in Hundred Years’. Each verse of that song culminates in a line that translates something like: ‘Who cares in a hundred years?’ In other words: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Pretty soon it will all be forgotten anyway
…….and the worst?!!
Some of the worst is when people tell you to change your music into a more modern or less original sound. It’s like they believe the secret to success is to just strive to conform to the latest fad, and to try to be like most others because that’s supposedly the only thing that’s relevant.