Since the release of their second album, Vinyl and a Heartache, Norweigan Americana trio Darling West have played concerts all over the world (including Americanafest), appeared on the Top 100 Country charts in the US, and won a Norwegian Grammy.
In advance of the February release of their new album, While I Was Asleep, the self-described "coffee geeks" took the time to answer their Essential 8 and talk songwriting, their favorite road food (and drink), and much more!
When/where do you do your best writing?
We have family and good friends who have cabins in the mountains in Aal, where Tor comes from. We’ll go there for maybe a week and just work on writing songs. It’s really good for us to get away from the city and be close to nature. Just focus on that one thing and be away from everything that will disturb you. Then there are other songs that are written, or at least started, on the road, and just a few written at home in our apartment in Oslo.
Do you write about personal experience, the experience of others, observations, made-up stories, something else or a combination?
Definitely a combination. I think we often draw from personal experience to some degree, but that also includes being inspired by the ones around us, their lifes and stories. Musicians and artists often lead a nomadic existence, and that enables us to meet a lot of people and see a lot of things that will serve as inspiration for songwriting. So observations certainly come into play as well. And I believe most of us have felt what it’s like to have your heart completely broken, to feel hopelessly lost or euphorically happy. We can tap into those experiences and feelings even though that’s not where we’re at while we’re writing.
What’s your favorite food on the road?
We’re suckers for Mexican and Indian food. We’re not vegetarians, but still try to stay away from too much meat. On an off day we might go for a proper BBQ place, but we could never play a show after a meal like that. We’re also complete coffee geeks. We travel with a grinder and a brewer so we can brew our own coffee, but we also try to seek out the good places in every city we go to.
How do you kill the long hours in the van?
To be honest we listen to a lot of music. There’s much to be said about streaming music and how they haven’t figured out a good method of compensating artists properly, but the ability to play pretty much any album you can think of, is quite amazing. We spend time trying to stay updated on new albums by all our favorites and also discover new bands on the Americana/Folk scene, and we make playlists with songs that stand out, be it the lyrics, the production or the vibe.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Aaron Lee Tasjan is someone we admire greatly. We would love to do something with him. And having an album produced by David Rawlings is a dream of ours. There are so many artists, musicians and producers we admire, so it’s hard to just pick out a few, but those two stand out.
Is drinking at gigs a positive or a negative?
We never drink before or during a show. To us it just feels like you’re losing some of the touch, and your focus will drift. That’s not to say other people can’t do it. But we prefer to be able to take it all in. The excitement and the nervousness are things we don’t want to miss out on. For us alcohol will dull those feelings. We do enjoy good bourbon after a show, though.
Favorite (or first) concert you have ever attended?
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo, Norway. As you might have guessed already, we are big fans! When they finally announced a show in Oslo we bought tickets on the spot. I think everyone who is a musician in Oslo was there that night. 1300 people enthralled by two human beings, their voices and instruments. Mindblowing! A close second was seeing Ralph Stanley in London a few years back. We had some money saved up for a holiday, and blew in on flying to the UK and staying in a hotel for two nights. It was like a pilgrimage for us. We even got to meet him. That picture served as a screensaver on Tor’s computer for a very long time.
Recent release you cannot stop listening to?
Well, it’s not that recent and it might come as no surprise, but we have to say Aaron Lee Tasjan with Silver Tears. And also Poor David’s Almanack by David Rawlings. Then there’s Dori Freeman, Lillie Mae, Caroline Spence and Mavis Staples. The list goes on and on. There is so much great music being released in the Americana genre these days, it’s just amazing! Exciting times, for sure!