New Noise: Thomas Dybdahl

Getting to know the songwriting legend.

Although the title may claim this as a “new” noise, Thomas Dybdahl has been creating music for nearly two decades. Originally starting as the guitarist in Quadraphonics, Thomas released his first EP, “Bird”, in 2000. Since then he has gone on to create an incredible discography, with four of his seven albums reaching the number one spot in his home country, Norway.

Having released his seventh album, The Great Plains – the follow up to 2013’s Grammy Award nominated What’s Left Is Forever – earlier this year, Thomas is showing the skills he’s honed over the years with ten beautifully crafted songs. Mastering different genres, the album has everything from heartbreaking folk melodies like opener “Paradise Lost” to pop-soaked dance-a-long tracks like “Just A Little Bit”. Proving himself to be a genius at what he does, we sat down with Thomas to find out a bit more about the man behind the music.

Do you remember the moment you fell in love with music?

I can’t pinpoint it, but Michael Jackson’s Bad album was probably the first one that captivated me and he was the first “star” I was a fan of. I was dancing and lip syncing like millions of other kids at the time I guess. Then it was on to guitar wanking and that’s when I became serious about devoting my time to learning guitar. It was all Metallica and Guns’n’Roses from the age of 11. I was a hermit, just rehearsing for hours on end. My taste has subsequently changed, of course, but I’m still grateful for the basic technique guitar players like Kirk Hammet thought me. Makes it easier to do some interesting guitar stuff while still be able to sing on top.

You released your first single as a solo act 17 years ago! How has the music scene changed since then?

It’s changed so much I hardly recognise it, to be honest. The foundation is, of course, the same. I make songs, I make albums and I perform them live, but the way you try and gain people’s attention is just a whole different world and one that I’m increasingly uneasy about as people just want you to create “content”, as they generically call it, to use online to garner attention for gigs etc. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m just polluting the online seas, so to speak. It has to reflect your character I think and I’m not one to really scream out loud “loooook at me!!!!”. I worry I won’t find a way to get comfortable with it.

How have you seen yourself grow as an artist in those 17 years?

I think artistically I’m very happy because I’ve been able to explore so many different avenues. I feel content and confident in a way. I am also definitely much more open to trying new things. Just from experience I’ve come to know that if I just hang in a little longer, even if one way of doing things doesn’t feel right from the first second, the end result might be something I never would have arrived at without trying something uncomfortable

You released your newest album The Great Plains earlier this year. What were some of the inspirations for the album?

I just had a very simple vision that I was going to follow my natural instincts when it came to writing and production, but substitute the role that I traditionally had reserved for strings, steel guitar or piano with the old classic 60’s synths like the Jupiter 6, Prophet 5 and CS80. I’ve always loved the way they sound, but never really had a way to use them. I figured it was going to sound as warm and organic as the acoustic elements. It’s always so easy to turn to strings to lush things up, but I just nixed that option this time.

“Michael Jackson’s Bad album was probably the first one that captivated me and he was the first “star” I was a fan of. I was dancing and lip syncing like millions of other kids at the time I guess.”

Your previous album was nominated for a Grammy! What was that like?

Great, of course!! It’s the Grammys, I hope I never get so blasé as to not get a kick out of something like that.

If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing?

I would love to study biology and maybe specialise in evolutionary biology, but I fear my brain is classier than it’s budget. I fear my curiosity exceeds my capacity. So maybe I’d be working with wood? Making something nice out of nice piece of wood has always had a strange allure to me. And as Larry David, I too respect wood.

The video for “Just a Little Bit” sees some pretty funky dance moves. What’s your go-to dance move?

Must be the “I’ll just sit down here for minute” move. It’s glacial.

You’re currently on tour! What’s been your fave on stage moment so far?

I think the show we did in London was the most fun up until now. It just felt like there was a such an energy and such a good vibe there. Also I have to say the venue (Omeara) and what they’d done with the food court and outdoor area was so incredibly cool. London is full of great venues, but if you’re not playing for 500-600++ then the venues do leave a lot to desire. This was amazing and gave us the chance to sound as good as we know we can. Loved it.

What else have you got lined up this year?

I’m still on tour for another couple of weeks and after that I go to LA to start the next album. The summer will be filled with festivals and in between all this I have a movie score to finish. It’s a busy year.

Who are some of the bands that you’re listening to at the moment?

Right now I’ve got a hang up on the latest Feist record. Soo good!!

Elly Watson
New Noise: Thomas Dybdahl

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