Chance meeting brings album success

MUSIC Norwegian Grammy Award winner Karin Park with Jeff Powell at Pie and Vinyl in Southsea.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (121856-847)
MUSIC Norwegian Grammy Award winner Karin Park with Jeff Powell at Pie and Vinyl in Southsea. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121856-847)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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She’s a multiple Grammy Award winner and is being heralded by some of the biggest names in electronic music.

David Bowie, Zane Lowe, Annie Mac and Pete Tong are just some of those who are fans, she’s been played on Radio 1 and she launched her new album, Highwire Poetry, at stylish London club The Scotch.

But Norwegian singer Karin Park is not backed by a major record company. Instead she has gone from an unknown in the UK to respected singer thanks to the help of Portsmouth’s very own record label – State Of The Art Recordings.

Jeff Powell, who’s lived in Southsea all his life, has spent the past two years supporting Karin.

Her new album features five tracks written locally by Portsmouth’s Barry Barnett (who wrote and produced four of them) and Simon Neale.

One track was even recorded in a house in Southsea. Last week Karin was also here to perform at record shop-cum-cafe Pie and Vinyl.

Jeff, who’s involved with marketing and branding at major record labels, says: ‘I was on the internet speaking to a songwriter in Sweden. I’d been working for him for about a year looking for a song for a dance act.

‘He told me that his girlfriend had been approached by Kylie Minogue’s record label about a record that she had.

‘I said ‘‘you’ve got a girlfriend that has written a song that Kylie Minogue wants and in the past year you haven’t told me?’’’

Jeff went online to look at the music she had on MySpace and, quite by accident, came across a striking girl in her top friends list.

He says: ‘I remember it was a Saturday morning and my girlfriend was shouting at me to turn off the computer.

‘I noticed on this girl’s website she had a friend who was very, very interesting.

‘I went on Karin Park’s MySpace. I listened to three tracks and rushed into the kitchen and played them to Sally and I said “she’s incredible!”’

One of his producers, Barry, had an instrumental dance track that Jeff asked Karin to put some vocals to and send back to them.

But Karin didn’t give them back the kind of track they expected.

Jeff says: ‘I thought the track might have words like ‘‘everyone put their hands up’’, but the lyrics were something like “spiders crawling up against the wall.”

‘Three days later I flew to Oslo and met Karin.’

Living in small village in Norway, Karin had become one of the biggest stars in her country when she won a Grammy Award in 2003.

Superworldunknown, which won a Norwegian Grammy for Best Newcomer, was also nominated as ‘the best Norwegian song of all time’ by radio channel p3 and the magazine Spirit.

But Karin had always been largely unknown in the UK.

Jeff has spent time building up her profile and even started State Of The Eye Recordings in 2010 to support her.

He says: ‘I’m involved with jazz funk and soul. That’s where my involvement with music comes from.

‘I’m a lover of that music and I moved into producing and making records in Portsmouth.

‘But we wanted to have a label which could support, nuture, produce and release electronic artists, with Karin being the first one.’

He adds: ‘We could stand behind her artistically and musically, and let the world hear an album that had artistic integrity.’

Two years in the making, they are both happy with the way the album has turned out.

Karin has even gone on to support The Ting Tings in Berlin and one of her songs, Bending Albert’s Law, was written with the keyboard player from Snow Patrol.

With the help of Jeff’s label, Karin is going from strength to strength in the UK, with interview requests flooding in from national magazines.

Jeff says: ‘I think basically I’ve always believed that you can record and produce fantastic music anywhere in the world.

‘The fact that people think they have to be in the capital city is just ridiculous.

‘Why shouldn’t Portsmouth be a hub for great talent? The tracks made in Portsmouth have got on the album on their own merits.’

Jeff believes there is a vibrant music scene in Portsmouth and, as an electronic label, he wants to support it.

He adds: ‘I think the expansion of the university has affected the diversity of people coming to Portsmouth and their influences and I’m always on the lookout for local talent.

‘That’s the great thing about Portsmouth. I’ve been here my whole life and it has a wealth of talent.’

Fed-up of what he calls ‘over-produced’ music, Jeff hopes Karin’s album will make people really sit up and listen.

He explains: ‘I’m tired of all that over-produced, over-polished X Factor music. Whatever happened to the likes of music like David Bowie and Bjork’s debut albums?

‘Where are these albums today?

‘I’ve taken a massive risk and stood behind someone to make an album that we hope people will like.’

· Karin Park’s Highwire Poetry is available from amazon.co.uk for £9.

KARIN MAKES HER NAME

With an album that’s out on Amazon and iTunes, Karin Park is fast becoming a sought-after artist in the UK.

As an established singer in Norway, she was about to sign a new record deal with Sony, but decided to go with Jeff Powell’s Portsmouth label instead.

The 33-year-old says: ‘We chose Jeff instead because he seemed to be creative and he was driven.

‘We went for a small label because we wanted to be with someone who really loved the music.’

For Karin, working her way up from the bottom in the UK has given her a fresh outlook.

She explains: ‘It feels like starting again. There’s a little bit of a cultural difference and it’s interesting to be here and get in touch with the UK.’

Karin even has an admirer in David Bowie, although she tries not to let the endorsement of such a massive music name go to her head.

She says: ‘Well, I did a warm-up gig for him once and obviously it was very flattering! But I don’t really think about that side of it.’

Looking ahead to the future, she says: ‘I hope we can do a lot of touring because we love to play live. Hopefully, I’d like to do a lot of concerts all over the world.’

Karin adds: ‘But I love Portsmouth. It’s beautiful. The first time I came here I thought it was amazing that you can walk next to the sea. I think it’s absolutely lovely.’