Interview | FFS 5 with The Northern Belle’s Stine Andreassen

Fleetwood Mac are a timeless treasure, but if there were ever to be a successor, Norway’s Northern Belle are fighting well for the title. Recently out with the release of their third studio album, We Wither, We Bloom, the septet hasn’t missed a beat or caught a slump yet. Continuous innovators, their latest sees them caught in a fabulous 60s rhinestone cachet as well as a forward-looking and -moving 2020 ensemble. It’s rockin’ Americana for those who are appreciators of Beach Boys modulations and Fleetwood-era slash chords and choruses as much as they are the cerebral inflections of modern-day folk-rockers.

At the Northern Belle’s center is Stine Andreassen, the band’s brilliant frontwoman and lead songwriter. Andreassen offers her heart as she takes on an ‘FFS 5’, offering a look into her life and coming up with Northern Belle along the way.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I’m from the north of Norway and grew up with the northern lights, total darkness for 2-3 months every year, the sun never sets in the summertime, and a funny, weird and loving family. When I read through my old diaries I always wrote that I wanted to be famous, an astrologer/scientist, or a touring musician when I grew up. So I wanted this from an early age! 
My hometown was full of rockers and I would dress up just to fit in with them.

We have this legendary bar in Tromsø call ”Blårock” and all the cool kids were hanging out there. I would put on my leather jacket (black, of course) and Converse and run after every guy who played in a band. Haha! I’ve always loved to stand on a stage and did that a lot through my early school years, but it was when my mom and dad bought me a nylon guitar, a Sony 8-track, and a keyboard that it fell into place. I was often afraid to voice my opinions at an early age, so I wrote things down. After a while, this turned into lyrics and melodies. Even though I studied math and physics for a while I ended up skipping classes just to DJ at the student society. 

I dropped out, moved home, and started working at a record store. That store and the people working there changed my life! Earlier, I thought I was gonna start an indie-rock band or an electronic duo, but I started to listen to country music. I had listened to Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton, and Hank Williams because of my grandmother, but this was different. I fell in love with Gillian Welch, Caitlin Rose, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Taylor Swift, Alison Krauss, and more. It changed everything. 

I studied at a music school at the time and just dropped all my plans and started to focus on pop, rock, and country music. I bought my first Martin guitar, wanted to be a merge of Stevie Nicks and Gillian Welch, and started to jam with some of the musicians I was studying with. There I met Bjørnar Ekse Brandseth that I play with in my two bands, The Northern Belle and Silver Lining, and he has made it a pleasure to play music and helped me become more confident and just have fun on stage. He’s become a dear friend of mine – same with the rest of The Northern Belle. They are my second family. Live Miranda Solberg that I play with in Silver Lining has also made a huge impact on me. The first time we sang together the world stood still. It just felt right.

As an artist, how do you define success?

That is a hard question! If you had asked mini-me, when I still wrote in my diary, it would probably be to be famous like Taylor Swift – or maybe Celine Dion at that time. I looooved her! Now I have to say it’s being able to do what I do. That I’m blessed to be able to spend my time writing music, travel, perform, meet new people at every concert, being played on the radio, and just making a living out of this. There are few things that make me happier than to see that people are sharing our music, adding it to their own playlists, and buying our vinyl and sending us pics of them spinning on the record player. I simply love vinyl! I also love talking to people about music! To hear stories on how our songs have helped some has been immensely uplifting. And I also love to get new input like which artist I should check out and places we should play. I think that success is what puts a smile on your face and it’s something that makes you feel good about yourself. Then you are truly successful.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

The song “Everything Is Free Now” by Gillian Welch sums up a part of it. She sings about the anxiety of losing your income overnight and a reaction to that. It’s still relevant, 19 years later, and it’s so well written. A new generation of artists is embracing that song with the same skepticism as her.

I also struggle with not comparing myself with other artists. There is always a little voice whispering that I’m not good enough and the music industry has a tendency to pin women against each other. I hate that! It should be the other way around. And there is room for everyone.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

I hope to do this for the rest of my life! I can’t be bothered to think realistic. I’m a true dreamer and I will always be like that. I hope to meet more people, write and play with idols of mine, travel all over the world, play at the mother church The Ryman Auditorium, and that our music finds new homes every day.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Taking long walks is always a boost for the mind and soul. I recently started drawing again. That felt so good! I try to read poems, but I often have to stop because I come over a word that triggers something in me and I just have to write down whatever that comes out. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s the same with music. It helps set the mood when I’m writing. One thing that has helped me a lot to fuel the creativity is to hang out with other amazing women and being open and honest with them without being afraid to take up too much space or being over-sensitive. I easily get affected by people’s moods and always want to make a situation better if I can, but that can be draining. So hanging with people that make your day brighter is the best thing to do.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm