Fern Sessions Full Interview – Páll Joensen

We interviewed Páll Joensen, who is a first year Pop Music student from The Faroe Islands.

 

Matt – What instruments do you play?

Páll – I play Guitar, Ukulele and I sing as well. I do a little bit of piano as well but I couldn’t really say that I played it.

Matt – When did you start playing them?

Páll – I started playing when I was 14-15. I started late compared to my friends back home, I had a cousin back home who started when he was about 10 and I always aspired to learn but just never got around to it. Suddenly just this one month I had this sudden urge to just play, so I took up the guitar, my dad showed me a few chords like G, D and C, the usual stuff and then I just learned a few of the 3 chord songs. I was just having fun, then I would put more chords in, it added up and everything just worked out.

Matt – Did you do the guitar before the Ukulele then?

Páll – Yes, I started with the Guitar, I did sing as well in my cousin’s garage band. It was alright but it was not the best because I felt awkward not having an instrument, just standing there. I didn’t know how to perform properly without an instrument.

Lewis – Were you always surrounded by people that played with you?

Páll – I was yes. I basically had two friend groups – the guys who I played a lot of games with and the guys who I played a lot of music with, those were the two groups that I associated with.

Lewis – Did you want to be like them or did you want to try your own thing?

Páll – I think I always wanted to do my own thing, just wanted to try something new but at the same time, as most musicians I am very self-critical and that becomes a problem a lot of the time – this is not good enough, this is too stupid, these lyrics are wrong. It’s tough but I have recently come to the point where I say, this is fine. You have to almost imagine that it is someone else’s song, you think, ok if someone else made this song I would like it, it would actually be good, so it’s fine by my own standards.

Lewis – Do you like what you do now?

Páll – Yes I do.

Lewis – Was it always like that?

Páll – Definitely not. I was a lot more self-critical than I am now.

Lewis – So why did you keep going?

Páll – I’m very passionate about it, I just really wanted to make stuff that I was happy with. To be honest I don’t think I’ve gotten that much better, I’ve just become more accepting of myself and the stuff that I do than I used to be. I obviously have improved a bit but the biggest barrier for me was the self-acceptance.

Lewis – Do you feel you can get better now that you’ve accepted what you do, are you still as motivated now as when you were thinking it wasn’t good enough?

Páll – Yeah, I feel like I am more motivated now because I feel I can actually do anything and it still will be alright, it will be good enough. Before I had to make the best song in the world.

Matt – I think that you (musicians) need to be able to accept that you’re not going to put out perfect ones all the time and if you don’t accept that then you won’t try new things. I think it’s really good to reach that point where you think, I’m alright.

Páll – I feel it’s a very important point as a musician to come to. Most musicians are not happy with what they are doing. So that’s one of the most vital points, being an artist, being this IS good enough and I AM an artist.

Matt – I’m interested that you came to the Ukulele after the Guitar, usually it’s the other way around.

Páll – That’s very true, Ukulele is a very beginner friendly instrument. I’m not sure why I did that, the first time I ever heard someone play the Ukulele I thought “that sound is amazing, I want that sound”, it was just so great. I think that’s the main reason honestly, there’s not a much bigger picture than that really, I like the sound.

Matt – Are you interested in combining different sounds?

Páll – Definitely. I like to play with Ukulele and amps and stuff like that to get weird sounds from the Ukulele, see what I can get. Because you don’t often see Ukuleles with amps, that’s pretty uncommon.

Lewis – You’ve talked about self-critisism, what about criticism from other people, do you get that? We were talking to Kristina earlier and she was saying that someone had told her she wasn’t going to go into music and that made her do more and get better. Have people criticised what you’ve done and has that changed the way you make music?

Páll – I think one of the main reasons me not being so self-critical was my experience being in a band back home, called Danny and the Veetos. The main singer who made most of the songs, he was very liberal in what he did. He just did stuff and I was often very critical – the old side of me came out again saying “that’s not good enough, that sounds too similar to this and this” but to a certain extent he didn’t care. He would just say “I know but it’s still good, it’s still got its own thing” and he would just go on. To a certain extent he changed me I think, the fact that I could see this guy basically, I almost saw him as me, just being “yeah, those criticisms are fine but I’m still going to do this”. In that kind of way he inspired me and the songs that he wrote were good. Even though they were 4 chord songs, C G Am F, they still worked out. It was interesting coming to that point, I’m pretty sure it came from there. If he can do it like that why shouldn’t I?

Matt – Do you compose?

Páll – I have very recently started doing my own stuff. Yesterday, actually, I finished a song I had been working on and I have one finished song where I made everything on it myself a few years back and that’s it. I have so many drafts.

Matt – We were talking about this with Ella earlier and I was saying that I’ve got up to Matt Unnamed 50 on Cubase now and literally all of those are about 1 or 2 minutes at the most and they’re just very small amounts. They’re not even completed bits. They’re perhaps basslines, melodies and on Sibelius I have even more.

Páll – I’m the same really, I have so many memos, so many voice recordings, little things.

Lewis – How did this finished song turn into the finished song from the idea?

Páll – So I have two finished songs, one I wrote back in the day and another one I finished yesterday. The song I finished yesterday was actually a very quick process, I was fast at it by myself. It obviously inspired me to write more stuff again, obviously doing a popular music course as well, now it’s the time to do songs. So this song I finished yesterday started about 2 weeks ago and I made a draft – one verse and that was it. Then yesterday I didn’t have much to do so I just grabbed my Ukulele and said “right, I’m going to finish this song right here, right now”. Some songs you just finished instantly, other songs you spend years and years and just never finished them.

Matt – So what’s your process of writing?

Páll – I think I usually play the song first and then I find what words come to me while I play.

Lewis – So do you start with working out the Guitar or Ukulele chords and then put the melody to that?

Páll – Sometimes I do that but sometimes I also have a melody and then I support it with chords and then I’ll be “what am I singing in the melody?”. I think 99% of the time it’s melody first, “that’s a great one” and then I hear the chords in the background in my head and I find those chords and then I make the lyrics. Sometimes I’ve got the lyrics right away and I’ll just use them. I used to write poems, there was this one year I wrote so many poems and I was also considering that it would be cool to write a song supporting those lyrics, to see what happens, because that’s very different from what I’m used to doing.

Matt – Do you think poetry and music are in some ways linked?

Páll – Definitely they can be. There’s this one artist back home in The Faroe Islands who is very famous for taking these old poems and making melodies and chords to them, it just makes them so amazing, so great so definitely you can do that.

Matt – What are your influences, styles, artists?

Páll – I think I’m a sucker for melancholic songs in general or very cutesy stuff, again Ukulele. Often there’ll be this girl Ukulele soloist playing and singing, I’m just a sucker for that. This might be geeky but even Adventure Time Cartoon series that is really silly but in this cartoon there is this composer called Rebecca Sugar who makes the songs, there’s so many cute songs in that series, I just love those songs.

Matt – Do you like Indie music as well then, because that often goes with the melancholic styles.

Páll – Yes. There’s a singer-songwriter back home, who I guess you would call Indie but at the same time he is very big, called Teitur. He’s a really good singer-songwriter and his stuff is just amazing. He’s probably one of the most famous Faroese musicians, he makes really good stuff. If it’s a sad song but at the same time happy then I usually like it. Happy chords as well, happy songs.

Matt – That’s really interesting because I’m really into harmonies and things like that, tying those with emotions. Do you use those?

Páll – Yes, I definitely do and that’s a really good question, what is a happy chord? It’s one of those things I don’t think about until you asked me because if a song is happy it’s just naturally happy somehow. How would you define that, it’s a good question.

Matt – Are you interested in harmonies?

Páll – I do definitely like harmonies. I want to study theory but at the same time I’m very bad at doing that. I have covers on SoundCloud and on these covers I do a lot of harmonies in the background. I love to sing harmony, in the band Danny and the Veetos as well I am the harmony guy, I sing harmony to everything, I love to do harmonies.

Matt – Have you tried live harmonies as well, improvising as you go?

Páll – Yeah it usually works out, just as long as the chords aren’t really weird. It’s got to the point where I’ve practiced enough that it just usually works most of the time. I’ve definitely been very inspired by my Dad as well, he has always said “if you do a band or if you make songs, always use harmonies” and it’s true, it always makes things better every time. It just gets more layers, it sounds amazing.

Matt – Are your parents musical as well then?

Páll – Yes my Dad is. My Mom as well, she used to play Guitar but she hasn’t played for a long time. They are both very encouraging, that’s amazing and they both say “you should do what you want”, that’s all that matters. It’s a dream scenario.

Lewis – Do you enjoy performance?

Páll – I love to perform. Any chance I can get to perform I love it. I get a kick out of it every time, it’s like a drug, you want to go back.

Lewis – So do you perform for your benefit or the audiences benefit? We were talking to Ella and she was saying that she loves it because she wants to make the audience feel something and she remembers when she was in their place. Are you thinking about the audience while you are performing or is it about having a good time?

Páll – It’s definitely a mixture of both I’d say. If it’s an emotional song I do make extra effort to make it emotional and if it’s a happy song I become extra happy. I do try to mirror the songs for the most part and at the same time inside I’m exploding with happiness, having such a great time and trying to give a good performance too. So it’s a mixture of both.

Lewis – Are you a different person on stage when you perform, is it like a heightened version of you?

Páll – I think I’m a bit more extroverted than I usually am because I’m quite an introverted person otherwise. On stage it comes out, you have to be more like “hey guys, I’m this guy, I do this, welcome”. It’s interesting you hear about it with actors and performers that are really introverted in real life but on stage they’re a totally different person. Freddie Mercury, for example, he was known to be introverted, that guy of all guys, it’s just crazy!

Lewis – What are you like before you go on stage, are you nervous?

Páll I definitely don’t get as nervous as I used to but at the same time it’s different here. Back home I used to get extremely nervous but now people know who I am, so instead when I come on stage everybody is getting excited and I’m more excited than nervous. Here it’s different, I’m starting over. No one knows who I am so the nervous are making a return but not as crazy as they used to.

Lewis – Then there’s also excitement to get past that stage, it’s like a challenge.

Páll – Exactly, I actually like the challenge. A new way to express myself, a new way to start over, I like it.

Matt – So music means a lot to you then?

Páll – It really does.

Matt – Do you feel it’s part of you?

Páll – I catch myself singing weird things out of nowhere, things like that. It just comes naturally. I remember when I was younger I used to play games like Crash and Spyro, those classics, I used to make lyrics for the songs in the background, I just started singing weird songs. I’m actually sad I didn’t record it, obviously I was so young but I wonder what it was, I remember it had well thought out lyrics for everything that happened in the background.

Matt – It’s interesting because my Mom hums in the supermarket, literally anywhere and I think I’m starting to get a more extreme version of that, I actually sing songs walking round.

Páll – I know that feeling as well!

Matt – I remember last year at Uni I would sit in my room and listen to music, it was literally like a drug.

Páll – I know what you mean. Music is extremely powerful, there’s no denying.

Lewis – Do you listen to a lot of music?

Páll – It varies a lot. I have moments when I listen to very little music and then I will listen to a whole album or two even. It depends on the mood.

Lewis – I went through stages where I didn’t listen to much, I wasn’t really interested. Then suddenly I listen to as much as I can.

Páll – Exactly. I think for me it’s when I’m feeling very melancholic, reflecting on the past, I usually tend to go to music to hear stuff again.

Lewis – Is that artists you already know or do you spend a lot of time trying to discover new artists, listen to new things?

Páll – To be honest I am quite bad in a sense that I tend to stick to the same artists. I should go out of my safety zone.

Matt – I tend to do that as well.

Páll – I think it’s very human to say, this is what I’m used to, this is great.

Matt – I think it’s quite difficult as well because there’s so much music.

Páll – Exactly. Everyone’s making music.

Matt – There’s so much white noise.

Lewis – Almost all the music I listen to is based on someone else telling me about it. I don’t really go and search out new music.

Páll – Yeah that’s true, like most people you don’t try to search out new music, it doesn’t happen. So that’s also why as a musician it’s really important to play everywhere, anywhere, to get yourself out there because people won’t just listen to you randomly.

Matt – I think it’s quite important to perform now.

Páll – Yes I think that it’s more important than ever, it’s important to get interest.

Matt – You would have thought that the internet platforms – Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud etc. would have made it easier.

Páll – Yes exactly but it’s actually made it much harder, for example with Spotify not giving you anything. Everything is now all on tours.

Matt – Yeah it’s funny it’s gone backwards.

Páll – Yes exactly but yes it is interesting how that has reverted.

Matt – I have to ask you this – Kate Bush or Ed Sheeran.

Páll – I do like Kate Bush, I love Kate Bush.

Lewis – The other two have said Ed Sheeran.

Páll – Really! To be honest I do like Ed Sheeran but I like Kate Bush as well.

Lewis – Which of Kate Bush’s songs do you like?

Páll – I’m not sure, I’m not that much of an expert but I just generally love her sound. She has got a great sound. I haven’t heard much of her stuff but what I’ve heard I like.

Lewis – Do you have artists that you really like and want to hear as much of as possible?

Páll – I think it’s very bits and bobs, like two songs from here and three songs from there. Like with Kate Bush, I really like her stuff but still only three songs, like This Women’s Work is one of them, Dreaming of Sheep and there is a third one as well. So it’s like two or three songs from a lot of artists just mixed and matched together. When people ask me what my favourite artists are it’s like it’s really hard to say because there are very few artists I like everything of.

Matt – So why here, why Falmouth?

Páll – So the first Uni I went to was good but it was very classical oriented, like everything was classical and if it wasn’t classical then it was extremely contemporary and contemporary just basically meant noise in that sense. So it was definitely not me, like everything I went to was either classical or contemporary and I do like classical, it’s not that I don’t like it but when everything is classical it was too much for me.

Matt – Well I come from a folk background and there are one or two places you can go to university that do an actual folk music degree but the problem with that is that I don’t really just want to do folk music I wanted to try and mix it.

Páll – Yes exactly, that’s the thing. It kind of feels weird to study one particular thing, like being in an echo chamber of just what you like.

Matt – It would make it quite hard to progress in a way, if you just do one style.

Páll – That’s very true, yes. It was a mixture of things why I didn’t like that one (Uni) so I said to my supervisor, I’m sorry but I think I am actually going to have to quit this course. I told him what I liked to do and what would be more my kind of thing and he said, well I used to be a teacher down in Falmouth and it sounded like it would be my kind of thing he says, so I should apply and then I went to check it online and I was like yep that seems like that’s the course!

Matt – I think the main bit for me was to be able to mix with musicians from lots of different styles and genres and it’s just improved me massively.

Páll – It is very inspiring to just be around here and just be around people who just do this stuff and it feels now like if they can, then so can I.

Matt – Why did you want to come and study music in the first place?

Páll – I think to a certain extent I always knew I was going to study music, I did have a plan B Like if it didn’t work out then I’ve got psychology, that would be like my second choice, even though I don’t think I have the grades for it but I like the idea!

Matt – That was one of the courses I studied too.

Páll – Yes I really just find the Human psyche interesting and I feel corresponds very well with music. So that was in the normal way what I would have done but I was like you know what, I want to do this because I feel like if I don’t do this then I would always feel like my 40 year old self would be like why didn’t you, so I just had to do it.

Matt – What’s the goal? What do you want to get out of Falmouth?

Páll – One of the things is that I definitely want to do is to release my own CD because that’s always been on my bucket list. With my band back home we did release a CD but it’s still not quite the same – your band releasing a CD and you yourself releasing a CD, it is quite different.

Matt – It’s like it really puts it out there and you can share it.

Páll – Yes, with the band it is like shared work and compromises but if you make your own stuff then this is all yours now, you are really putting yourself out there to everyone. So that’s definitely one of the biggest things I want to get out of it and I also just hope to play a lot of gigs and do a lot of stuff and meet new people.

Matt – Would you like to do touring?

Páll – Yes, that would be cool, I’d love to do touring. We did tour, again with the band and I loved that so it would be cool to try that definitely.

Lewis – Do you have an urge to get your stuff out there, like to get your stuff heard or want people to see what you’ve made?

Páll – Yes definitely, in the Faroe Islands most people don’t put their own stuff on YouTube and I was one of those guys, I put covers out on YouTube and really early on I said, hey people check this out – I made a cover. People were like that’s nice and stuff like that and I just really early on wanted people to hear I made this, I really want to share my stuff. Also my SoundCloud – like every time I used to make covers I went from YouTube to SoundCloud and I haven’t really done anything since then but that was like the latest. That was also the same sort of thing like hey guys, check this out. I made a cover of this song. And they were like that’s nice. I do like exposure, I like to expose new stuff.

Lewis – Are you proud of yourself and what you’ve done?

Páll – Yes I’m definitely not shy about performing. I really do want to do that. I can just pressurise myself even if I feel it is not that good. It’s like just put it up, put it out there.

Matt – I think that is really good in a way because otherwise it holds you back and I think it is nice to perform and all of that because it keeps you going, like I want to do something else which makes me feel like that.

Páll – Yes that’s the thing. It’s really interesting in that sense I have never been critical until when it came to making my own stuff it was really weird because as I say with covers – I was never ashamed of sharing covers. As soon as it came to my own stuff it was that’s not good enough, this is going nowhere – it was interesting because that it’s like that barrier was there, a huge barrier. I just pushed myself always when it came to putting stuff out. Because I know it will never be perfect – nothing will ever be perfect, just put it out there.

Matt – You could spend years and it probably wouldn’t ever really be any different to be totally honest. I think it can be a barrier.

Páll – Yes exactly. Again I think it is an important milestone to reach as an artist – to be like “you know what yes, this is good enough just get it out there”.

Lewis – To what extent do you care about what other people think of your work?

Páll – It’s very interesting. I have never like had any hard criticism yet so it will be interesting to see what happens because I haven’t tried that yet. If someone was to say hey man this is really sh*t then I’d be like oh well sorry man! – pretty extreme. The closest thing I’ve had like that was like in the band back home again. When our CD came out obviously some people were like “those guys are sh*t”. It didn’t bother me that much to be honest. It’s a cliché to say it but you can’t let that sort of get to you. You’re free to your opinion but I am still going to do my stuff. Even if you make the best stuff in the world. There is always going to be someone who’s like that’s bullsh*t. Basically you can do whatever you want there is always going to be people who don’t like it – it’s fine, let them not like it.

Matt – I think the main goal in a way has to be to make something you are proud of.

Páll – Again talking about doing the best stuff, what is the best stuff in music? There is no best music. How can you say that’s the best music, there is no such thing. So yes, as long as you are happy about what you are doing then that’s fine.

Matt – What do you think about charts?

Páll – What like Billboard?

Matt – Yes or the top thirty, forty.

Páll – Oh yes, I do feel to some extent it is superficial because there is no such thing as the best song, there is no best song – not that is the best song in the world. But it is interesting in a way – Why are people listening to that at the moment and to have the whole record through the ages to be like ok so this was popular then. So it’s fascinating in an historical sense but otherwise they are just lists – they don’t mean much else.

Lewis – It’s not an indicator of quality.

Páll – Exactly. It is just what is popular.

Matt – A lot of music I listen to at the moment will never reach the charts.

Páll – Yeah same, it just doesn’t get there. But again there are obviously a huge amount of factors one of them being that there is so much stuff. There is so much stuff it is just ridiculous.

Matt/Lewis – We have reached the end of the questions, is there anything that you would like to say?

Páll – I appreciate the interview – that was really nice and thank you for having me!

Thank you for giving me the opportunity as a first year, I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

 

If you would like to find out more about Páll and listen to his music then visit his SoundCloud account at https://soundcloud.com/brimdream

Matthew Woolley

Matthew Woolley

Matthew Woolley is a musician and Falmouth University student from Shropshire. His main instrument is Folk Fiddle but he plays several others and likes almost all types of music. Matt came up with the idea for Fern Sessions after wanting there to be more opportunities for 1st year music students in Falmouth to get their music heard. He plays under the name Quantum Penguin (he likes Penguins!) and you can check out his music at www.quantumpenguin.co.uk

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