Bernhoft, or Jarle Bernhoft as is his actual name, has traveled much of the world with his music. The driving force is in many ways the same as before, but has changed since he became a father.
I meet him back stage before his concert at USF in Bergen on October 8. He is very cheerful and outgoing, and offers coffee while he tells stories of a long life on the road.
To the extent that he has an ambition of success, he says, it revolves around his son.
– I’d really like to get my son into my music again. When he was one year he would not listen to anything but my music.
Despite the fact that he over time has built up a loyal fan base in Norway, he is crystal clear that his impetus is the same as always.
– I’ve never really been very ambitious in terms of success. Of course there are advantages – for instance that the bills pay themselves and stuff, but it has never been a driving force for me.
The impetus, he says, is that he is extremely ambitious musically.
– I want to make awesome music, and I’ll happily make music that I might not have dealt with before. Maybe even music that’s never been made before.
He certainly did this when he transformed himself from a rock god in the group Span into a smooth soul singer capable of standing on his own feet.
– Subtle genre compositions and juxtapositions of sounds and textual images – that is really my driving force.
Shorter, not less
Bernhoft hasn’t released an album since 2014. When he released music this year, his choice was to release an EP instead of a full album.
– I wanted to explore the short format, I realized it was a long time since I had sat down and listened to an album from start to finish, without being distracted while doing so. It felt like a reflection of … maybe a fragmented contemporary time, where the short format and easy tunes have acquired great importance.
But he also believes it has to do with the fact that after releasing three solo albums the bar has been set slightly higher for each release.
– On the first album I was somehow happy if there was one cool phrase per song. And then comes the second album, and then comes the third album, and then somehow things turn out better and better, right?
Bernhoft admits that he feels like giving out an EP in a way is a different branch. If you think about album release as the long jump or pole vault, then an EP is more like javelin or basketball.
In spite of Marit Larsen and Honningbarna having released albums with a length of less than one hour this year, he doesn’t believe it is a sign of the times.
– I think that stuff is a bit cyclic. In the seventies a vinyl record was defined by technology. If you didn’t want to compromise on sound quality you could not have more than ten and a half minutes per side. And if you would not release a double album, which had lots of extra costs associated with it, the maximum length of an album was forty-five minutes.
Then, he points out, came the CD and enabled seventy minutes of music on a release, maybe even more.
– I remember Wyclef Jean had an album that had maybe eighteen to nineteen songs on it. So there’s been a backlash. Vinyl has returned as the primary format in physical form, and then the technology has improved, so now you can have twenty-five minutes per side. But still, there are some physical limitations there that sets the standard.
The meaning of everything
But back to this success business. How did it really go with his son?
– Now my son has been through a massive phase with other music that I thought was good because I wanted to push him to hear such things as old AC / DC.
– And he took to it like hell, but not the old stuff! He would listen to Stiff Upper Lip, somehow, new AC / DC. And old ZZ Top – alas! He would listen to Gots To Get Paid somehow, from two thousand and ten or eleven. I thought it was so weird – but now! After mixing these new songs, he will only listen to me again. YES!
He screams, putting arms in the air, grinning.
– Success! One must reach out to the kids, you know, it’s an important part of pop music.