Introducing Lauren Norstrom
Norstrom is an unlikely ingénue, beautiful in the way that is “all eyes”. And then there is the sultry voice: a kaleidoscope of textured whispers, unfulfilled promises, sad goodbyes and intense declarations that also invite knowing winks, a sense of humor that belies her age and is effervescent in its authenticity.
Intriguing is the best way to describe the arrival of South Africa’s most fascinating songstress, who released her debut album in July. The WIRE brings you Lauren Norstrom in this, her first definitive interview.
What was the first song you wrote?
The song was called ‘Dream Girl’. I was 7 and Britney Spears ruled the world, the song was a vivid combination of good melodies and nonsensical lyrics. Catchy but silly and a hit with my parents.
What are your musical influences?
I listen to everything really. A lot of commercial music but, then I have those tracks that are fixtures in my playlists. Jeff Buckley, Sampha, Tracy Chapman, Fleetwood Mac and Frank Ocean. I think as a musician it’s important to expand your musical ear broader than the genre you write in, for obvious reasons. As for most impactful influence? Lil Wayne’s ‘Carter IIII’. A lyrical treasure house.
Of the songs that you have written, which one connects with you as an artist and you the music lover?
I love this question. This links to one of my biggest battles I’ve faced as a writer and an obsession with the meaning of what a ‘true artist’ is. I think in society there is a negative connotation of the mainstream and it’s almost embarrassing to admit that you listen to commercial or popular music. But I’m glad I can finally just say I love pop music without it shaking my confidence in my own music tastes.
What comes naturally to me is writing pop music. I know that sounds misleading when my pop ear informs my soul and R&B music, but if you listen to my songs, you will hear the genre bending. Whether there are pop culture references made in the lyrics of a soul track, or if I flip my flow and start lightly rapping, it’s there.
So, to answer your question, as an artist it’s the songs I have written that focus on the poetry and the challenge of being emotive, conveying a story while maintaining a sound that’s pleasing. As a music-lover, it’s the ones where it’s fun. Where I can dance to it and I see my friends and family light up to it.
What lyric from an artist do you admire most and do you wish you wrote.
I suffer from writers envy big time. There’s two types of writing styles that I admire most and they are extremes apart. One of my favorites, Sampha- Plastic 100°, which is the epitome of visual metaphors. It’s meaning is complex and rhythmically satisfying. He sings:
“A magnifying glass upon my face…
It’s so hot I’ve been melting out here.
I’m made out of plastic out here…
you touch down at the base of my fears…
harness our pain, close it up and hope it decays”
I’m in awe. It’s complicated. But then you have the other end of the spectrum. Des’ree‘s – ‘I’m Kissing You’. From ‘The Titanic’. It is so sparse, 3 words at a time;
“My soul cried…The aching…Oh I’m kissing you”
She says very little, it’s simple, the words aren’t wrapped up in a double meaning. It’s there in plain sight and I cry. I hear the song and I cry. Her voice bares herself. Now that’s cinema. That’s what theatre is. That’s all I want to do. That there. That’s my passion.
How does your background in musical theatre translate into your live performances?
On a very basic level, it’s trained me to be a good performer. Michael Jackson was theatre and you can’t argue with that. He was a musical theatre legend. When you master musical theatre, you master performance. Musical theatre allows us to tell stories by song, regardless of genre. It’s about getting up close and personal with the meaning of the lyrics.
You had an interesting and artistically intimate working relationship with fellow artist Giulio Beltramo. What did that entail?
I did. We did. We met at the university. We fell in love with each other. The closest thing you can get with someone without being connected by blood. A defining moment on my journey as an artist and forever leaving its mark on my art.
Any other local artists you’re keen to collaborate with.
Jimmy Nevis. I’m a fan. He’s great. I’m thinking of a Nelly and Kelly Rowland Dilemma moment.
Tell us the story about the single “Drip Dry”.
It was born in an interesting way. Someone sent me the beat. I got my phone out and recorded a freestyle. I still have the original video and you can hear all the melodies I kept, the words I used and it’s the same story line. I’m proud of that song. It’s a good reflection of who I am as an artist right now, the poetry, my sense of humor and the genre bending. I’d be happy if someone used ‘Drip Dry’ to define me as an artist.
C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.
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