In this edition of our Nordic new music feature, we speak to Henrik Johannessen about the release of his new album and learn about the Danish country music scene!
NW: To someone who may not have discovered your music yet, how would you describe your sound?
HJ: I would describe my sound as singer-songwriter influenced by modern Americana. Most of my music is acoustic, and the main instrument is a guitar (Martin D18).
As a guitarist, I love to experiment with the instrumental part, and add complicated chicken pickin’ or solos to a song. I get a lot of inspiration from the Nashville scene, my god there’s a lot of talent!
I love visiting Nashville, and sit around cafés, listening to some of the great singer-songwriters. At the moment I listen to artists like Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Bishop Gunn, Whiskey Myers, Colter Wall and so on…
NW: When did you first discover Country music and which artists made you sit up and take interest in their sound? Is there much of a Country scene in Denmark?
HJ: When I was younger it was all about rock’n’roll for me. For a lot of years I played electrical guitar, and in the beginning of the 90’s I moved to Hollywood to study music, and be part of the American Rock’n’roll scene.
I was a little late, cause in those years it all quickly become about grunge, which I hated. I think the first album I listened to, that had that country vibe, was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Endangered Species’. I was always a huge Skynyrd fan, but this album made me look more into country.
It would take several years before I started playing the genre myself though, but around 2015 I started a country band Hillbilly Bones, in which I still play.
In Denmark there has never been a big country scene, it would mostly be something for a very small group of people, like line dancers! Finally, times are changing though. Folk, Americana and country is rising up, and hopefully we will see a lot more of it in Denmark the following years.
NW: Talk to us about your album – what were some of the themes or influences you had going into producing it?
HJ: I wasn’t really planning my album, when I first started playing solo a couple of years ago. I really just wanted to do something else, and I enjoyed the acoustic sound, and the way the whole singer-songwriting experience works.
You get to connect with your audience on a whole other level. So, for me it started with a lot of small solo gigs, and I actually did a lot of covers in the beginning.
Then my girlfriend and I started to write together, and the songs just popped out. Suddenly we had bunch of song and started talking about doing an album. From that point is took around 1.5 year, before the album was actually a reality.
I must be honest and say, I mostly compose, while my girlfriend is the writer. We get inspired by all sorts of things when creating songs. Mostly everyday things, that we all know of. You know life itself. Love, heartbreak, age, friendship and so on.
Our songs are very different in lyrics and style. Some are very traditional western-themed, and others more realistic and recognizable. The song ‘Life’ we wrote at a time where we had both lost close friends within a short period of time. That is what I love about music. How you can take some shitty feeling and translate it into something constructive, something meaningful.
NW: Where are some of your favourite places to hang out or visit in Denmark?
HJ: I have to say that my favorite place in Denmark is actually where I live! I have a big American log house, very untraditional for Denmark- and we just love it out here. The whole place is very country-inspired and just magical.
The house is on the island Fyn (Funen), and there’s a lot of nature around here which I love. During Corona, we got the idea to open up the house for intimate concerts, and now it has become a thing that we do. Host concerts. And that is just awesome.
We get to hang and meet great musicians, and have the best audience in the world. People who really love music. Our audience is so dedicated, and every concert is a truly unique experience.
NW: With your new album out now what have you got planned next? Maybe some live performances?
HJ: Yeah definitely planning to do more concerts with the new album. I am starting out with a release concert at The Farm in Denmark this weekend which is the release date of ‘Farm Sessions’.
I have had also a very busy summer with a lot of concerts, so fall will be more for relaxing and writing new songs. Hopefully, I will hit the road with a release tour during spring 2022 in Denmark. Later I hope to get the chance to visit Germany and Sweden.
NW: Finally what was the last thing you watch, book you read, and album you listened to?
HJ: The last thing I watched was Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’ last night at my couch. What a great movie!
I am not much of a reader and do not really read books. I do remember though, that I read the biography of Johnny Cash once. I hear so much music these days, but lately I have listened a lot to ‘The Devil Makes Three’.
‘ Farm Sessions’ is released today, September 4th on CD and vinyl.
Interview by Alex Minnis