"A tree without nourishment will rot at its roots, and a tree without roots will fall"
The acclaimed Norwegian musician and his band are currently touring in support of new album ‘Skald’. In ancient Scandinavia, this meant “a composer and reciter of poems honouring heroes and their deeds”, marking the band’s latest effort in using elements of traditional Norwegian folk music and Norse mythology within a more modern context.
“It’s basically a collection of the material I do from my solo performances,” Selvik told NME about the album. “I have to say it’s very different to what Wardruna normally do. It takes the listener into a more simple and direct soundscape. It’s very minimalistic and non-compromised form of expression.
“It’s just a voice and one instrument. It’s sort of a modern take on what the old Skalds or bards did when it was a living tradition.”
He continued: “Lyrically, some of it is of my own creation. Some of it is Wardruna songs taken into this naked format. Also, Skaldic poetry from the Viking age and earlier is at the core of it. It’s basically modern renditions of very old poetry as part of it.”
Selvik is keen to stress that his music, lifestyle and aesthetic are not historical recreation, but more of an effort to draw on the past to illuminate what is missing from the present.
“A lot of the old poems and major myths that we have from that time are very good at telling us of the cycle of nature,” he continued. “They map the relation of human beings to nature and describe it as a continuous cycle of life and death. Nature’s death and rebirth is always being revisited.
“I think why it resonates and connects so well with a lot of people around the planet is because the focus is not on re-enacting the past or trying to be Vikings again; it’s about taking this old wisdom, knowledge and culture and presenting it with a contemporary relevance and in a contemporary soundscape. My focus has been on the stuff that does resonate and remains relevant.”
Throughout his career, Selvik has lived by the mantra that “A tree without nourishment will rot at its roots, and a tree without roots will fall”. Having amassed millions of streams over the last 15 years and continuing to sell out larger and larger venues the world over, does he feel as if people are longing to feel closer to their roots?
“Today, a lot of people have a longing for some sort of connection to something bigger than themselves – whether that’s spiritual or philosophical,” he replied. “They want some kind of communion and they find that within our performances.
“In Western society we’re moved so far away from our roots and the core and pillars of what shaped our culture, so it’s only natural that you’ll see this counter reaction. Whether that’s in historical reenactment, spiritual research or whatever, it comes in different forms. Our music is tapping into that longing that many people feel and gives voice to it.”
Selvik has also recently performed with fellow Norwegian star AURORA after discovering that they were admirers of one another’s music.
“We’re fans of each other’s work and a year and a half ago, we both performed in the same festival up in Northern Norway,” said Selvik. “She played on the regular site while we played in a very old cave in the mountainside, where we had the idea of doing a song together. We’re both from Bergen so we recently did it again at a concert there. I have a lot of respect for AURORA.
“She’s just a force of nature. The way that she’s doing her thing within the realms of a more pop-orientated direction while staying true to herself is very inspiring.”
Selvik also spoke of his involvement in the upcoming second part of season 5 of the hit show Vikings, having worked on music for the show’s previous seasons as well as appearing on screen as an actor.
“For the last season and the upcoming one, I haven’t worked so much on the score apart from smaller pieces,” he told NME. “I’ve been working more on the stuff that happens in front of the camera whenever there are musical elements involved. They also continue to use quite a bit of my old stuff, and to use Wardruna music.
“We’re definitely going to be present in the upcoming season.”
Wardruna’s upcoming UK tour dates are below. Visit here for tickets and more information.
Wednesday November 21 – Albert Hall, Manchester
Thursday November 22 – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Vikings will returns to screens on the History Channel in the US on November 28, and will be streamed on Amazon Prime in the UK on November 29.