When London Word writer Gabriella Griffith went to Eric Ness’ last gig at Proud in Camden, she described his ‘refreshingly unique’ performance as ‘raw, unadulterated fun’.
The Norwegian born singer songwriter’s energetic, feelgood music, often described as ‘glam-jazz’, has won him a growing army of fans, especially in his current hometown of London. I caught up with him over a coffee or two to talk hats, love songs, stalkers and erm, Susan Boyle.
Let’s start at the beginning – how did you start out as a musician?
‘I started this project back in 2008. I was in a rock band before that – that didn’t really work out so I figured, I have a big catalogue of songs that I’ve been writing for fun over the years, so why don’t I try to put my own band together? We had our first gig and it went really well. Over the years my band’s changed a lot though, there’s only one member that’s still the same.’
You seem to have a very eclectic band, including a mandolin, a flute and a double bass…
‘Yes, that’s the new band, I think they’re sticking with me now! I have a lot of friends who are really good musicians, so I’ve been calling in favours and getting them to play for me. But then a while ago I decided I really wanted a steady band, so I got this great group of people together who are all very talented musicians in their own right.’
People say you’re a fantastic live performer and great at involving the audience. Tell me a bit about your live show.
‘I think that there’s a lot of energy in our show, I guess that’s the key element when we play – we’re all really happy to be there, we have a lot of fun and we’re not afraid to show it. We jump around and have a good time.’
What’s been your best and worst gig so far?
‘I think the best gig has to be the previous one that we played at Proud, that was a lot of fun – lots of people and everything just came together, it was a great night. As for the worst, I don’t know how to pick out a single one, everyone has to go through a lot of bad gigs! We just carry on and play though. There’ll be some gigs where there are just four people in the corner watching you, but we still play and give it everything we’ve got.’
What is the inspiration behind All The Things You Are, the first single from your EP?
‘Well, it’s about love. I suppose that’s the answer you normally get! It’s a little ramble. I ramble a lot in my songs, I’m very impulsive when I write. It’s set in that very trendy east London scene, I don’t like all of that very much. So in the song I’m trying to get with this girl, well, the guy in the song is, it may be me, it may not!’
You’re originally from Norway – what made you move to London?
‘Music. I wanted to be a musician so I came over here about seven years ago, studied music for a while and then just kept trying to get a break. Still trying! But things are looking good at the moment.’
Where do you live?
‘I live in Camden at the moment, I love it there.’
What’s your favourite way to spend a lazy London Sunday afternoon?
‘I love Brick Lane, going to the market there. My house is also good…sometimes I just like staying on my couch. I also really like Camden Market. I think that’s the best place in London, and I go there a lot on Sundays. I’ve bought so many Christmas presents there, then you can tell people it’s from some designer shop in London!’
What’s the worst thing about London?
‘I’m from a place that’s only five minutes from the sea, so I really miss the ocean when I’m here, and the outdoors.’
We have Brighton Beach! It’s not that far away on the train…
‘It’s full of big rocks! Brighton’s a great place though, I’d love to play there.’
Do you have a favourite current band or performer?
‘There are a lot of very different bands that I like, but most of them are older bands, not really current.’
What would you say have been your biggest influences?
‘I grew up listening to rock and heavy metal, I don’t know if that has influenced me, I mean, I suppose it doesn’t really sound like it. But I think the energy in my music comes from the rock, and I’ve been in a lot of rock bands over the years. Then when I was starting out in music, I played a lot of jazz. I actually found it really boring, but I liked the chords and the melodies and I think that’s influenced my current music.’
What do you think of The X Factor and other reality music shows?
‘I just think ‘good for them’. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I don’t mind it really. It’s often easy come, easy go with those shows as well, most of them fade away after a few weeks. Apart from Susan Boyle. Actually, I really hate Susan Boyle. You can write that down. Oh my God. She’s just so average, I don’t understand it at all.’
Have you always wanted to be a singer?
‘Yes, always. I remember when I was six and I used to just play ‘band’ with my brother, using a tennis racket as a guitar and jumping around to Guns ‘n’ Roses. I never wanted to do anything else. If I couldn’t do music now I think maybe I’d be a taxi driver. I like cars, and it could be quite fun.’
Have you got any weird and wonderful fans?
‘Oh yes, a few. Nothing too weird, but there have been some strange people. I don’t really want to tell you, they might read it! It was only 40 per cent weird what they did. Or maybe 60 per cent…’
‘I’ll tell you one day.’
Oh ok then. On to one for the ladies. Have you ever serenaded anyone?
‘Kind of…but not really, I get too shy. I tried to serenade my girlfriend once but it just didn’t work, she started laughing at me.’
So you’re more confident playing in front of a big crowd than in front of someone who knows you well?
‘Definitely. I’d say the bigger the crowd, the easier the gig.’
I spent a significant amount of time this morning on Google attempting to find a picture of you without a hat, and failed miserably. Does the hat ever come off?
‘Yes, it does come off [lifts hat to prove it isn’t attached to his head]. I wear my hat a lot, it’s part of who I am really. It’s the Eric Ness hat! My name is actually different, it’s a Norwegian name, so I take on this persona when I perform, I put on the hat and become someone different.’
Is it always the same hat or do you have a collection of Eric Ness hats?
‘I do have a lot of different hats, but I usually wear this one when I play. It’s probably time for me to get a new hat actually. This hat’s had a good trip!’
You should keep it and sell it on eBay when you’re really famous…
‘Yes, to that weird fan!’
So what’s next for you and the band?
‘We have a gig on 30 August at Barfly in Camden. There’s a big headliner playing that gig as well, I think I know who it is, but I don’t want to say anything just in case it isn’t them. I’ve also got a video coming out, it’s going to be a really fun music video and it should be out at the end of August. I can fly in that video, and I have all these different heads. It’s going to be really cool.’
And after that?
‘I’m going to America on a mini tour in September, and after that I’m going to take it as it comes.’