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Interview with Thorbjorn Risager

10 December 2007

The Dane will headline the Tunturiblues Festival in Lapland in the end of January. Not a lot is happening in the Danish blues scene, but Mr Risager sees better opportunities in the other Nordic Countries.

Denmark's blues artist of the year 2005,
Thorbjorn Risager, is the headliner for the Tunturiblues festival. The event will take place on the last weekend of January 2008 in Saariselkä, a wonderful resort in the Finnish Lapland. Says Mr Eero Raittinen, the artistic manager of the festival: "After three excellent albums and his earlier live performances in Finland, Mr Risager has definitely deserved his place as the main act of the Tunturiblues."
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After breaking through in his native Denmark, Thorbjorn has toured eight different countries. Just back from a 14-day tour of Sweden, Thorbjorn spared a moment and talked to about his current state of affairs.

Your new album "Here I Am" is really strong stuff. What has changed in your music since the previous cd, "From the Heart"?
The new album has a stronger soul-flavor.

Can you identify an artist, or even a particular song that got you seriously interested in music? What got you started blues-wise?
Ray Charles and B.B. King are the two guys that really got me hooked on music and the blues. In my world, they rise above all others when it comes to singing.

What is the Danish blues scene like? I know there's "Mojo" but are there any other clubs or regular activities? What about festivals?
There's not a lot happening on the Danish blues scene. I guess there's a handful of good bands and artists, but gigging in Denmark is not easy. Blues music is simply not that popular in Denmark compared to, for example, Norway and Sweden. And also Finland, I think.

Does the Danish mainstream media understand the blues?
No, it doesn't seem so. And that's a big problem - blues is almost non-existent in the mainstream media. The consequence is the fact that the majority of younger people simply don't have a clue about the blues - it has never been presented to them.

You've been to Finland at least a couple of times this year. How do you consider the country and the people?
I really enjoyed visiting Finland. It's a beautiful country and the people are friendly.

Are you familiar with the music of Finnish blues artists?
I must admit, I'm not. Actually I don't listen to music very much. I work with music all the time - rehearsing, playing concerts and sometimes teaching music. So in my spare time I mostly enjoy doing stuff that has nothing to do with music.

You also made it to the final of the blues song-writing competition at the Lakeside Blues Festival. What kind of an experience was that?
Honestly, that was mainly a bad experience. When you've made it to the final, you show up to win - at least I did. And when there's only a price for the winner, getting third place is not that interesting. But it was a fair competition - everybody knew the rules and the other contestants were great. And looking back, I'm glad I participated because of the promotional value.

What do you do when you're not making music? Hobbies, interests?
I like to cook, read and spend quality time with my girlfriend.

This is a question I've asked from a lot of Danes: which is more important to you - Europe or the Nordic Countries?
I definitely feel much closer to the Nordic Countries than to the rest of Europe. I actually feel at home when I'm visiting the Nordic Countries. I find the mentality of the people in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland very much alike. It's different when you go south of Denmark - it's a lot easier to communicate with the Nordics.


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In Saariselkä, Thorbjorn Risager will be backed by the Finnish band
The Noisy Kinda Men. Other acts include The Woodstock Showcase – a special line-up led by Eero Raittinen and Ninni Poijärvi. Mr Raittinen and Ms Poijärvi recently visited Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, cutting their new records as well as performing at the Midnight Ramble. The Tunturiblues Festival takes place on 25 – 26 January 2008.

Tunturiblues Festival, Thorbjorn Risager
Ray Charles and B.B. King got Thorbjorn Risager hooked on music and the blues.