Interview by Andy Axworthy
Some things are just meant to happen. When you have spent nearly 10 years in the music industry and shared a stage and spotlight with the likes of The Quireboys, Nazareth, Quo and Stage Dolls then you tend to get noticed… Oslo’s Issa Øversveen has done all that and a lot more besides – something that brought her to the attention of Frontiers Records. The result of this union was released in Europe on the 24th September. We caught up with Issa to talk about the solid mix of hooks, riffs, melodies and attitude that is “Sign Of Angels”.Hey Issa! A warm welcome from all of us at Femme Metal. How are you today?
Heyyy – I’m doing fine. A bit cold these days in Norway, but with all happening I couldn’t be more happy. You will be a new artist to many of our readers, yet you are already a veteran of the music industry. Can you tell us a bit of your story so far? What inspired you to start singing and as a career, did you choose music or did music choose you? Well yes I can – I don’t know where to start here but when it comes to music I’ve loved it since I was a little girl – I used to make my own radio shows and “perform” every chance I got. :o) Being very influenced by music growing up I had a big passion for it and when I got the chance to go to an audition in Oslo for an artist called Jahn Teigen for an “artist school” I did. I went and during all this I got to also work in his reception at the school. This gave me the chance to connect a lot with the industry and shortly after I started to work around with songwriters singing demos and backing for other artists. I’m very grateful for this as the experience I’ve got from it all is worth everything today. During this period I also won a competition for Fox Kids, the TV-channel, making the song “Fade Away” to be released on their album among other big artists. After this I started performing a lot with cover bands and getting the experience from entertaining and finding my voice and character started. I soon started doing this almost every weekend for years and after a while I found myself doing big events and I got so lucky that I’ve had the chance to share stage with so many acts and artists. I can only say that I’m the most grateful person in the world having to see and learn so much on my way and also having the chance to find out what I love to do and sing. Meanwhile I’ve done all this. I have worked with labels writing and singing for others and I’ve also guested on a lot of albums. Over these years I might have forgotten about myself in all this and the reason for it is easy as I’ve had so much music in my life – on the other hand I’m so glad I’ve released this record now as I have more to offer as an artist. As you have mentioned you have personally gained a lot of experience over the years, singing for and touring with so many artists. Could you share some of your personal highlights or favourite memories from that time with us?
Ahhh, this made me laugh as I’ve had soooo many funny moments to tell here. I can mention a couple of funny things like I did a gig for the military in Norway. This was a NATO practice with people from every country… what a gig that was – about 1000 pilots celebrating their stay here. We played in a big tent and what an audience they proved to be. I’ve never got so many hats and t-shirts ever. That must have been my superstar moment having lines of people wanting pictures – most funny gig ever – but when it comes to highlights and other artist, well there are so many to talk about: Awesome gig with Stage Dolls at a motor festival – that was cool – singing and partying with the Quireboys – haha, so many memories here. My first 30,000 people gig at Norway cup in Oslo… I’ve never been so nervous, like a big dream standing there… All the hard work has paid off as you are now signed with Frontiers Records. How did that deal come about and how have they been to work with on the album and in terms of your own development? Ahhh this is a funny story. It was a friend of mine called Michael that sings in the band Circus Maximus that had the first contact with Frontiers Records. I do think I live the dream story here, but Frontiers had talked about finding a girl to do a duet with one of their artists. Well Michael told them to check me out. Frontiers then got some demos of me and from that they wanted to do a record with me. That’s just what everyone dream of when it comes to releasing a record and I’m just very thankful for their belief in me. Frontiers has been fun to work with and very supportive of me and thought around things. I have no better way to describe this rather then I feel like a part of the Frontiers family. That new album is “Sign Of Angels” and it is due to hit the shelves this September. What has it been like and what have you been doing during this final countdown to the release? Well it’s not so much to do rather then be excited but it’s been a lot of work too. With a release like this there is a lot of promotion work that has to be done like interviews etc. It’s all good fun but I can say that the days run by fast. There is a lot of experience behind this cd, both in terms of the songwriters and the musicians who have helped contribute to the album. Can you tell us about the band and what is has been like to work with them?
Ahh the band has been amazing. The guys contributing on this record has been nothing more then supportive and fun to work with. I’m just honoured to have had the chance to work like this and also I’m very glad that the guys want to play live with me when they have the time. That’s gonna be one show I tell ya!! Haha, when it comes to the song-writing I have just started to work with some of them and its awesome to now have songs I’ve co-written on, on albums around.
Talking of the songwriters, who did you work most closely with during production and what sort of influence were you able to have during the writing and recording process? During the look for the songs I worked closely with Frontiers using their “stable” of writers to pick out songs for this record. It was some process to find just the perfect ones but again, to have these amazing writers to write for you is an honour. I can also mention that these writers have been so flexible to changes during the production with changes that sometimes have to be done to suit songs to a vocalist. As I mentioned above I’ve now started to work with some of these writers and not only write for others but to have material for my next album. I want to show that I do more then just sing and my next album will do just that by having my material on it… :o)
Whatever the recipe, these ingredients have been mixed (with the help of Ronny Milianowicz as producer) into as good an album of metal-edged melodic rock as you are going to hear this or any other year. What are your thoughts and feelings about the finished article?Hehe, I’m just humbled by this. U know I think an album reflects the work you put in it and I can say that it’s a lot more work then people might think. It’s late nights and early mornings to make a good product. When it comes to the finish product I’m very happy and it’s just what I pictured it would be. Also I have to thank Ronny especially with his way of listening, understanding and creating this album. He’s done the most amazing work with this and making us all sound amazing – THANKS!!
How personal have the songs become to you and which track is your current favourite and why? Ahhh, I have given this some though lately and I really can’t describe ‘cos I really feel a connection to all of the songs on this album. We are now starting to plan the next video for the album and I can reveal that it’s the song “Unbelievable” that’s gonna be made so that’s the track I’m all into these days.
The first track you recorded for the album, “I’m Alive”, is also the first single release and is a great introduction to the cd. What can you tell us about the track and the video shoot that supports it?
Ahhh, I love that song and I think it shows just what you will get on the record. It’s strong and powerful mixed with female touch and the video is just the same. We had a blast doing the video and the producer of the video, Thomas (Tjader – Pretty Maids, In Flames), made it look amazing. It’s always a bit strange walking in the room and flirting with a camera like that but I guess after a while you get used to it and just “do your thing”. I bet there are some funny clips from the video ‘cos when you have a wind storm in your face it’s not easy not getting tears running and that doesn’t fit the song very well either. So we had a lot of stops and so many laughs doing the video to “I’m Alive”. Beyond that how do you and Frontiers plan on promoting the album once it has been released? Are you planning any showcases and can we expect an Issa tour at some point? If so, when is that likely and where do you hope to play?
Well as far as promoting, Frontiers use their contacts around the world and I’ll do my best helping and being as available as possible. When it comes to showcases I’m of course eager to do that, but we’ll see when the time comes. After that I can say that we are these days planning and setting up a tour schedule and I can’t wait to get going and showing people this side of me. I have been performing for almost all my life and this is my strong side. Ha, I could live on a stage if I had to – I just love it so much.
You’ve previously said you want to write and contribute your own songs to future recordings. What sort of experience did you take from this project in terms of song-writing, arrangement and studio set up? On this record I didn’t have the time to write myself and also I didn’t feel like my material was where I wanted it before we started. But later on I have written so much more and I’m already working on my next album. I love to write but I do think that to write with other people and get out of your own comfort zone is very healthy. I have learned so much from it all and I’ve taken that with me on the way. I think when it comes to music you have to open your mind and be open to other and different things.
In addition to singing do you play any instrument(s) and if not, which one(s) would you like to learn?
Well I don’t want to brag about things I really don’t know too much, but I do know some notes on the piano. Also a bit on guitar but really I’m not good at all, haha, but when I was a child I played the flute and tuba – HAHAHAHA can you picture that? Well if I had to learn something it has to be the piano more than I know today. I think with this instrument you can do so much within music and in today’s production that’s a thing most people use a lot in the studio to even correct other instruments.
What about influences? Do you have an icon or role model as a singer and which artists do you currently have on your iPod?
My iPod is almost overloaded with music. I have this thing about me that I get totally hooked on acts or singers. This means that I only listen to that specific act/artist for a time and then I move on. Right now I’m on Adam Lambert’s latest album. My influences in time have been so much but I can see that powerful singers have been my thing. I like Robin Beck, Celine Dion, Heart and even Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson have got me all hooked in the past. The album artwork is striking. How much fun was that cover shoot and can we look forward to that style at your shows or does the ‘live’ Issa have something else in mind? : )
HAHAHAHA – Well I can tell you so much that the photo shoot was arranged by me and a well-known photographer in Norway. I like to use a shoot like that to express myself and what I want to be said about the album. I had such a great time doing this and LP who took the pictures is just so funny. It’s a lot of work to get just the right picture where the hair and everything is right but when you work with the best I guess its no problem :o))) The Issa you will see on stage will be very similar. The clothes might not be the same but still I am the same girl as those pictures. I think you can look at the pictures as art – creating perfection. But my statement from the pictures is strong and feminine – an in-your-face attitude – and that is just what you are gonna see from me on stage. My hair might not look just as perfect but, haha, that’s life I guess..:O)))Do you have any other passions outside of music? If you were not singing what would you be doing? Hmmmm, this is difficult. I love animals so I would guess my passion would go with that but if not maybe something within entertainment and booking or music in other ways than to sing. Finally, are you happy with everything that is happening around you now, or are you the type that likes to keep stepping outside the comfort zone? What makes you tick? Hehe, well I can tell you what makes me tick. People that treat others or me unfairly. I like clean games and straight people… haha, I guess I’m very normal on this and I always expect people to deliver and give just as I do with myself. I love stepping out of my comfort zone. That means I love to do new things – things I might not know as much and I’m deffo not afraid to try and fail… I think trying and doing gives me a kick sometimes and I’m very curious on new things – I wanna know how it all works…
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Issa. Is there anything else you would like to add before we let you go? : ) Well yeah, please check out my web site www.issasite.com its soon up and ready. Also add me on Facebook people – Issa Oversveen – here I’m talking to people and telling all the strange things that’s happening…O)))
Thank you sooo much.