Hometown: Bergen, Norway
Album: Fortress Round My Heart
For fans of: Feist, Sondre Lerche, The Hold Steady
Despite growing up in Nesna—a tiny Norwegian coastal village with 1,855 people and one gas station—Ida Maria Sivertsen was never at a loss for music in the home. “What we heard on the radio was what we got, and the CDs that were sold in the gas station were the choices you had, but my family were record collectors, so we had loads of good stuff like old rock ’n’ roll, soul and reggae."
Ida Maria started playing guitar at 14 and even wrote some songs that she performed with her father’s jazz band. She didn’t think of music as a full-time option, though, until she was 19. It was then that she moved to Bergen, the second largest city in Norway and home to well-known musicians like Sondre Lerche and Kings of Convenience. “It’s a very open and inclusive scene,” she says. “Everybody works with each other—metal bands, singer/songwriters and blues bands are all just part of the same family. It’s almost like you can go out to the pub one night and just put together a band. People are working for free and just really stand up for each other.”
Every time she went out to a show, her jobs as a kindergarten teacher or house-painter or waitress didn’t make sense. “It was like, ‘This is the only thing you can do with your life; there’s nothing else!’ I kind of tried; I went to university, and I had loads of jobs, but I got sacked all the time because I was out touring instead of working.”
On stage, Ida Maria becomes unhinged, spastically jumping around, sometimes to the point of physical injury (at various shows, she’s cracked her ribs, bloodied her knee and whacked her head on her bandmate’s guitar). And she has crowds singing along to beer-in-hand songs such as “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.” All of this cleverly disguises just how much she opens herself up in the songs on her debut, Fortress Round My Heart. “I guess my songs are so brutally honest,” she says, “that they seem like a protection, like a fortress.”
Born with synesthesia (a neurological phenomenon that causes her to “see” colors in music, a condition shared by John Mayer), Ida Maria says she mostly writes with “a lot of yellow and orange and pink, and a bit of blue and a bit of green and red—a lot of red. I tried the first time to just not dabble too much with the dark colors, because I want to save them until I get older.”
When she does, expect it to be devastating.