Change can be a fickle beast and some of us deal better with it than others. A new perspective can be a healthy thing, although it sometimes takes a few moments of bravery to actually head for it. Usually, the beginning of the year marks a good moment to evaluate about things in your life and especially the early days of January 2023 are a crucial time to do that. We made it through three years of a global pandemic that shook our society and even though nobody knows whether it will actually end (or when the next crisis is coming around the corner) we all do feel sudden effects resulting from it – some more obvious ones and some a bit more subtle. The drastic change of our lives during the Covid pandemic did something to us … but was it a good or a bad thing? For Norwegian artist Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser the case is clear.
“Please don’t let this crisis to waste” is one of the memorable lines she tenderly sings on New Orders, the title track of the fourth full-length under her Tuvaband alias. Like lots of releases these days the album was born out of the pandemic, but unlike many others Tuva isn’t interested in the negative aspects that are also a prominent part of such a life-changing experience. New Orders became a record that embraces the potential of change and tries to see the good in things – something you wouldn’t necessarily expect from the notoriously gloomy and melancholic artist like her.
“I’d like to see some light at the end of the tunnel”, Tuva tells me during our video call in the final days of that turbulent rollercoaster ride that 2022 was. “With so many crazy things going on in the world I tried to think of something good that is still out there”, she continues. And the songs needed to come from that place too as she elaborates, maybe also as a personal and artistic coping mechanism.
“Maybe three years ago I would have written more pessimistic songs about it. But around the time I was writing these songs I also listened to lots of catchy pop songs. I needed to do this, enjoying something comforting. So I started writing hopeful songs I wanted to listen to by myself.”
Obviously, despite a new found love for uplifting pop, the record didn’t become a bubblegum affair. Instead we’re getting a fascinating mixture of nocturnal dream pop, tender melancholia and bewitching beauty. It’s an almost joyful melancholia Tuva unfolds on New Orders with songs that embrace the listener like a much needed warm blanket during these cold winter days. Especially her distinctive voice reaches new levels of confidence here. “Before that I always thought about keeping my voice down and hold something in”, the songwriter tells me. “But on this album I wanted to do what felt good and have no limitations at all regarding my singing. First I thought it was too cheesy but people confirmed to me that it’s still quite weird.” Tuva laughs. And yes, there’s still enough edginess on the album so fans of her previous work shouldn’t be scared at all. This time however, she played every instrument (except for the drums) and also produced the entire album by herself. It is a huge step forward which you can also hear when you compare this album to 2021’s Growing Pains & Pleasures. It sounds more defined and focussed but it took Tuva longer than expected to get there. Especially mixing was a never ending struggle. “I thought I would maybe spend two months but the album ended up taking six weeks to mix.” She listened to the mixes all the time, on a walk or on the bus and I took small notes and luckily one day there weren’t any comments left so that felt like a proper end point for the album. “To me it sounds good and maybe my next album will sound different but so does each record”, Tuva explains. “It’s just natural progression.”
Dare To Dream Big (And A Lot)
One stand-out key track on the album is Something Good, a song that was released a few months ahead of the album release. The song is directly inspired by Kate Bush‘s Cloudbusting from 1985, one of those many uplifting pop tunes that Tuva listened to while writing the album. In it, Bush so famously sang that she knows that something good is gonna happen. Tuva took these words and turned it into “I do believe that something good is gonna happen”, making that desire sound like a subtle prayer. “This is the closest I’ve ever gotten inspired by lyrics,” she tells me. “When I heard the song I really wanted her to sing that specific line more often and that was the starting point of my song. I also needed a personal song that I can return to once I got overwhelmed by negative emotions.” Something Good is a restrained anthem to remain on the light side of life, despite everything that’s happening. I was curious to know how Tuva keeps that spark alive. “When everybody says things are going to hell I try to remain positive”, she tells me. “You can call it naïve, if you like but it’s the same with my music career. I’m always thinking ‘Oh yeah, this will definitely happen. I will get that Grammy nomination.’ I always need something to look forward to; it’s better than looking back.”
“There’s this festival I really like and every year I’m thinking ‘Of course, I definitely play there next year.’ I even tell my friends that hey gonna see me there next year. It still hasn’t happen, maybe because I have too many of these small goals. But the good thing is that it’s less disappointing when one doesn’t work out. Some things do happen nevertheless so for me it helps to have more positive and affirmative things rather than negative ones.”
So, while some might argue that realistic goals are more important, Tuva prefers a huge amount of dreams and tiny goals to keep her artistic self going. New Orders changed a lot for the songwriter and towards the end of the process she also decided to change the scenery and moved back to Oslo after residing in Berlin for a few years. Covid also played a part here as it made the city even darker for her than it already was. Still, she’s not regretting her initial decision to move to the German capital a few years ago. “It was helpful that I was starting fresh with people. I could always excuse myself, saying I was working in the studio. There was less social pressure than in Norway. In Berlin I could go deep into whatever I wanted. And I also got to know way more musicians. I’m rich of experiences now that I moved back.” However, she also tells me that Berlin made her a bit darker as well and more introvert. “Now I’m way more shy and harder to communicate with people,” she tells me, adding “I’m more awkward now” while laughing.
Slowly Climbing Up That Hill
In the spirit of change Tuva is working on that social bit in 2023. And while she’s already quite deep into album number five there’s also a big desire to be a bit less maniac when it comes to her music. “I hope I can relax a bit more and work a little bit less when it comes to music”, Tuva answers me when asked about new years resolutions. “A better balance would be healthy for me and my social life. When I work on music I tend to loose track of time and therefore also struggle to keep relationships alive. I really try to change that but it’s hard.” And the reality of being an independent artist in the aftermath of the pandemic has not become any easier. Touring is way too expensive, there are too many options and too little income. It’s not an entirely new story, but last year it all did become a bit more obvious as there was no post-pandemic concert and event euphoria like many hoped for. “In 2022 I thought a lot about getting a proper side job because it would make my life way safer”, Tuva tells me. Especially during the time when she was focussed on mixing the album it was a thought that crossed her mind. She worked as a therapist before and that’s an exhausting profession.
“My former job didn’t fit with the music because you get so stiff and stressed that I barely found time to be creative. I now try to find more music-related jobs.”
Especially now that she started working on a new project she once again reconsidered this. “If I don’t have to work in a different field I don’t want to”,Tuva says. “If I have to do this and I remain really poor then I’m totally fine with it. I rather do that and remain happy. But it’s a challenge and a daily struggle. It’s already tricky for me to balance social life with my creative life. With an additional job I would probably have no social life at all.” The Norwegian is long enough in the indie game to know that overnight success doesn’t happen at all. “It’s almost like an urban mystery”, she says. “A career is a slow and steady thing. This is the normal way and I remain realistic about it. It’s a hill and you have to slowly climb it.”
The story of Tuvaband is one that has gotten rarer in these days. It is the story of an artist that is allowed to grow with each release with New Orders being nothing less than her strongest release so far. It is even more astonishing when you listen to the new record compared to 2018’s debut album Soft Drop. By putting personal happiness and artistic satisfaction over commercial success Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser might have made her life a lot harder from the outside but she appears to be way more confident and dedicated than ever before. I guess, any hard working independent creative mind can relate to that. But I honestly do believe that something good is going to happen to her – she might not get that Grammy (who needs that rubbish anyway?) but she will eventually play on that festival she’s so passionate about – but most of it I do believe that Tuvaband is gonna continue to give us beautiful and personal songs if we let her. And by “letting her” I obviously mean “supporting her”. After turbulent and despairing weeks I now think, there might be a chance that 2023 could actually be a good year. It’s upon us to set the right wheels in motion – and just set ourselves a fair amount of tiny dreams.
New Orders by Tuvaband is out on January 20 on Passions Flames. She also exclusively compiled a playlist full of inspirations for NBHAP. Find some of those uplifting pop songs she talked about right here.