“I’d done the singer-songwriter thing for a while and all of my friends started to get educations and stuff, and I kind of got insecure about music for the first time… whether I should do it or not… it all got a bit too much”, says Iselin Solheim.
“I felt a bit stressed a while ago, and at the time I was supposed to have many sessions in Stockholm. After one of my sessions I retreated to my hotel bathtub to unwind, and was inspired to write the track.”
Taking her inspiration back to the studio the next day, she found a musical affinity with the idea of taking a moment to find some serenity in each day. “I have to remind myself sometimes that I can just take away all the negative thoughts and just focus on good stuff… just find those moments”, says Iselin. The sentiment transcended the song, forming her own personal therapy and helping to overcome the stress she had been suffering with, and is one that she hopes will connect with her audience.
“I think that my generation is very lucky, we have so many opportunities, but at the same time I think we’re dealing with a lot of pressure. To have all these things before a certain age, and we’re so hung up on what everyone else is doing because of social media. I’ve definitely felt that, so sometimes I just have to remind myself that I have to find that ‘chill zone’ and ‘take away all the negative thoughts and focus on the good stuff in my life”.
It’s an attitude that permeates her writing generally. The need for honesty, and a move away from the idea that lyrics need to be deeply poetic has become a creative priority. “I feel like I have to write honest lyrics that I connect with 100%, and then I hope other people connect with it somehow.” Stressing the importance of being lyrically open and the need for subject matter to be relatable sees Iselin rejecting a snare of lofty lyrical rhetoric that can easily alienate an audience, marking her as a refreshing talent with a connection to her fans which isn’t always as transparent as it should be.
Growing up in the small town of Naustdal, Norway, Iselin wasn’t immediately absorbed by music. Cut off from the opportunities of larger cities, and without any musically inclined relatives, enlightenment came with the discovery of her sister’s CD collection. A passion followed, and with it, inspiration: “I could just tell, I felt moved when I heard stuff that I liked, when I heard a nice melody”.
Having spent her formative years learning to dance, at the age of fifteen it became apparent that a more musical inclination was beginning to entrance her. After starting to sing around her parents she was given a guitar, and giving up dancing, soon began writing simple chords and melodies. She continued to sing and play throughout school, and after leaving applied to LIPA in Liverpool.
Here she spent a year studying music, constantly surrounded by like-minded musicians, with a constant access to facilities, and with a constant flow of inspiration: “everything at LIPA was so nice, it was a bubble… it was really inspiring to be around these people all the time”. Giving her the freedom and guidance to experiment with different styles, it was while here that Iselin developed her writing and style further.
After a year she returned to Norway, and rejecting her rural hometown for an urban environment plentiful with opportunity, moved to Oslo to plan her next move. Working in retail while making music in her spare time and cut off from the previous creative freedoms that her course had afforded her, the new atmosphere raised doubts. “I was at a crossroads… should I study now or should I just continue?” With her friends starting to leave university and the pressure of making music while working, stress started to take a toll.
Questioning herself and the music she was making, and with a desire to move away from her previous singer-songwriter style, a promise was made to take new chances and not be content with playing it safe. Soon afterwards, Alan Walker approached her to sing on his tracks ‘Faded’ and ‘Sing Me To Sleep’. Having never worked in the electronic music scene, it was a perfect opportunity to explore new musical avenues. It served as a refreshing experience, and a stimulus to play around with new genres, and to take inspiration from other areas of music that might not be immediately obvious.
Creatively reinvigorated, Iselin took her experiences with electronica back to her own writing. “I guess the thing I do now is more pop, but it definitely has elements from some things… more minimalist production, but more electronic, it’s definitely something that I’ve wanted to try out more, after that.” Serving as the means by which to move her music away from its previous singer-songwriter roots, the experience gave her the vitality to combine her insights and refresh her style to create a bold new sound.
Returning with her new single ‘Bathtub’, and a wealth of material to follow, it’s clear that Iselin has harvested the fruits of bountiful experience, honing her craft to secure a place as a powerful new musical force.