Pink Floyd, Emmylou Harris Influenced Norwegian Singer-Songwriter Monica Heldal
Monica Heldal’s 2014 debut album, Boy from the North, was described as part Americana, part bluegrass, and part Irish folk. But the Norwegian singer-songwriter points to another genre when discussing the best concert she has seen.
Heldal, who is releasing a new single, “Jimmy Got Home,” on Jan. 29, says one of the world’s biggest rock groups, Pink Floyd, is a favorite, and ex-Floyd member Roger Waters put on a show she will never forget in August 2008.
It was in London at the Hyde Park Calling festival on July 1, 2006. Waters reunited with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and performed 25 songs, including the entire Dark Side of the Moon album.
“The vibe was just amazing,” recalls Heldal, who won two Norwegian Grammy Awards for best new artist and best pop solo artist and toured the US two years ago as a supporting act for the John Butler Trio. “The band was great, Rogers Waters’ back-up singers were so good, and the whole show was just mind-blowing. I saw him later in my hometown Bergen in Norway, and it was just as good. But seeing the Dark Side of the Moon show in Hyde Park was special.”
Entertainment critic Ray Bennett, who posts reviews at thecliffedge.com, said Waters’ performance in Hyde Park “was an extraordinarily faithful rendition” of the album.
“The performance held some 60,000 enraptured with its immaculate precision and powerful imagery,” Bennett wrote on his website. “All the strange sounds from the album blared out across the park with bells and the noise of trains accompanying spectacular visuals.”
Waters deeply impressed Heldal, but it was a live show by another musician, whose name is unknown by most US music fans, that influenced her most as an artist. “When I was about 14 years old, I opened for a Norwegian country singer, Claudia Scott, in my hometown, Arna [a borough of Bergen],” Heldal says. “I thought she was such a great guitar player and singer. It really influenced me to practice even more and keep singing and playing my guitar.”
At an even younger age — 9 — Heldal says she heard Neil Young’s music for the first time, and her “artist side” was awakened. At age 12, her parents gave her a guitar for Christmas, and she absorbed and was influenced by other musicians’ music.
She says major influences were Nick Drake, Emmylou Harris, Rory Gallagher, and the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin. At age 16, she wrote “Silly Willy,” which was on her first album and is still part of her live set.
Now 25, Heldal has become known in Europe for her skillful fingerpicking and complex guitar tunings. Many of the fingerpicking techniques were learned from the music of Drake, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, and bluesmen Mississippi John Hurt and Arthur “Blind” Blake.
She is currently opening for Missouri native Israel Nash on his 16-date Scandinavian tour, and her new album, The One in the Sun, is scheduled for release on April 8. The album will have a rock and roll feel with a full band on some tracks, but her low-key, acoustic folk and blues roots will shine through on others.