“It really is a very different place to be now,” says Morten Harket of his current mind-set and new album Brother. “I feel very strong about Brother. I might have wanted a good, solid break after my last album Out Of My Hands and all the work. But I didn’t feel like that. I wanted to get started while the engine was still hot, still running.”
Instead of taking time out or stepping back to rest, Morten grabbed hold of the energy driving and surrounding him, and harnessed it to thrilling effect on the emotive, heartfelt and passionate Brother.
Morten’s new album, Brother, arrives two years after its predecessor Out Of My Hands, his first solo album since a-ha bowed out in Oslo in December 2010. Morten’s fifth solo album, Out Of My Hands, topped the charts in Norway, hit number three in Germany and was Top 30 in Austria, France and Switzerland. In Britain, the BBC said “there’s a dignity to Morten Harket’s first solo album since a-ha split.”
Following the release of the landmark Out Of My Hands, there was a busy two years touring, refocussing and looking forward. Of the period leading up to this, when he knew a-ha were nearing the end of the road, he says “I was expectant about the time to come. I was open to see what would happen.” Now, with Brother, his – along with fans and anyone open to music’s power to move – expectations are fulfilled.
Brother is a total artistic statement. “This is me,” explains Morten. “I’ve been writing with a much more free sky, open and free. The air has been clear.”
The roots of Brother are in Out Of My Hands. Morten’s new album reunites him with fellow Norwegian Peter Kvint. Together, they had co-written three of the songs on Out Of My Hands. The partnership has now gone further: Morten and Peter have co-produced Brother, which has been recorded with Peter at Stockholm’s Studio Brun. The music for all-but-one of Brother’s songs are collaborations between Morten and Peter.
“There is no obstruction between Peter and I,” Morten reveals candidly. “It’s a very powerful thing to tap into. You just allow something to happen. I wanted to hook up with Peter again, he and I were not finished. I felt that very strongly. Peter felt the same way. ”
What became Brother evolved in late 2012 immediately after Morten had finished touring, in the days following his return from playing in Brazil. He and Peter went to a cottage in Kristiansand, in the south of Norway, for five days. The songs flowed instantly. They reconvened in Brazil – “in pounding rain, barefoot in the mud,” recalls Morten – then completed their collaboration back in Kristiansand in autumn 2013. .
Reflecting on his relationship with Peter, Morten says “I’ve never had a songwriting relationship which is so free. It’s all about silencing yourself, about not being a hindrance to what can happen. Peter is very sensitive to that same thing.”
With Brother, Morten also drew on a relationship which went back even further. For a lyrical partner, he turned to Norwegian poet Ole Sverre Olsen. Ole Sverre had collaborated with Morten on his Wild Seed album released in 1995, early in the period when a-ha were on hold before they came back together in 1998.
“We wrote a song called ‘Half In Love, Half In Hate’,” recalls of Morten of his and Ole Sverre’s contribution to Wild Seed. “This time around, it just flowed so easily. Now, it’s more direct, less cerebral. You respond to the spirit of a song, you give it body. We both recognise what is genuine and pluck away what isn’t. We wrote on behalf of something else, the spiritual body which is the character and identity of the song.”
Morten, with Peter Kvint and Ole Sverre Olsen, had crafted songs for Brother which are his most fully realised, most personal. When Ole Sverre brought him “First Man To The Grave”, Morten realised it fitted with the album which had taken shape. “It was part of the same process,” says Morten. “By the end of 2013 we knew we had the album.”
The atmospheric, filmic Brother opens with its affecting, sinuous title track. “’Brother’ is about love, humanity, the differences between us,” discloses Morten. “The central fact in life is that we are all different, have so many faces yet we only have one heart. It’s about respect, understanding that only we can choose who we want to be. Diversity is a central key to life, everything. Life needs diversity in order to survive.”
As the album moves through moods and shifts in tone, it reveals that Morten is totally refreshed, fully aware of who he is. “I’m in tune with myself at 16, 17, when my head was full of dreams, on a high that can last for hours. I’m meeting the guy today who started this at 17 years old. That fascinates me. It’s such a healthy sigh. The brother could very well be myself.”
For Morten, a key song is “Whispering Heart”. “It’s about connecting with yourself. Don’t look elsewhere for strength. Don’t be too concerned with what things are meant to be. For instance, an athlete who has that spark of life and belief, meeting the promise of potential – grabbing that, believing in it.”
Asked how Brother will translate to a live setting, Morten laughs and declares “it will work great. And acoustically too. The music is so stimulating, so challenging. The songs are timeless.”
Setting Brother in the context of both his long life as an artist and where he is now, Morten takes a moment. He pauses. After some time reflecting, he stresses his feelings about his new album “I feel very calm, centred about where I am now. I don’t feel nervous like a dad, when a little thing is being released, brought into the world. I feel like I did in the early days, before a-ha. Buoyant. Yes, I feel strong about Brother.”