Nordic Playlist # 21 – Teitur, Faroe Islands


One of the most prominent musicians ever to emerge from the Faroe Islands, Hoyvík native Teitur Lassen first came to the world's attention with his debut album Poetry & Aeroplanes back in 2003.

May 2014
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Following on from these early steps, Teitur has remained versatile and inventive throughout his musical career, becoming renowned for his ability to add heart-wrenching tones and melodies to delicately woven, stories and lyrics.

A decade after his debut release, Teitur returned to release his sixth album – his fifth English language record – in the form of an exquisite collection of melodies and tales entitled Story Music.

Story Music – the first of his albums to be recorded on the Faroe Islands – is a shining example of what this continually creative artist does best, and an interactive documentary of the making of this record is set to be made available to fans soon to give us even more of an insight into the method behind Teitur’s music.

Teitur’s journey so far has not only led him far from home, on trails around the world, but also to the collaborative sides of artists such as Nico Muhly and Ane Brun – not to mention his recent teaming up with the immensely talented Pekka Kuusisto for an intimate, incredibly memorable performance at Denmark’s SPOT Festival.

Ahead of a number of live dates over the summer – including a performance at Skuespilhuset in Copenhagen on August 8th – we’re honoured to have Teitur curate his own edition of the Nordic Playlist, so scroll down to find out more about this fascinating artist and some of his favourite Nordic songs and artists!

Where in the world are you right now?

I am in my house on the Faroe Islands. It feels great coming home because I’ve been out on the road since early February!

We caught an incredible performance from you at SPOT Festival a few weeks back, where you collaborated with the brilliant Pekka Kuusisto. Can you tell us how you guys met, and what you enjoy most about working together? Do you have plans to play together more in future?

Thanks! I was approached this winter about a jam session with Pekka in the Nordic House here on the Faroe Islands after his performance with the symphony orchestra. He is one of the best musicians I’ve ever played with. He is extremely fluent in style and free on his instrument and effects. Also he is very brave and not afraid of taking chances.

Pekka has got music flowing out of him in the most natural way. We have talked a little about playing more together. It would be fun to play on some hippie festival together where we could improvise 10 minute versions of songs!

Let us know if you know any of those festivals. There’s gotta be one!

Your last album Story Music is the first that you’ve made on the Faroe Islands, and you’ve made a documentary about it. Can you tell us a bit about the documentary, and also about the experience of creating an album in your home country?

I left the Faroe Islands at the pretentious age of seventeen thinking I could not make music here because everything was low standards. For me, this album was an opportunity to prove myself wrong as an adult, because me and my home country and the world in general has developed a lot since then. My engineer Jonas Bloch recently established the most amazing studio here, so it was also on the cards that I should record there.

I set out to make music that was local in the same spirit as the Scandinavian food manifesto – using what’s available in your surroundings. It feels sensible to play music with and for your neighbours rather than hiring a fancy Los Angeles string quartet or paying someone with high credentials to work with you. Story Music has a lot of references to Faroese culture and musical traditions. It has some similarities with world music, and maybe it’s the closest I have come to incorporating a bit of social awareness into my music.

The documentary is an interactive browser experience where the user is free to direct his own Story Music film and make choices about what to see next. You watch a scene and when it’s finished you are given three options in continuing the story.

There are hundreds of versions and in the process you will be seeing an album-in-the-making music documentary. It’s scheduled to be finished no sooner than the end of this year.

What was it like to grow up as a musician on the Faroe Islands? And how does it feel to return and work there now that you’ve toured around the world, and seen so many other musical cultures?

When I grew up here there were no bands coming to play from anywhere else. It was all local music, my dad’s organ and whatever you could randomly hear in the radio and MTV arrived in my teens. I learned a lot about the nature of songs when playing guitar or piano whenever people would sing songs at parties and festivities.

I was usually the one who supplied the chord accompaniment. It was all Beatles and various Scandinavian folk songs. The tradition is still alive and well here.

I enjoy being back home to live and work. I still travel half of the year to play shows and so on. There are so many musicians based on the Faroe Islands now and everything is a microcosmos of sorts. You have all the same ingredients of a normal music business, but it’s on a smaller, provincial and more intuitive scale. I feel like I went on a massive study abroad and just graduated. I am extremely grateful that I have found international fans in the process and I am very happy every day that I can continue to make music and develop.

You’ve been on the road a lot since the release of your last album – can you share some stories from the road with us? Any particularly memorable points, or any very special new places that you visited?

My backpack got stolen while I was on stage in Toronto. It got quite complicated as we were crossing the border to US the next day and I had no passport, Visa, laptop and phone. Miraculously we made the crossing. We saw the burglar on surveillance cameras afterwards, but he was never caught. I got to visit the Toronto police stations and Danish Embassy again. The bizarre thing is, that exactly the same thing happened six or seven years ago at the very same location, the Drake Hotel, when I was touring with KT Tunstall.

The Nordic Playlist is all about discovering music from the Nordic countries through recommendation – so can you tell us about a Nordic artist/album that is particularly special, memorable, or has been particularly influential on you?

Ane Brun has had a very positive impact on me. We started playing music at the same time and became friends early on. We kept bumping into each other in random venues in the Netherlands and festivals and such. I also lived in Stockholm for a while. It has been inspiring to follow her career too. It’s as if she has opened up all the windows now and she is in a great place. I feel like we have gone through many of the same things and I am proud of her. She is also a very smart one and she keeps making the right choices which is something I admire. Her voice speaks to me immediately whenever she sings.

Do you remember the first mixtape/playlist you ever made? What was on it and who was it for? 

My older sister forced me to make her a cassette with literally the same song over and over so that she didn’t have to rewind the tape. It was for the purpose of her singing into a hairbrush in front of her mirror all prettied up with the doors locked. Maybe I got an ice-cream or something in return. The song on repeat was “Det er mig der står herude og banker på” by Thomas Helmig. I’ll never forget that excited look on my sister’s face. Her eyes were lit up like a Christmas tree. Nowadays I don’t consider myself a great DJ. Maybe it’s because I had that strange debut.

Has anyone ever made a mixtape or a playlist for you? If so, can you remember what your favourite track on it was?

For my birthday I got a cassette compilation with songs that I used to play over and over as a kid. I remember there was Snap, Tanika Tikaram, Gangway, The KLF, and Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers.

Can you tell us about some of the tracks that you’ve used in your mix today and why you selected them?

I have compiled my playlist mostly consisting of artists that I consider friends and family. I’ve tried to pick material from their recent recordings. I’m not one who has the finger on the pulse with the latest fashion in pop music and I mostly just keep track of various composers and the music my friends that I have met along the way. It’s easy to understand and relate to somehow. I like to be influenced by those that I know personally, even though the music I make is different. For me, I enjoy hearing people I know expressing themselves through music. It’s an abstract form of communication and language. You get to know others quite intimately through music. I’m beginning to sound creepy now.

Which artists from the Faroe Islands would you highly recommend we tune into? Any old and new favourites? 

I’m very exited to hear the new Orka album which will be released this summer. That will be one of the most interesting Faroe Islands releases this year for sure.

And finally, what does the rest of the year hold for you? What are you most looking forward to, and what can you reveal of your plans for the rest of the year? 

I have been commissioned to write a series of songs called “Romeo Answers” based on the Juliet Letters for an electric string quartet. I just came back from Verona in Italy where I have been reading letters and getting into the vibe. Every year 10,000 letters are sent to Shakespeare’s Juliet in Verona. There is a group of women called Juliet’s secretaries who receive and answer the letters.

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