Guro von Germeten’s music career took an abrupt turn five years ago when she spied a little red accordion in a used instrument shop in Oslo, Norway, one grey February day.
The singer/songwriter was studying to become an opera singer at the time, but she was struggling with the structure and rules of classical music, which she felt did not allow her the artistic freedom she desired.
The accordion was an impulse buy that day and von Germeten didn’t expect it to lead anywhere – she had played a bit of piano, electric bass and classical guitar in the past, but nothing but singing had stuck with her so far.
“I didn’t know how to play, but it felt very natural,” she said. “It has all this sorrow in it, these big emotions, these big chords. You can make things that are quite simple sound really big. It has so much personality in it.”
A few months after buying the accordion, von Germeten took a trip to Paris to play her instrument on the streets, vowing that if people were interested in hearing her play the accordion, she would keep with it.
The rest, as they say, is history.
A steady stream of concerts followed and von Germeten’s first album, Bad Dreams and Good Nightmares, was released in 2010.
“Once you start writing your own music, you can do whatever,” she said. “I can decide how it’s going to sound, how I can use my voice, what I want to sing about. It’s kind of free.”
Von Germeten describes her music as a mixture of vintage jazz and the French chanson tradition with elements of Balkan folk and Tom Waits.
The music is decadent, pompous and big, but also personal and intimate, she said.
She plays both solo and accompanied by other instruments.
Von Germeten is coming to Canada – her first tour overseas – to play at Vancouver’s Accordion Noir Festival today (Sept. 13), where she is looking forward to hanging out with other “accordion geeks.”
She heads to the Queen’s to play a solo concert on Sunday (Sept. 16) and while she writes mainly in English, von Germeten hopes to treat the Nanaimo crowd to some songs written in Norwegian.
Von Germeten is also bringing her new album Come Stand Before Me. The new album’s official release date in Norway is not until January, but she received permission to bring a special edition to Canada.
Von Germeten’s concert with Jupiter Jill at the Queen’s starts at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $14 in advance from the Queen’s and $18 at the door.