On a gusty evening this past October, a cozy gathering of friends were treated to one of Norway's best-kept, musical secrets. Monica Heldal was in the US for the first time, attempting to tame the wild beast that is the CMJ Music Marathon. As she zipped around numerous shows in the city, she and her guitarist also carved out a little time for an intimate set as part of our Bands and Brews Sessions. With a a few cuts from her debut album Boy from the North, Monica channeled the more mystical side of folk...think Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, or even the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin. These are songs of a certain-power, equally shaped by the influence of a great record collection, the dramatic beauty of her homeland, and the places her imagination allows her songs to go. Treat yourself to a dose of acoustic beauty with this captivating session video.
- Silly Willy took on too much. He couldn't handle more. Silly Willy took on too much. So he tripped and fell down on the floor. Silly Willy made a bad choice. He didn't think twice. Silly Willy made a bad choice. He made a choice. and rolled the dice. Oh your sailing days are over. So lay down your horse. Oh your sailing days are over. So lay your horse. Silly Willy traveled away. He went away for years. Silly Willy traveled away. And my eyes were wet. They were full of tears. Oh your sailing days are over. So lay down your horse. Oh your sailing days are over. So lay down your horse. - Thank you. Thank you so much. So yeah, my name is Monica Heldal, and this is Øyvind Blomstrøm. We're really happy to be here, all the way from Norway. Actually, this is my first trip to the U. S. , so I'm really excited. We're going to continue with a song that's a bit more, a bit more upbeat, bluesy kind of song. It's a song about a conman, and it's called "Conman Coming. " There's a conman coming There's a conman coming There's a conman coming On the old railroad. I can feel him coming I can hear him coming I can see him coming to steal my soul. When the conman fires and the flames get higher. When the conman fires Gotta run somehow. And take this poor girl's money Just take my money Take this poor girl's money Will you take them now? When the music's gone And the lights were drawn, when the sun is dawning gotta run somehow. 'cause there's a conman coming. There's a conman coming. There's a conman coming on the old railroad To steal my soul. The old railroad to steal my soul. - Thank you. Walking past the towers and walking past your door, I'm waiting on the fire. I'm waiting on the fire. And you have been so evil before Still everyone adores you. I'm on the other side and now from the other side of town. But I forgive you for being beautiful. And I will see you never again. And with some work I will aim higher. Next time. Walking through your neighborhood, Then walking to the shore, I'm waiting on the fire I'm still waiting on the fire And baby take me wherever you go, I want to be your girl. Take me to the countryside now. Take me to the other side of town. But I forgive you for being older. And when your world comes crashing down, you'll see me dancing even higher. Fire, fire, fire, fire, fire. Fire, fire, fire, fire, fire. Fire, fire, fire, fire, fire, fire. - Thank you. I've been missing those mountains. Now I'm back here alone. And I've been missing those houses Let me take it all And when I fail you fail, it's all the same. At the bottom you will see. And maybe you'll stop this jumping on the rooftops. But I will care for you I don't mind. I don't mind. And you've been running around, running around to the dark side of town And I don't know where you are. Like a shadow on the run Like a shadow with a gun Up against the stars. And I ain't mortal You're immortal And I don't I, I, I don't mind - Thank you so much. I'd like to introduce all of you to Thor. He's also from Norway. Yeah, give it up for Thor. Don't really know what we would do without Thor. We're kind of lazy, and he just comes and gives us our guitars. And they're ready, tuned, and everything, so it's perfect. We're gonna do one last song. It's the title track of our album, and it's called "Boy from the North. " Oh you came out from the woods where I was waiting said you were making time. And when I looked around you were gone back there. Oh boy from the north beware, 'cuz your night will fall again. And there's light streaks making their way through the trees but you can't see them clear. You'll survive anything but this has no end. Oh boy from the north your hollow soul. It will never feel purposeful. And I know you came with the traveling show. And you started out too young You can find me back where we used to meet. Now hear me call from the hall Oh where the dragon sleeps I know you came with the traveling show. And you started out too young. You can find me back where we used to meet, now hear me call from the hall. Oh where the dragon sleeps. And you told me the thoughts of your years in misbehavior, said it hurts but feels good now under your skin And how you fight so to win and I say Oh why don't you try God again And I know you came with the traveling show and you started out too young. You can find me back where we used to meet now hear me call from the hall. Oh where the dragon sleeps And when it's gone And when you're gone And now it's gone Now you're gone. Thank you so much. Thank you.
It's not always easy, even with the gift of hindsight, to say exactly when something started. When the artist side of a person is awakened, making it impossible to continue on the journey that is life without making it an odyssey in music. Perhaps it was as early as when she, aged nine, heard Neil Young for the first time. Or Christmas the year she turned twelve, when her parents gift to her was a guitar. Yes, that may have been when it started, when she started playing the guitar.
Musically, artists she has no demographic connections with, had a major influence on her. Nick Drake, Emmylou Harris, the Irish blues artist Rory Gallagher, and acoustic segments from Led Zeppelin's portfolio. There is also a strong, almost urgent, craving for something else, something of her own, that she isn't yet able to express.
At least not until she, at 16, takes part in a singer/songwriter session in her hometown of Bergen, Norway. Just prior to this she sat herself down and wrote Silly Willy, a song which is still a part of her live set, and included on her debut album; Boy From The North.
The album contains ten such songs, such stories, ten segments that, despite variations in origin, create a perfect whole. Much has happened in Heldal's life since the first song was written. She lived in Ireland for a year, where music studies soon were eclipsed by living, breathing and performing music. She gained experience, and fans, performing the music of the aforementioned Rory Gallagher, one of her earliest sources of inspiration.
Though blues may be the foundation of many of her songs, her music encompasses equal measures rock and folk. And her satin-smooth vocals have a Nordic coolness that is reminiscent of Ane Brun. Her guitar playing is eminent, and she press have already described her as a guitar virtuoso.
While still based in the small village of Dundalk in Ireland, Monica first applied to perform at Norwegian music festival by:Larm. She was admitted, and since then has performed at numerous festivals, in Norway and abroad, opening for Tom Petty and Ben Howard in Oslo. The latter so taken with what he heard, that he invited her to join him for the full European tour, and on the title track of the Burgh Island EP, which topped the UK iTunes charts.
Before even having a single out Monica has performed live on Norwegian national TV twice, been nominated for, and received, coveted awards, and played on the main stages of some of the greatest cities and festivals in Europe. The album is finally due, and she is most emphatically on her way.
For the eagerly awaited debut album, Boy From The North, Monica was thrilled to work with her bandmates yvind Blomstrm (guitar), Cato Salsa Thomassen (gitar) and Brge Fjordheim (drums). In addition Ben Howard drummer Chris Bond is on board, both as an instrumentalist and as producer. Most of the album tracks were recorded at the Deep Litter Studio in England, the southern-most point in the County of Devon. At a venue called Start Point...