Photo courtesy of Aristo PR
On January 19th of this year, I had the fabulous opportunity to chat with Norwegian country artist, Daniel Borge. If you’re not familiar with that name yet, you soon will be. Borge is set to release his first stateside single serviced to country radio February 5th. The track, “There I Was,” was written by Dave Thomson (Lady Antebellum, Trisha Yearwood) and produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Brad Hill (Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris, Brett Young).
The new single tells the tale of a finding love when least expected, amidst the glow of the neon lights of a bar. A cool, midtempo number with a rock-influenced production and catchy melody, it’s mainstream radio friendly, without pushing too hard on the pop pedal. It should appeal to most anyone. It’s also the perfect introduction to Daniel Borge’s rich vocals.
What’s most interesting about Borge is how he ended up where he is right now. While some people dream of being spotted by a music industry mover-and-shaker while performing in a bar, they know the chances of that happening are close to zero. Even artists that have been working the club circuit in Nashville for years, never have that happen. The planets must have been in perfect alignment, along with all the stars and the moon one day in 2019 for Daniel Borge.
He and his group were at the tail end a vacation in Nashville. The very end, like, they were at the airport ready to fly back to Norway, when the flight was delayed. They had a few hours, so rather than sit at BNA and stare at the carpet (back when there was still a cool BNA carpet), they decided to get back out and party one more time. They headed downtown and ended up at Legends Corner on Broadway. The artist that was playing there happened to be a friend of Borge’s, and asked him to sing a song. What did he have to lose? So, he did. It turned out there were some eyes and ears out in the crowd paying attention. Eyes and ears in the form of a Nashville producer and a songwriter, good ones. They liked what Borge had to offer and the rest is history. That’s like finding a needle in a really big haystack folks. It just doesn’t happen much these days. That should tell you something about Borge’s talent.
I spoke to Borge on the phone, me here in Nashville, him in Norway. We might have had an in-person meeting, but you’ll find out why he’s not here right now during our interview. Directly transcribed here is our conversation:
Daniel Borge: Hello, this is Daniel.
Patti McClintic: Hello, how are you?
Daniel Borge: I’m doing great. How are you?
Patti McClintic: I’m good. What time is it over there?
Daniel Borge: 7
Patti McClintic: Okay, so it’s not the middle of the night or anything like that? Good.
Daniel Borge: No, it’s not. (Laughing)
Patti McClintic: Glad to hear that. So, tell me, how do you pronounce your last name?
Daniel Borge: Well, the thing is, I don’t know, because it’s impossible to pronounce it in American (laughs). (He then pronounced it in Norwegian for me) I guess most people say “BORJ.”
Patti McClintic: Okay, so for Americans, that’s how they would say it, “BORJ?”
Daniel Borge: Yeah, most people. I’m not sure what the correct way is, but some people say “BORJ,” I think “BORJ” is the easiest.
Patti McClintic: Okay, very good. Okay, tell me, you have a very interesting story, how did you get interested in country music to start with? Is it popular in Norway?
Daniel Borge: Yeah. It’s not as popular as in the US, but the old type of country music like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and that kind of country style has been in Norway for a long time. I grew up in church, my father was a minister, so I got country music through the old gospel songs. Kind of like country gospel hymns, because a lot of people in Norway, they heard these country songs and they loved the melody of it, and they translated it into Christian songs and sang it in the church. So, I guess that’s where I got to know country music and was introduced to it.
Patti McClintic: Okay, well, you know that’s how a lot of the Americans got introduced. They were in church and a lot of them had parents who were ministers or pastors, so that’s kind of a common story, even over here.
Daniel Borge: Yes, I know and that’s not normal in Norway because like, churches in Norway it’s a little bit different than churches in the US, but not the churches that I grew up in. We grew up in the Pentecostal church, is that what they’re called?
Patti McClintic: Yeah, right.
Daniel Borge: So, that’s similar to the American church, it’s the Pentecostal Norwegian church, if that makes sense.
Patti McClintic: It does. Of course, there will be differences, but overall the story is similar.
Daniel Borge: Yeah, and the Pentecostal Norwegian church came from the US, that’s why it’s so similar I think.
Patti McClintic: Oh, okay. You have an interesting story of how you kind of fell into becoming an artist. Now, were you an artist before you came over to Nashville and had that little experience over there at Legends Corner?
Daniel Borge: I was always playing the guitar and singing a whole lot because of the church. I’ve been singing at weddings and birthday parties and stuff like that, but never like, full-time. So, when I came to Nashville and sang at the Legends Corner, you know, the people really liked it, the audience really liked what I sang, and I was surprised by that because I have so much respect for the artists and the musicians in Nashville because they’re so good! (Laughs) They’re so crazy good They’re so professional, so that the people actually liked what they heard when I sang, it was a surprise for me and I got a little bit of confidence from that. When I was finished singing, a songwriter and a producer that were there having a coffee came up to me and wanted to work with me. So, because of that day, everything happened. It all started there for becoming a full-time artist.
Patti McClintic: That is fantastic.
Daniel Borge: I’m not so good at storytelling. (Laughing)
Patti McClintic: Well, that comes with time, but what song did you sing when you got up there?
Daniel Borge: I sang “Old Habits” by Hank Williams, Jr.
Patti McClintic: That’s awesome. Good choice.
Daniel Borge: Yeah, a real old classic.
Patti McClintic: A good choice too because the people liked it.
Daniel Borge: Yes, they did. We were at the Legends Corner and they kind of like that little bit old, classic country music, and I love the old country music so it was a good fit.
Video courtesy of Daniel Borge and YouTube
Patti McClintic: Oh, yeah. So, you have a new single? Well, it’s a single that’s already been out, right? You’re going to re-release it stateside?
Daniel Borge: Yes, correct. Especially because of the radio, I’ll do the radio stations and stuff like that.
Patti McClintic: Okay, so it is going to go out to the radio stations?
Daniel Borge: Yes.
Patti McClintic: The song is called, “There I Was,” and I’ve listened to it quite a few times this morning. It’s a very good song. Congratulations.
Daniel Borge: Thank you, thank you so much.
Patti McClintic: Tell me, who wrote that song?
Daniel Borge: His name is Dave Thomson, he’s a great songwriter. He just had a number one with the Lady A song “Champagne Night.” So, he’s a great songwriter. (Other writers on “Champagne Night” were Ester Dean, Shane McAnally, Andrew DeRoberts, Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott, Madeline Rae Merlo, Patricia Conroy, Ryan Tedder, Tina Annette Gemza)
Patti McClintic: Yes, great writer. Tell me, where did you record your single?
Daniel Borge: I was supposed to record it in Nashville, but because of the situation with the COVID-19 and all, I had to postpone that. I was talking to my producer, which is Brad Hill, a great producer based in Nashville, and he told me because of the situation, a lot of the people that were supposed to come to him to sing had to go to other studios and send the vocal tracks to him. All because of the COVID-19. In a way that was good for me (laughing) because everybody else was doing it as well, just as I had to. So, I recorded at a studio in Norway and I sent the tracks to Brad and he mixed it. There was an awful lot of back and forth. He would send it back and say, “You have to do this and this,” and I would have to do it again, a lot of times, but in a way I think that was a good thing because then I could use the amount of time that I wanted to, and how long I needed to get the song as I wanted, because when you’re standing in a studio, especially in Nashville, you kind of like, have a pressure on time and money. So, in the home studio I could just spend as much time as I wanted to, so in a way it was a good thing.
Video (audio) courtesy of Daniel Borge – Topic and YouTube
Patti McClintic: It was a good thing. People have had to be very creative during COVID with how they’re recording. A lot of people have had to do some very unique things in order to get things recorded, but they’re doing it. So, all the way from Norway, that’s awesome. The song sounds just great, so it worked out. That’s coming out on February 5th. Are you going to be doing any live streams or anything so people can hear you sing and see you sing?
Daniel Borge: Yes, I’ve been talking with the people I work with and we are going to be setting up live streams on Facebook and another day on Instagram. I have a few other songs on Spotify and I’m going to sing those as well, so people can get to know the songs. I will do an acoustic version of the songs.
Patti McClintic: Sounds great.
Daniel Borge: It’s kind of difficult to make an acoustic version of the song because it needs all that punch in the instruments, if you get that?
Patti McClintic: It does have kind of a rock vibe to it, but I have faith that you can do it.
Daniel Borge: Thank you.
Patti McClintic: Are you planning to make a move to Nashville at any point in time?
Daniel Borge: Yes. We were supposed to go to Nashville on a Monday, and the borders were closed that Sunday.
Patti McClintic: Oh boy! (Laughing)
Daniel Borge: Yeah, I was going to play places and gigs and all of that and then everything stopped, but in June I’m coming back and I will stay there as long as I can. I think it’s about three months, and then I’m going back to Norway and I’m doing everything I can to move to Nashville for at least one year. So, it’s going to be three months first and then one year after that.
Patti McClintic: Very nice, well, we’ll welcome you with open arms.
Daniel Borge: Thank you so much. You know, Nashville is the place where everything happens so I have to be there (laughs), I can’t stay here.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, a lot goes on here, it goes on real fast too. So, when you aren’t doing music, what do you like to do for fun?
Daniel Borge: To be honest, I do a lot of music. I write a lot of songs and I’ll be able to write songs with people from Nashville because of that through Facetime and things like that. Other than that I do workout a lot and I’m also working as a carpenter.
Patti McClintic: Oh, that’s cool.
Daniel Borge: Yeah, that’s cool. So, actually I kind of paused that for a while. After the Nashville visit I had a lot of jobs singing and playing music and I could live on the money, but because of the COVID-19 I had to take up carpentry to get by.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, I hear that, but that’s okay. It’s good to have other skills. Who are your favorite country artists? Who do you like?
Daniel Borge: There are so many, but I guess the first country artist that I heard that blew me away for real was Garth Brooks. The first time I heard him I couldn’t speak. I was like, I never heard anything that good, and right now, I think it’s Luke Combs. Morgan Wallen has a great double album out now, his songs are great, and HARDY, I love his songwriting. I think HARDY has great lyrics, but I think right now it’s probably Luke Combs.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, you can’t argue with that. The guy’s just winning all the awards and hitting the top of the charts. You can’t argue with that at all.
Daniel Borge: No, and I think he’s got a perfect mixture from old classic country and today, exactly where I like the music to be. As you say, you can’t argue with it because he’s winning everything, he must be doing something right.
Patti McClintic: He’s quite amazing, he really, really is. So, we are Think Country and our base is in London, I’m in Nashville, but our home base is in London. Do you hope to play the UK at some point?
Daniel Borge: Yeah, I would love to because I’ve never been to London, it would be another place. I get to know a lot of people from Nashville, like Rachel Sellick with Scarlet River Management (UK Artist Management Service), who does a lot with country music in England, so I would love to go there. Probably it would open up earlier than America will, so I might get to the UK before I go to Nashville, I don’t know.
Patti McClintic: They absolutely adore country music in the UK. I was actually shocked at how much they love it there when I first found out. They just love it, love it, love it.
Daniel Borge: I think it’s growing, it’s really growing over the last years.
Photo courtesy of Aristo PR
Patti McClintic: Yes, it absolutely is. Your favorite places in Nashville? Where would you like to play in Nashville?
Daniel Borge: I have been talking to a lot of people and trying to plan places to play, but I think the top is the Grand Ole Opry (laughs). That, of course, is number one.
Patti McClintic: Of course.
Daniel Borge: I understand that will take a little while, but that’s number one. (Laughing) I would love to play at the Whiskey Jam.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, that would be great.
Daniel Borge: That would be awesome because so many great artists have been playing there together with not-so-famous artists, you know? So, that’s one of the places I would love to play. Also, The Listening Room and of course, The Bluebird Cafe. Any of those places would be great.
Patti McClintic: Absolutely. Now, if I ever get myself over to Norway, where do you suggest that I go to listen to music?
Daniel Borge: (Laughing) It’s not that many.
Patti McClintic: Not that many? There’s nowhere?
Daniel Borge: No.
Patti McClintic: Really?
Daniel Borge: There are a few places in the main Capitol. Like, Brad Paisley, Chris Young and the biggest artists come to the Capitol (Oslo) for a great concert, you know? Then you have to go to the festivals.
Patti McClintic: So, if I get to Norway, I’ll just have to call you and say, “Okay, where do I go?”
Daniel Borge: Yes, you’ll have to call me and I’ll tell you. They’re not easy to find. (Laughing)
Patti McClintic: Okay. This has been really fun. Since we are Think Country, when you “Think Country,” what do you think? What comes to mind?
Daniel Borge: I picture, like, honesty and a good feel, like, you can relax to the music. I feel like it’s everyday life and it’s an honest thing. It’s not an imaginary thing, it’s something you live. It’s hard to explain because I don’t find the right words, but it’s how you get this good feel. The good feeling you get when you hear real country music, I love that feeling. I don’t get that feeling in any other music.
Patti McClintic: I think you have the answer nailed, I think that’s it.
Daniel Borge: Thank you. (Laughing) Okay.
Patti McClintic: This has been so much fun.
Daniel Borge: Thank you so much.
That was that, but actually, it wasn’t. After I explained what would happen with the interview, Borge went on to apologize for being out of practice with his English. I believe he thought there was a serious language barrier. Trust me when I say, there wasn’t. He was quite easy to understand. I was expecting it to be much more difficult. Perhaps spending my formative years with two sets of grandparents and other assorted relatives with Polish accents prepared me for this kind of thing. If anything, he was easier to understand than some of the southern accents I’m faced with. Bring the Europeans to me, I think I’ve got all that covered.
Go get your Daniel Borge music and check it out. I think it will surprise you. For a country with next to nothing in the form of live music, unless you get right into the largest city, he’s doing really well. If I didn’t tell you where he was from and played you one of his tunes, I bet you would never know he was from Norway. I wouldn’t have guessed. He’s so excited about all that’s happened to him, and why wouldn’t he be? That was a lucky day in Legends Corner. He’s making the most of it every minute. Cheer him on. We’ll be doing that here at Think Country too.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Borge Music
Daniel Borge can be found:
*Featured photo courtesy of Aristo PR