Anne Grete Preus: Going Her Own Way

Distinctive composer, lyricist, guitarist and singer Anne Grete Preus has played a significant role in Norwegian rock for almost half of her 36 years. But she is so much more than a traditional rock artist; she also writes music for theatre, cinema, TV and ballet.

Anne Grete Preus

Anne Grete Preus has always gone her own way. The public met her for the first time in the mid-70s as leader of a rock band called Veslefrikk, at a time when female bandleaders were a more or less unknown phenomenon. Of course pop bands had lots of pretty singers, but Preus, over six feet tall with a dark, husky voice, did not fit into that category at all. Veslefrikk was replaced by another band, Can Can, which was to make a lasting impression on Norwegian rock, and Preus was once again the leading personality.

In her own words, she “cast aside all convention and lived the musician's myth to the full, leading an irregular life with lots of work, little sleep and plenty of alcohol”. This led to alienation, and Preus felt a need for introspection. Her second solo project, Lav sol, høy himmel (Low Sun, High Sky) in 1989 was influenced by this phase of her life.

In her two latest productions Anne Grete Preus has been responsible for all the lyrics and all the music; she also produced her latest release Og høsten kommer tidsnok (And Autumn Comes Soon Enough) (1991) herself. In between times, she has composed music to poems by Norwegian author Jens Bjørneboe, and Fullmåne (Full Moon), released in 1988, was in many ways her breakthrough as a solo artist.

Since Can Can broke up in the mid-80s, Preus has worked alone and achieved increasing recognition for her personal form of expression and her lyrics which, in addition to being her own personal confessions, have universal appeal. Her musical expression has always been based on rock, but Preus is also open to other genres, and the musicians on all her recordings in recent years have been among the best in Norway on the borderline between jazz and rock. Individual tracks on her records have been up to six or seven minutes long; not exactly the favourite length for the snappy pop-rock radio stations, but Preus doesn't worry too much about that. In spite of belonging to the category of rock musicians who were autodidactic guitarists with a need to express themselves, Preus has broken a number of barriers in areas where rock artists, particularly female ones, have not made an impression before, i.e. as a composer of music for films, television and theatre. She is now composing a ballet about Oda Krohg, a female painter at the turn of the century who holds a prominent position in Norwegian cultural history. At the same time, she is collecting material for a new disc.

Anne Grete Preus has been, and still is, an inspiration for other female artists, since she is constantly and consciously working to extend the range of what is regarded as legitimate female territory. Well-known Sami artist Mari Boine says that Preus has shown her that it is possible to find your own way. Preus believes it is a great advantage to be part of the Scandinavian musical scene because there is more equality between the sexes. In contrast with a number of other countries, very few female artists here survive solely due to their appearance. Anne Grete Preus has evolved from rock musician to versatile artist. She has in many ways been accepted by established musical and cultural circles, which is often regarded as “dangerous” by rock musicians. In her case there is no danger. Preus always goes her own way, does not allow herself to be put into any particular category, and introduces new, surprising turns when they are least expected.

Translation: Virginia Siger ©
Printed in the music magazine Listen to Norway, Vol.2 - 1994 No. 1
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