When Stillness Speaks: The Beautiful Silences & Rocking Details of Elin Furubotn’s International Debut Album
Norwegian singer-songwriter Elin Furubotn hears an entire world in the tiny, delightful details: a turn of phrase drifting from the next café table over, the deep silence of a Scandinavian mountain forest, the fleeting passage of thoughts and play of sounds.
Widely respected in Norway for her genre-spanning work, Furubotn’s smiling curiosity and striking musical presence find a new path on Heilt Nye Vei (Ozella Music), her first international release. With her close collaborator, respected and creative Norwegian saxophonist Karl Seglem, Furubotn turns small but resonant flashes of insight into engaging, subtle songs.
Furubotn’s work ranges from delicate, responsive duos with Seglem (“Akkurat Det Som Er Nå”) and rich vocal pieces (“Stillheten”) to driving, wry folk rock (“Heilt Nye Vei”/ “New Path”). Her stylistic boldness reveals a confident, grounded sense of self, a quiet approach to the big picture via the little things.
“It’s being here and now, with all the details of life, that give you joy,” Furubotn reflects. “If we can just let go of the worries that shadow us, that make us miss what’s really happening, we can live in and love the moment.”
Furubotn retains a childlike ability to find connections and depth in everyday experiences: seeing a shade of color for every day of the week (“Takane Har Fargar”), or finding the melody in the purring cadence of the Norwegian language. “Du Vett Godt Ka Eg E Sure For” (“You Know Full Well What I’m Upset About”) was inspired by a heated conversation between a couple sitting next to Furubotn at a sidewalk café, and the phrase—its sound and sense—transformed itself into an entire song.
Along with language, one of Furubotn’s central inspirations for Heilt Nye Vei was silence itself, the stillness of sitting and simply being, or the overwhelming quiet of the Norwegian countryside. “Stillheten” came to Furubotn while she stayed at a cottage far in the Norwegian mountains: “I was alone and I really wanted to write music there. It was dark November and very silent,” she recalls. “I had to make this silence song. And I couldn’t have any instruments; they would have destroyed the song. So I wrote three vocal lines,” creating a beautiful a cappella piece.
Furubotn has honed this skill for rending this moment, this feeling in song over years as a fixture on the Stavanger and Oslo music scenes. In her music-rich, idyllic childhood in a rural community, she learned guitar chords from her mother and performed her own invented melodies for traditional hymns for supportive villagers.
As a young woman, Furubotn headed to the town of Stavanger, where she was so intent on starting her own band (despite the town’s limited rehearsal space), she talked a furniture store owner into letting her and her fellow musicians use his shop after hours. Over the years, she won the respect and admiration of Norwegian fans for her clever, thought-provoking lyrics, nimble yet gritty voice, and catchy songs.
This ability shines on songs like “Heilt Nye Vei,” which Furubotn also rendered into English (“New Path”), where her signature song style gets a driving boost from growling guitar and intriguing percussion. The rock vibe is balanced by bittersweet jazz-inflected ballads like “Malt Dagen Din” and high-energy tunes like “Ei Stille Nå.” At the center, holding all the influences together, is Furubotn’s voice, which savors every syllable and sways between clear and breathy, between straightforward and deeply expressive.
“It’s unusual in Norway to make music that crosses lines between jazz and singer-songwriter stuff, between rock and folk,” reflects Furubotn. “But I don’t like to split my interests and passions up. And in scenes like in Stavanger, you get to know everyone very well. It’s a more intimate scene, and it’s easy for musicians from different backgrounds to work together.”
This musical intimacy is palpable in Furubotn’s creative collaboration with Seglem, who like Furubotn, crosses lines between Norwegian roots music, poetry, and jazz. (Seglem plays the traditional goat’s horn when not composing on his tenor sax.) After performing together at several festivals, Furubotn and Seglem went into the studio and recorded live together, entwining voice and sax in a perfect, sensitive balance.
This balance, along with her wistful focus on life’s sweet details, shapes Furubotn’s distinct voice and musical aspirations. “I like directness, the directness of Norwegian and of certain musical expressions. The music shouldn’t be overloaded,” she muses. “I like a strong rhythmic pulse sometimes, but it’s very important to have the opposite feel, too. To take time to be silent in a song. That’s very me.”