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Issue 1084

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Feature

Jarle Bernhoft: Jarle Rules

Jarle Bernhoft @bluesandsoul.com
Jarle Bernhoft @bluesandsoul.com

When soul superstar Jill Scott suggests you check out a singer she says is one of the most soulful artists she has heard in a long time, you donât argue. Norwegian artist Jarle Bernhoft - simply sensational, oozes soul, has a great look, killer voice and infectious songs.

But when he turns up at Islingtonâs Union Chapel in London on 15th October, thereâll be no trucks of gear or tour bus full of musicians to fill the stage. Itâll be just 36-year-old Bernhoft as he now calls himself, a couple of guitars, a couple of microphones, a piano and a selection of foot pedals. Oh, and that awesome voice. Jarle is a one man band for the iPad generation; using loops, samples of his own voice and guitar playing as it happens â and a fjord sized talent.

His star shone brightly for one US talent scout, who he spotted a You Tube video of Jarle and after a late night call, he was invited to appear on a major US TV chat show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres in LA. After an interview with Ellen on the couch, Jarle sang "C'mon Talk," and was a huge hit with millions of American viewers last September.

He was formerly lead singer in successful Norwegian rock band Span, signed to Island Records in the UK and Interscope in the USA. He lived in London for two years from 2002, while they toured the world. With itchy feet, Jarle was seeking a new direction and he found it; thanks to one British soul artist who blew him away with his debut album. Lewis Taylor.

Jarle left the band to go solo in 2005 and says he owes his change from rock to soul, to that UK artist. âThe first time I heard Lewis Taylor it nailed me to the wall,â he said. Sly and the Family Stone, The Stax catalogue. Michael Jackson, Prince, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder were all major influences, but his discovery of Taylor made the biggest impact.

âYeah, the one that stands out is Lewis Taylor. When I heard his first album in the late 90s, it seeped into my whole being. His album started me singing the falsetto thing that he did so well. It was so hugely influential for me. He is a massive figure in the way I think about music, and the way I can do stuff alone like he did. Lewis is certainly up there with the greats for me.â

Speaking to me from Corsica where he was appearing at a festival, Jarle tells why he sings all his songs in English. âBecause I detest my voice when I sing in Norwegian. I have a strange dialectâ¦.â Well, you cannot detect any hint that English is not his native tongue when he sings; which Jarle puts down to his study of English literature and a burning desire to get the language 100% right.

He has a quirky look; kind of like Morrissey and Gok Wanâs secret love child! Black glasses and retro hair style. Slick suits. Cool personified. But the voice is something else entirely. Think Omar with Stevie Wonderâs phrasing. And someâ¦..

In Germany he supported the legendary Joe Cocker to audiences of more than 100,000 people. He records on his own label, licensed to Universal records and believes in a âbrick by brick,â old school approach to his career; releasing a record territory by territory and touring non-stop to promote it, always with a long term view.

He released his debut solo album âCeramik City Chroniclesâ in September 2008, a real soul party. In January 2010, Jarle Bernhoft released a double live album â1:Man 2:Band,â - one disc of his solo work and one with a full band. âSolidarity Breaks,â was released in January 2011. It reached number one in the main album chart in Norway, staying there for more than two months and staying in the charts most of last year. He has also recorded âWalk With Me,â an album of his own songs performed with the Norwegian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He won two Norwegian Grammies for âBest Artistâ and âBest Male Artist.â He is about to begin writing the next CD for an autumn 2013 release.

Jarle lives in Oslo with his wife and young son, but has plans to move back to the UK and tackle the USA from here. His childhood was a musical one; his Father an opera singer and his mother a music teacher. Jarle studied singing and piano at Music High School.

When he tours his next CD in the UK, Cardiff may not be on the schedule. He has played there three times with his former band, and each time he was attacked! âIt is probably the scariest town I have ever been in. The last time, we sat in the car and three guys with baseball bats smashed the car up, but they were not trying to break in,â he recalls. Stick to soul son, stick to soul, far saferâ¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦.

You can check out B&S' one to watch Jarle Bernhoft at bernhoft.org and as mentioned in person at Islingtonâs Union Chapel in London on October 15.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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