Interview: Norwegian composer/saxophonist Ida Rønshaugen

Hailing from Harpefoss in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway, Ida Rønshaugen's take on jazz has a modern, European sensibility, an invigorating alternative to the arid blandness that emanates from conservative purists in the U.S. Rønshaugen isn't afraid to experiment with electronics and a loop station. Her latest album Storm is a balancing act of mood swings, a personal, mesmerizing work.

Q: What was your introduction to music? How old were you, and how did it affect you?

A: My first introduction to music was at home. With parents that played instruments, I think I have had music around me my whole life. That certainly affected me to pick up instruments myself.

Q: Did you grow up in a musical environment?

A: Yes, there was a lot of music in our home. My father played the guitar and sung in a rock band, and I was over-the-moon proud! My mother sang and played instruments, too: the accordion and guitar. My older sister played the trumpet and diatonic button accordion, and my younger sister the piano, clarinet, and saxophone. I played the piano, clarinet, violin, and saxophone so you can tell it was not a very quiet home..

Q: What styles of music had the greatest impact on you creatively?

A: Definitely jazz. When I started to play jazz a whole new world opened up to me. A world where the rules are minimized and new and creative ideas were appreciated.

Q: When did you start playing the saxophone?

A: When I was about nine. I played the clarinet in a marching band and one day I got a call from them asking me if I wanted to try out the saxophone. It was love at first sight.

Q: What is the jazz scene like in Norway?

A: I think the jazz scene in Norway is very wide when it comes to genre. New ideas and crossover genres are very welcome in addition to new instrument combinations, both acoustic and electronic.

Q: How do you feel about pushing the stylistic boundaries of jazz?

A: I feel very good about it since it makes it easier for me to find and create my own universe and voice in jazz.

Q: What artists influenced you the most growing up?

A: That was definitely Jan Garbarek. I remember I also got John Coltrane's Blue Train pretty early in my youth, but it was Garbarek's recordings that really made me feel like home.

Q: How have you evolved creatively?

A: I think from just making and playing jazz over a long period of time has challenged my creativity, and therefore has evolved from it. And also by playing with different people with different instruments and not putting labels on the music. The music never stands still, and it will be a natural development in what music I make. I am also a very curious person in nature, so it comes very natural to me that my music and my creativity evolves, too.