By Bre Cura // Photos by Lars Petter Pettersen
Lovers of modern folk will undoubtedly become entranced by the other worldly vibes created by duo Darling West. Comprised of members Mari and Tor, this powerhouse of a team has taken the world by storm with hit singles like Rolling On and Traveler. With an ever growing popularity spanning from Scandinavia to the United States, Darling West has created their own niche within the music industry. In anticipation of their newest album, We’ll Never Know Unless We Try, dropping in February of 2020, we got to chat with Mari and Tor about their background and expectations for the album!
How did you guys start singing and performing together?
Mari: “We had been a couple for many years before we started this band together. Tor had been a professional musician his whole adult life, while I had just been dabbling with some singing besides working my day job. When I bought my first instrument, a mandolin, and started practicing, we picked up some traditional Old-time songs and started playing them together. After some time, while on vacation in a cabin in the mountains, we found ourselves writing a melody and putting lyrics to it, and there was our first song. It’s called Darling West. This was something we really felt like continuing, and many songs, years, turns and tours later, here we are. Still loving the process of working those tunes out and singing them together.”
Where do you find your roots in music to be? Do those ties influence the music you then create?
Tor: “Our roots are quite diverse. I heard Ry Cooder early on because my older brother was listening to him, and that might have been my earliest memory of being moved by music. I turned into a real music nerd, and by the time I was in high school I was listening to Aboriginal music alongside John Coltrane and Sepultura. But I always felt very drawn to songwriters and remember discovering Bob Dylan when I was thirteen. It was very powerful. And I certainly think those roots seep through the music we write.”
Mari: “I grew up in a house with a lot of music, since my dad is somewhat of a music lover. Mostly Country and Americana. It stuck with me, I guess, though most of my teens and twenties were more about other types of music. British influences like Spiritualized, Coctau Twins and Radiohead. I quickly came back to the folky scene though, by falling completely in love with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and that flame is still lit, for sure. All of what you’ve listened to over the years are part of your own songwriting, I guess, some more visible than others. And I’m sure that how I use my voice has been molded by me singing along with my vocal heroes. Like Elisabeth Frazier, Steve Nicks and Alison Krauss.”
What do you want listeners to walk away with after hearing your music?
Mari & Tor: “As big music lovers ourselves we always find a lot of comfort and joy in listening to other people’s music, and I guess that’s what we want to provide our listeners with through our own work. That you can find something that calms and uplifts you when things look a little gloomy and stressful, or that you can find tracks to accompany you when you’re in a state of happiness and contentment. We also believe in the power of live music, that there’s something special going on between the performers and audience when you’re in that moment of music together. Simply a spa for the soul.☺”
Tell us the story behind your recent release Hey There!
Mari & Tor: “Love songs have maybe never been our strongest suit. We tend to shy away from the task in fear of too many clichés, blunt lyrics and general awkwardness. But this song idea came together in the kitchen one day, in an honest moment of reflection around the beauty and privilege of having found someone to love and belong to. From that we just continued reveling in that feeling and “Hey There” is the result. From the reactions we’ve had to the song it seems like people enjoy being reminded of that feeling themselves, maybe especially in this cold and dark winter season.”
What can you tell us about your upcoming album release, “We’ll Never Know Unless We Try”?
Mari & Tor: “We’re so proud of this album. Writing songs is really something that takes practice, and thinking back to where we started we feel like this time around we’ve really gotten the hang of it. Haha. The writing process has been a little different this time with being so much on the road the past two years and getting a lot of new influences. The songs reflect a lot of our meetings with people, hope (and despair) for the future and love for the nature and places we get to see.
We also got to record it with a producer we really look up to, Kaare Vestrheim who works out of Oslo, Norway. He’s done a lot of albums that have been our soundtrack for many years, and the walls in his studio is filled with awards. He has put his touch of pop references into the music while still preserving the Folk/Americana sound that is Darling West.”
What are you most excited for off the album?
Mari & Tor: “We’re especially excited that we got to co-write a song with our song writing hero Aaron Lee Tasjan. He is such a force when it comes to expressing himself both in lyrics, melodies and in his performance. It’s a song about a person in our lives that is very dear to us and how he has always used singing and playing his guitar to overcome the heavy and self-destructive thoughts that overwhelms him from time to time. A good example to follow. It’s called ‘True Friends’.”