As some of you may know, Magne is co-owner of a new company called Vox Watch Music. Back in early June, Vox Watch and WiMP Norway organized an artist showcase event at THE THIEF hotel in Oslo. The event was part of the launch of THE THIEF’s rooftop bar, aptly called The Roof. Marius Beck and Tini – two of Magne’s talents from The Voice – and Canadian singer Lowell performed at the event. (photos from the showcase)
Following the artist showcase, we spoke with Magne about the new company, the artists Vox Watch is working with, and his own songwriting.
a-ha.com: Could you tell us about Vox Watch Music?
Magne: Vox Watch Music is a company owned by Martin Terefe, Matthew Higdon (UK entertainment lawyer) and myself. It is primarily a hub for songwriters and artists with a focus on publishing, although we have signed a Norwegian artist called Tini to a full 360 deal also. The idea is that we can spread talent and create opportunities for them through our joint networks.
As I said, we are primarily a vehicle for writers, and one of the most exciting writers currently on board is Lowell, who is extremely prolific. She writes amazing pop songs, which she finds more suitable for other singers, in addition to writing for her own career as an artist.
Martin is always looking for good songs in his capacity as a producer, and for me this is a way to expose some of the talent that come my way, many of my Voice-talents among them, to a variety of artists and writing / recording sessions through a professional setup.
We are quite open to styles and genres, but needless to say, we are probably more suited to help the ones that fit with the kind of music we make ourselves.
a-ha.com: How did Vox Watch connect with WiMP Norway?
Magne: I was introduced to WiMP through my collaboration with THE THIEF hotel.
a-ha.com: The WiMP DIY model seems to compliment the mission for Vox Watch quite well. Was the showcase in June a one-off event or do you plan to hold more/similar events for your artists in the future, with WiMP or other organizations as partners?
Magne: Well, there is nothing concrete planned, but the model of standalone collaborations with a variety of organizations seems to become a much more common thing these days.
a-ha.com: What other vehicles/opportunities do you have for connecting songwriters and artists through your networks?
Magne: Any and all we can think of.
a-ha.com: You mentioned Tini, what is next for her?
Magne: Tini’s album is near ready. We are in dialogue with people in the UK and Norway about a release this autumn.
a-ha.com: Lowell has written at least one Apparatjik song, and released an EP together with Apparatjik. She is now reportedly working with Martin Halla on some songs for his second album. Can you say any more about that project? Is she working on any other projects now under Vox Watch?
Magne: Lowell is a creative powerhouse, and yes, she is working with a number of artists at the moment. Until such time that things get closer to release, we do not wish to disclose the things she is working on.
a-ha.com: You and Martin did some songwriting for Martin Halla’s debut album, and you also contributed to a song on Backstreet Boys’ new album. Are you doing any songwriting now?
Magne: I have written or co-written songs for some of the people I worked with last year, and in general it has been a very good experience. I love the co-writing situation and martin is an absolute prince to work with, and we will definitely do more stuff together in the future.
My activities generally pulsate between my visual practice and music, and at the moment music seems to be taking, if not the front seat, at least an equally important role. It is always a privilege to be able to write for talented artists and singers, and somehow the more music I do, the more I want to do, so be warned there may be another solo project on the horizon. I am not really sure whether this is a promise or a threat…haha.
a-ha.com: Back in 2002, with the release of a-ha’s “Lifelines”, you talked about finding your own voice as a songwriter within a-ha, particularly in terms of lyric writing. Since then, you have collaborated with a number of artists and producers on two solo albums and a variety of music projects. Looking back over the last 10-12 years, how has your approach to songwriting continued to evolve?
Magne: Well, that was a time where I was starting to feel the need to sing the songs myself, because the subject matter was of a very personal nature. Writing for a-ha and with Morten’s voice in mind has greatly affect what I assumed would work or not, and hence what I would concentrate on finishing.
At the time, a batch of songs appeared that seemed to not take advantage of Morten’s particular gifts as a singer, and so I realized I had to do these myself.
Having said that, I always enjoy the process of collaborations, and that much of my talent is in recognizing what I can add to the works of others to bring out something else in them.
a-ha.com: You’ve said about songwriting: “The more personal you are, the better – not private, but personal. I think that by being personal, it’s possible to touch something that is universal.” In writing with/for other artists, is it still a personal expression for you, or are you helping to bring out something personal for them, or both?
Magne: I think less of this now in the sense that I view my work differently than before. I see it more as a documentation of particular periods and situations.
I write from the same point of view as always in that I cannot help but draw from my own experiences, but I am happy to leave the songs in the hands of others to infuse them with their own signature.
a-ha.com: What advice do you give to the artists you work with as they find their own voice in songwriting?
Magne: Think of writing songs as a way of speaking. Say what you need to say.
a-ha.com: Have any of your talents/artists influenced your creativity or songwriting process? For example, you’re working with Lowell, who you’ve described as a ‘creative powerhouse.’ Has her approach to songwriting influenced yours in some ways?
Magne: I am always influenced and inspired by bold talents who bring themselves to the table.
a-ha.com: Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Magne: I just do something else. A block has to do with your mind playing tricks on you, and I guess it is a little like getting stuck on a question during an exam. Stop fretting and move on.
a-ha.com: You’ve said there is a possibility of a new solo project for you soon. We are sure many fans will want to know: have you written any songs yet that may end up on a solo album?
Magne: Fluctuating between visual art projects and music has its pros and cons, but on the downside is that in periods I shut myself off from music completely. I am currently in a situation where writing and producing music is a big part of my days, and the more I do, the more I want to do.
Whether it is for a solo-record or for someone else is unclear.
a-ha.com: Having collaborated with so many artists on their projects over the five years since your last solo album, are there any particular artists or songwriters you would like to collaborate with for your own album?
Magne: Sure, there are tons of talented people I would love to work with.
I would really like to write with country-writers and singers. My limited guitar skills have pushed me in this direction..haha.
Seriously, there are some amazing country-lyrics around, and the disdain I had for this particular musical direction before notwithstanding, I seem to get increasingly excited about it now.
a-ha.com: Given that you’re currently working on songwriting and production with other artists via Vox Watch, and writing both an opera and a movie soundtrack, how do you think the impulse to do another solo project fits in with all your other projects?
Magne: Well, a solo album centers around my voice, which has its quirks, and which pretty much decides what can be achieved. The stronger the story and its emotional resonance for me personally, the easier it is to intuitively emote.
a-ha.com: Where do you find inspiration for your songwriting? Is there a particular place, or time of day, or situation in which you feel most creative when it comes to writing lyrics for example? Or do you find that ideas come to you indiscriminately?
Magne: I like writing on this shitty piano I have in France. It is totally out of tune and for some reason it helps. I have had a period of watching mind-numbing television, and this also helps push me towards books and films that are more inspirational.
a-ha.com: Where is the majority of your production work done? Do you have a studio in Oslo, or is the majority of this work done at Kensaltown Studios in London?
Magne: In reality a lot of the material develops at home. After that it is great to move on somewhere, and I really like to work at Kensaltown. It is always inspirational to work with Martin.
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Tags: Interviews, Lowell, Magne, Martin Terefe, Tini, Vox Watch Music