The first musician I spoke to for my series of interviews, songwriter-to-songwriter, was Norwegian born Ragz Nordset. Based in Liverpool she has recorded two EPs Little Stings & Love You Still and played with the likes of Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons & David Ford. Critically aclaimed, described by Liverpool.com as 'Startlingly original' and The Fly Magazine has described her as an artist who bares her "soul through beautifully crafted songs", she gave me the chance to see what inspires and drives her to make music.
Starting at the beginning, what made you want to start writing your own songs?
I can’t remember how old I was, but at some point as a young girl, I started writing. It was just this emotion or vibe inside me and it somehow made sense to make that into songs. As silly as it may sound, it has the same effect as hunger or thirst. If I feel hungry, I eat and if I feel a certain way, I write.
Who influenced you as you began writing?
I grew up listening to my dad’s vinyl collection which contained everything from led zeppelin to Motown and think that was already in me when I started writing my own songs. It’s hard to say what bands or which music influenced me early on, but I actually think the biggest influence was just my big brother. He played guitar and that’s how I started too.
What is your instrument of choice? Do you find that playing other instruments inspires you differently?
My instrument of choice will always just be my voice. Guitar and piano comes as a joint second. Even though I love playing both piano and guitar, they are still just a way for me to carry or inspire motions in my voice. It would be the same way with any instrument really, they trigger different emotions in me and that way inspire different kinds of melodies and songs.
What would you say your muse is, what inspires you when you write?
My muse... I suppose my muse is my life. It’s all based on pure emotion – any changes in myself or people around me will, if it’s significant enough, almost force me to write. The need to tell, express, release or scream about something will, more often than not, become a song.
How do you approach song writing, do you find it is different each time or do you have a formula?
I wish I had a formula, but the only thing that is always the same is the decision and need to sit down and start something. The melody, if I’m patient enough will come alive through the chords I try. I never know how it’s going to pan out, but I hear that is a normal observation for most songwriters.
You're Norwegian, so I was wondering did you start writing/singing in your own language and then switch to English? Did you find this difficult when writing?
I’ve sang both Norwegian and English songs whilst growing up, but I’ve always written in English. I suppose that’s because most popular music was in English in Norway when I grew up. I never thought ‘bout it till a little over a year ago and decided to change my approach a little. I only wrote my first Norwegian song last Christmas, whilst visiting family in Norway. I’m trying to write in both languages now, but it’s still easier in English. Ask me again in ten years and that might have changed.
You've supported the likes of Laura Marling & Noah and the Whale - artists coming from the London folk scene. Do you see yourself as having a lot in common with them style wise?
This is a bit of a difficult one as I still struggle to find artists that I feel I properly share ground with. Regardless of where I am, I stick out like a sore thumb, style wise. This because my music might look folk based (girl with acoustic guitar), but I actually don’t think I fit the folk genre in its traditional sense. On a personal level I feel like I’ve connected with many artists from different scenes. Style wise, I’m still developing.
Are you writing at the moment?
I haven’t written a song for a few weeks now, due to touring and travelling, but there are a few brewing at the moment.
What's coming up for you, any gigs or recording?
We’ve just finished a tour, but there are some northwest based gigs coming up for ‘Liverpool Music Week’ and other events. As for recordings, I reckon early 2010 will bring some studio time for us.
A lot of musicians struggle or are reluctant to categorise their music. How would you describe your music, genre wise?
It’s always about the song for me, which sometimes makes it hard to categorize, but at the moment I would refer to it as acoustic pop/rock. You never know though, as soon as we get the right producer involved, this might change depending on what suits and completes the songs. We shall see.
Ragz' music can be heard on her myspace: myspace.com/ragzmusic. Her EPs Little Stings & Love You Still are available to download, you can find the links on her myspace. Her finely crafted songs coupled with her brilliant voice make her well worth a listen.
I hope you enjoyed this first installment, the next interview will feature liverpudlian singersongwriter Rob Clarke.