Norwegian artist Beharie is a self-confessed old soul

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COLORS x EDITORIAL | ARTIST INTERVIEWS

Norwegian artist Beharie is a self-confessed old soul

Norwegian artist Beharie’s childhood was defined by sound: his home was filled with instruments, his whole family were keen singers, and he spent most of his time training his vocals in his local choir. Since moving to Oslo to study, he’s started his own band, become the only member of his family to pursue music professionally, and, in October 2023, released his debut album. Titled ‘Are You There, Boy?’, it showcases his unique blend of indie, soul, and electronic genres, and explores themes of loneliness, queer love, and identity. “They just about sum me up,” he says.

For his debut A COLORS SHOW, Beharie delivered an uplifting performance ‘Adore’, his first new release since ‘Are You There, Boy?’ In line with the show, we sat down with Beharie to find out more about what he finds inspiring about vulnerability, the importance of writing bad songs, and his newfound passion for tennis.

What is your first musical memory?

One of the strongest memories I have is of me and my two siblings sitting in the back of the car listening to an American children’s songs cassette. We played it over and over again and sang along very loudly. It felt euphoric to be totally free with the music and to really connect with each other through singing.

Would you say you come from a musical family? 

I’m the only one pursuing music professionally, but we all play piano and used to sing in the same choir. There were always a lot of instruments at home—violins, trumpets, clarinets. There was always a lot of sound in my house.

I guess this is what inspired you to start writing your own music, right?

Yes! I don’t think I had any choice. Music was the only thing to do in our family. I really enjoyed it and filled all my spare time with it.

You moved to Oslo to study music performance arts when you were 20. Can you tell us about the music scene there?

My university class was a really inspiring bunch of people. They were all really great musicians who were so connected to music, inspired, and really wanted to go for it. So my first reaction to moving to Oslo was getting really inspired by my classmates. I started a band with some of them, which turned out to be Beharie. Two of my classmates still play in my band.

Where did the name Beharie come from?

It’s my last name—it comes from my dad’s side, which is Jamaican. My family are the only people with this surname in the whole of Norway!

Was your Jamaican heritage a big part of your childhood? 

Definitely. My dad played a lot of old school Jamaican reggae records when we were growing up, so I’ve definitely been influenced by his music taste. I wish I could know more about the culture though. I really want to go to Jamaica, stay there for a while, and really connect with it.

Your Spotify profile describes your musical style as “deeply rooted in indie-soul expression with a singer-songwriter lyrical style.” How did you go about honing this unique sound?

It’s been a little bit hard finding my sound because I like a lot of different stuff. I’m classically trained, so I like classical music and musicals, but I also love soul and electronic music. The first project I put out as Beharie had more of an electronic soul type of vibe. I just had to start somewhere so that I could find out who I wanted to become through the journey of creating music.

I really identify with that description on my Spotify. The soul part is really important to me. I’m really connected to the raw energy that comes from it. It feels really genuine and is close to my heart. There’s something about the vulnerability of soul music that I find intriguing. I really connect with a lot of singer-songwriters who have a “soulness” to their voice, play acoustic guitar, and tell stories about their lives.

“There’s so much soul and energy in vulnerability…

… it connects with the realness of life.”

Do you have any particular artistic heroes or inspirations? 

I’ve always been a big fan of John Legend. As a teenager, I really connected with his voice and melodies. I also really like Moses Sumney, his voice is just like heaven. The combination of a simple guitar and layered vocal harmonies in his tracks is beautiful too. As a choir boy, I just really love harmony. I use them a lot in my work too.

Your bio says that not only vulnerability but also assertiveness is important in your music. What does this mean to you? 

It can be really scary and really hard to embrace, but there’s so much soul and energy in vulnerability. It connects to the realness of life.

Life is really intense. It can be amazing, but also really horrible. Just the experience of being a human being in this universe is really raw. Being able to share this with others and find connection in it is really inspiring.

Montreux Jazz Festival describe you as a young old soul. Does this description resonate with you? 

I feel like I’ve lived a long life in a way. I have a calmness in just being a human and being here. I feel really connected with myself and the world. I’m am a slow-paced, self-aware person and am not really chasing anything… I guess I am chasing something, because I’m an artist, but what’s most important to me is being being a good person, being part of this life, and making it a good experience for myself and others. So yeah, in a way I feel like a really old soul.

You released your debut album ‘Are You There, Boy?’ last October. Can you tell me about the story behind this album and how you approached creating your first full length project? 

I started without a plan. I just wanted to make music without restraining myself. When I’d tried to make an album before, I thought I had to have a strong concept and it killed the whole process. I thought so much that I didn’t make any music. So, my strategy this time was to let go of everything, not think, to make music for a year and then look at what I’d created. It was a really inspiring way to work. I had to throw away so much! I’m kind of trying to connect with like making a lot of bad stuff. It’s an important part of the process. The bad songs are just as important as the good ones.

Even though you didn’t start off with a set concept, narratives of identity, loneliness, and queer love emerged in the album. Why are these important themes for you to explore through your music? 

These are themes I think about a lot. I feel them really intensely. While I wanted to be vulnerable on this record, I also wanted to try and be more playful. I can be quite a serious way, kind of calm and serious. I can be fun as well, but I need someone to drag me out of my shell. I felt like this project was a chance for me to explore the edgier side of my personality—the funniness and the weirdness.

Were you working with any collaborators on your project that helped drag you out of your comfort zone?

Yes! My producers, who are good friends of mine, are really good at it. They know me so well.

The song you performed for your A COLORS SHOW is the first new music you’ve shared since ‘Are You There, Boy?’ Does it follow on from the album at all? 

I actually wrote it before the album came out. It came out of the album-writing process. It didn’t really fit into the project, but I loved it a lot, and the producers did as well, so we knew we needed to save it and come back to it later. It’s really nice that it has its own life now.

What’s it about? 

It’s about love, or admiring someone and really connecting with them. It dives into the feeling of adoration and how destructive it can be.

“The most important thing for me is movement…

… being creative and always progressing.”

What do you enjoy doing outside of music?

I’ve played a lot of tennis lately and I’m really enjoying it. I want it to become my new hobby. I got inspired to start at a gig, actually. My bandmate and I had a three hour break between soundcheck and the concert and didn’t know what to do. He suggested we bought some rackets and played tennis. We drove to the shop, got some balls, two rackets, and played a match. It was so much fun. Since then we’ve played a lot together. I really like being active, being outside, and working out. When you play tennis, you just think about tennis. When you run, you just think about running. I think it’s a good thing for my body and mind.

Have you seen Lucas Guadagnino recent tennis film ‘Challengers’? I feel like there’s going to be a lot of people trying out tennis as a result of it. 

I haven’t, but I love Zendaya, who plays the main character. She’s one of my favorite actors—she’s so versatile.

What are your ambitions for the future? 

One of my goals is to just become the best musician I can. I love learning new instruments. At the moment I’m learning to play the flute—I’m dating a flutist and he’s giving me lessons. I try to grow as a musician all the time. I want to become a really good songwriter as well, to make a lot of albums and push it forward all the time.

The most important thing for me is movement—being creative and always progressing. The biggest goal I have for the next five years is to always move and never be in the same place. That doesn’t mean that I have to have bigger and bigger audience. I’d would love that, and I’d love to you as well, but more than that I just want to stay curious. When I’m 80-years-old, I still want to be curious.

What one piece of advice would you share with the COLORS audience?

Like I said before, always stay curious and embrace movement. If you have writer’s block, you don’t have to stand in one place while you’re experiencing it. You can do something else while you have it. Learn an instrument, read a book… it’s so important not to stop. It’s so inspiring to feel like you’re always going somewhere, but you don’t always have to follow the same path, you can take a side path. But always move, and always feel like you’re breathing.

Beharie is a Norwegian artist whose A COLORS SHOW was released on Thursday 20th June 2024. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Emily May
Photography: Shawn Arvind and Viljar Siljan

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