While in Oslo for Krimfestivalen (an annual crime fiction festival) this past weekend, I had the chance to sit down with one of my favorite crime writers, Thomas Enger, and talk about something totally different than crime writing! (But if you do want to read about that subject, you can read a previous interview on Thomas' writing career here.)
As part of this crime festival, attendees were treated to a crime concert featuring musical performances by a few very talented musicians, including Thomas Enger and Øystein Wiik. All the pieces performed in the show related to crime in some way—it was such a fun addition to the weekend, made even better by the fact that I got to hear one of my favorite authors perform in it!
After Thomas' stunning performance in the concert, I was so curious to learn a bit more about his musical background. Listening to him play, you would never guess he wasn't a professional musician—my Twitter reaction to this performance pretty much sums it up:
Thomas was kind enough to sit down with me the following day and explain his background in music, and also tell me the backstory behind the song I loved most in the performance.
BEFORE YOU KEEP READING:
Take a moment to listen to a recording of the song I loved most from the concert on Thomas' SoundCloud account below.
Did you listen to it? Isn't it haunting? Okay, now you can keep reading! On to what I learned about this song from its composer, Thomas Enger.
What's the backstory to this song? This song, "Broken Wings", is a piece that Thomas wrote in 2007 for a short film called Anniken. This film follows a young girl who is trying to find her father, who disappeared years before. The film's main character has uncovered a clue that her father might be living in Poland, and she goes on the road to track him down and confront him about why he left. In the process, she hopes to come to terms with her own demons: she's a troubled young woman, and part of her journey in the film is to find out what caused her to become this way. She blames her father for her troubles, and this journey is about finding both the truth behind why her father left, and what exactly happened to make her the way she is now.
When the young girl does eventually find her father, she begins to piece together what happened. She discovers that her father is an alcoholic, and it's implied in the movie that he was abusive towards her in her childhood. This heartbreaking song, "Broken Wings," captures the main character's story, and is sung by the lead actress during the final credits of the film.
So how did Thomas, a crime fiction author, come to write music for this film? When this opportunity arose, Thomas was at a point in his life where he wanted to see if he could take his music to the next level—he'd been making music for a long time as a personal hobby, but now wanted to see if he could make connections with individuals in the music industry. Even from the time he was young, Thomas had always loved soundtracks to films, and he began to realize that his own music might be a good fit for movie soundtracks. He began offering to write music for all different directors—he didn't even want to get paid for it, he just hoped for the opportunity to get started.
Eventually, he got a call from someone who offered him the chance to compose the soundtrack to this short film, Anniken. He knew that the actress starring in the film was a great singer, so along with writing more standard soundtrack pieces for the film, he also presented the idea for "Broken Wings" to the director—and they loved it. He wrote the lyrics and composed the piece, and worked with the actress to perfect it.
What was it like for Thomas to hear his music performed in the movie? Thomas shared the experience of going to watch a showing of the film at a theater in Oslo. Listening to him speak on this subject, you can just see how much he loves music! You often hear the expression that people light up when they're talking about things they love, but it's really true when Thomas speaks about his music—his passion for it is just plain infectious. Thomas described attending the film's premiere and going up on stage with the team of individuals who made the film happen, and just how incredible it was to be involved in that moment. He also shared how amazing it was from a musical standpoint, hearing the song over the theater's speaker system—how you can really appreciate the little details in the piece.
Has he worked on any other projects like this? Overall, Thomas has written soundtracks to four or five short films. These were really passion projects for him—never paid jobs, just something he loved to do. I was personally interested to learn that there was a point in Thomas' career when he was equally ambitious about his music as he was about his writing. He took the approach that he would pursue both writing and music, and whichever took off first would be the one he focused on. His writing career ended up launching first, but he still continues to play piano and write songs as a personal hobby. As a huge fan of Thomas' books, I'm so glad his writing career did take off—and I'm also thrilled to have been introduced to this side of one of my favorite authors!
Thomas' music is just stunning. His pieces are emotional and tender, the kind of songs that really get under your skin. I'd absolutely recommend taking a look through his SoundCloud! Of his recent pieces, my personal favorites are: "Tears of Ice," "Trembling Heart," and "Obah."
Thank you to Thomas for taking the time to sit down with me and tell me all about his beautiful music! It was such a fun conversation. If you haven't already checked out Thomas Enger's Henning Juul series, I highly recommend it! You can find buy links for the series below.
About Thomas Enger:
Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2009, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called THE EVIL LEGACY, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.