Photo: Adam Falk


Life in the Fast Lane

Oslo’s rising R&B star Unge Ferrari is on a high. Reviews are rave, he’s just finished a new album and he’s set to play at the SXSW technology and music festival in Austin, Texas in March.

Few genres describe human feelings better than R&B, which at its best, treads a fine line in beautifully balancing cocky self-certainty with insecure soul searching,” writes Norwegian daily Dagbladet in its review of Unge Ferrari’s single ­“Romeo må dø,” alongside a five-star rating.

“My new album, Midt imellom magisk og manisk, is also deeply personal,” says the artist, real name Stig Joar Haugen. “I talk about my love life, my parents’ divorce, about what it means to feel bad, and how it is to be famous with people staring and taking photos of you from a distance, and wanting to say, ‘Can you ask me first please?’”

Haugen is joined by several guests on the album, including Ylva, Fricky from Sweden and Dutty Dior, a rising star in Norway. Together they make what the artist describes as a mixture of pop and R&B, which ­incorporates various elements from other genres as well.

“One of the songs on the new album includes references to Queen and France, the next has a more ­Californian-type vibe, while another sounds as though it could be from 1990s England. The music I make has a big soundscape and it comes across best on good headphones and sound systems,” he says.

One factor that differentiates Haugen from many others in his homeland is his decision to sing in Norwegian.

“This means I’m not just another Norwegian artist who sings in English, but something of a wild card. I’ve played in China, Denmark, Hungary and Iceland and have been played on the radio in Finland, Sweden and Italy,” Haugen says. “Language barriers no longer exist and it’s no disadvantage to use languages other than English. I’ve got a feeling I wouldn’t have come as far as I have if I’d sung in English.”

Norway’s music, movies and architecture provide the artist with much of his inspiration.

“People around the world no longer think Norway is the capital of Sweden, but more that it’s an exciting country that’s producing great things. My music shouldn’t be good just because it’s Norwegian, but because it’s good, regardless. When you’ve got genuine people around you and write fun stuff, it’s exciting, and Norway has another advantage too – it’s a great place to start a music career, because you’re given time and opportunities and won’t end up on the street if you don’t succeed.”

Meanwhile, the new album is the culmination of an intense period of hard work.

“We start in the studio. As often as not, we don’t have a plan, but I play a song I’ve heard recently, then one of the musicians I work with plays a chord progression and we agree that we like it. Gradually we produce a few melodies to get a feeling for it, and see if it’s something we can use – like we’re sketching pictures. We do around 50–60 sketches, then we put the album together. If a song sounds a bit sad, we try to make it a bit happier, plus I want to show I’m tackling several genres. It’s a demanding process and a lot gets discarded,” he smiles.

Without question though, all the hard work has paid off. In 2017, they played in front of 8,000 people at the Oslo Spektrum and there are more concerts in the pipeline. First though, is the not inconsiderable matter of performing at SXSW.

“Norwegian band Karpe Diem played there, and for a long time I’ve been thinking I must too. I’m really looking forward to it, even though I will be no more than a grain of sand there,” Haugen smiles.

Naturally, he plans to see other concerts while he’s there.

“There are plenty of great bands to see. I’ll follow my intuition and head to whatever sounds ­interesting.”

Unge Ferrari's SXSW recommendations:

Ayelle will perform at SXSW i Austin i 2019. Photo: Polly Hanrahan

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15. - 17. mars, 2019

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