Who is Daniel Norgren? And Why Are All the Europeans Talking About Him?
By Levi Sheppard
On May 16, we’ll be selling Skogens Frukter, a brand new compilation of new and beloved songs by Swedish star Daniel Norgren. He came onto Vinyl Me, Please’s radar thanks to Levi Sheppard, so we had him write about who Daniel is, and why he’s one of Europe’s best kept secrets.
I found out about Daniel Norgren last fall after his three live performances at Pickathon. Daniel and his crew traveled from Sweden to play their first-ever US shows in front of a wooded backdrop at the 3-day outdoor music festival in Oregon. I wasn’t at Pickathon nor did I know what it was at the time, but I was drawn in by the setting immediately when I saw a clip. A simple stage with barely enough room for the 3-man crew in front of a significant crowd, in the middle of the forest. It was no Coachella, and thankfully no Fyre Festival, but in the best way possible—a large crowd gathered, but draped in a canopy of trees in the woods, the setting was still very intimate. There on stage, Daniel Norgren sat playing piano as if he was playing in his living room.
Watching and listening to that live show turned out to be completely eye-opening. Every once in awhile we as music fans can stumble upon something like this, something that seems to have been hiding in plain sight for so long that you almost feel embarrassed to have not known about it beforehand. As I listened to Daniel Norgren and his band perform, I was immediately texting my friends and trying desperately to look up everything I could in an attempt to validate my enthusiasm. The music was immediately inviting and captivating. Was I the only one who didn’t know the music? Had I just discovered some unknown talent? How was it possible I’d never heard of Daniel Norgren?
I’ve since discovered that I was not alone in my experience learning about Norgren, and that to the people who love him, he’s a figure worthy of devotion and obsession, even if virtually everyone reading this article right now is wondering who the hell he is. And not only is he unknown; he has a monster catalog. Getting into Norgren at this juncture means having 10 years of yet undiscovered music to dig through, along with a strong sense that he’s just getting started.
Norgren has been building an exponentially-growing audience and fanbase in his home country of Sweden, and across the greater music-loving European continent. Europeans love him, rightfully, and have apparently been keeping him all to themselves; he plays shows to sold out audiences across the continent. So, in the span of a couple weeks last year, I went from watching that Pickathon set, to watching a livestream of a sold out show in Brussels, to seeing him live and in person with an extremely enthusiastic crowd in London.
After seeing several shows, listening to his albums on repeat, and familiarizing myself with how he built up everything he has today—with the label, the rapt audiences across Europe, the deep catalog— Daniel himself still feels a bit mythical to me. There’s something about experiencing his music live that feels electrifying. The energy he brings to his shows can turn a loose crowd of small-talkers into a pack of superfans. He’s most commonly a guitar player, but he’ll pour his heart out over a grand piano, slay you with an impromptu harmonica solo, then he’ll stand up and unironically throw on an accordion.
The sound is distinctly homegrown and his aesthetic is clear evidence of his status as an independent artist. If that sounds like a slight, it’s not, but as you work through each of the releases from Superpuma, the Swedish independent label Daniel and close friend Pelle Nyhage started in 2004, you can track the development of Norgren’s music with clear milestones of development. If you scour everything that is available on YouTube, you’ll find old footage of him performing solo with a kick drum, then as a two-man crew with his upright bassist Anders Grahn, and most recently along with drummer Erik Berntsson. When you listen to their discography, you’ll hear a couple EPs and four full-length albums, with back-to-back albums in the spring and fall of 2015.
Seeing Daniel Norgren live is where he makes his strongest impression as an artist, in part because after all his work over the past 10 years, his songs have developed beyond what was originally captured on his 4-track cassette recorder in the studio at home. The depth of his catalog provides plenty of charming and engaging tracks to perform live, and the ability to catch him at a 400-person capacity venue when they tour the states later this year feels like a gift of circumstance—across most of Europe you’d be lucky to catch him at a venue smaller than 1000 people. His songs are incredibly powerful in either space, and his knack for catchy melodies and vocal harmonies will have you humming his songs for weeks at a time.
I could recount what I love about each one of his songs for hours with anybody interested, the sprawling 10-minute versions of “Moonshine Got Me,” that harmonica verse in “People are Good,” but really it’s his range of writing style and song craft that continues to excite me as a fan. He’s got straight-forward tracks that are immediately magnetic to listeners, but his deep cuts have layers that will keep you coming back to his songs over and over again.
Today it’s been almost two years and several full tours since Daniel Norgren’s last major release and I think it’s safe to say the anticipation is building for the next full length album and associated tours. In the meantime, in collaboration with Vinyl Me, Please, Daniel Norgren is releasing Skogens Frukter (Fruits of the Forest) as a limited edition vinyl-only release on beautiful marbled Northern Lights colored vinyl pressed to 1000 copies. This essential mix of past album favorites like “Are We Running Out of Love?,” “Moonshine Got Me,” and “Everything You Know Melts Away Like Snow” come together with the previously unreleased track “People Are Good,” as well as new ambient tracks “Where Are You Going?” and “Furry White.” Skogens Frukter will be available May 16, exclusively in the Vinyl Me, Please store. If there was ever a time to show up and discover an artist, now is your chance.