Metteson was having a rough go of it. “I was in a particularly bad mood─all my doubts and bad thoughts decided to pitch in at the same time,” he recalls. On that day, the indie-pop singer-songwriter really “needed a ‘pick-me-up’ song,” and the title track to his new EP poured from his fingertips.
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“I was walking around the neighbourhood with tears in my eyes, singing, People used to want to rule the world / Now they only seem to want to end it─so pretty banal, dark stuff,” the Norway-based artist tells American Songwriter. “Luckily for me, I’m an optimist deep down, so I managed to turn the song─and the day─around, by adding, Convince me it’s not like that.
Across his EP, Metteson (real name Sverre Breivik) pulls in the reins with predominantly deeply plaintive pop music, but the title track yearned to lean into dance-pop euphoria. “Music, especially dancing to it, is medicine for me. I wanted [my artist project] to have a song fully devoted to dancing and turning things around in these weird, and for some, dark times,” he says. “Thought it would be perfect for spring ‘21. It’s also the first song I’ve written that’s not necessarily referring to a romantic love story, but also our love stories between friends and family, which for me, the past months, have been a lot more important.”
Containing five tracks, Breivik’s Convince Me EP, produced by Vetle Junker (Aurora, Verdensrommet), witnesses him sauntering across the threshold of self-fulfillment and enlightened discovery. “I’ve felt completely free and very encouraged to put all my grandiose refrains and ABBA-esque harmonies to the table. Inspiration is a funny thing. “When I’m too inspired by other artists, for example, I tend to compare myself too much, and I seldom end up being happy with the result─the song becomes second-hand in a way.
“I’ve found a lot of inspiration in movies this time around. Even fantasizing about movies or music videos can create a song in an instant in my head, complete with chords, harmonies, lyrics,” he adds. Opening song “Devotion,” for instance, scatters dreamy synths across the ether, like a falling star forever leaving its imprint in the heavens. “[It] came about when I reimagined a date and night I’d had with someone the day before as more dramatic, more like in the movies, saying to myself, ‘What would I say’ and ‘how would he reply’ and ‘maybe it’s raining.’ It sounds a bit crazy, but I think being a full-time actor helps create these lines of thoughts and stories.”
“Hold Me Like You Hold Your Favorite Book” appears to blend a Gregorian chant through a blinding modern lens, fixating his voice against a haunting chorus line. Originally a poem he wrote in Norwegian during his theatre school days, Breivik caved to dark feelings of being “unhappily in love with a writer for some years and [I] had these fantasies of being the object of his fascination,” he recalls.
Years later, when he watched the 2017 film Call Me by Your Name, “all those feelings from that time bloomed, and the translation and melody came to me on my way home from the cinema. It may sound like a joke, but it’s true. The journey of the song is almost a parody, but I love that about it. Parodies and cliches can be very sincere. I also appreciate how the song grows from just my breath in the start to this grandiose, cinematic statement piece. I really feel it encompasses the whole EP and my musical journey this far.”
Hailing from Moss, Norway, Breivik─whose stage name references his mother Mette (“That’s why I’m called Metteson, son of Mette,” he says─snakes his way through such early influences as Annie Lennox, Donna Summer, Toni Braxton, and Frank Ocean. John Grant, known for fronting alt-rock band The Czars, also proved to be vital to his own understanding of identity and gender expression in songwriting, particularly Grant’s 2013 song “Glacier.”
“I wish I had heard that song when I was an insecure, gay little guy,” says Breivik. He then quotes this particular lyric as being especially moving:
This pain it is a glacier moving through you
And carving out deep valleys
And creating spectacular landscapes
And nourishing the ground
With precious minerals and other stuff
“There are loads of queer artists around today, and there has always been, of course─ but I love to hear men openly discuss queer relationships and love in their music today,” he offers. “And it’s really inspiring to be one of those voices. I don’t think the thought was very present for me at the time, but looking back at my teenage years, I was really looking for representation and stories I could relate to.”
With his Convince Me EP, Breivik certainly plants his flag with some of the finest pop songwriting of 2021. From the pulsing tick of “Grounded” to scratching electronics in “Harder,” the project makes a statement while dishing up addicting, irresistible pop music. “I love how songwriting puts feelings in perspective, and I almost feel like my discography is starting to look like a photo album of my twenties,” he says.
With English his second language, Breivik has allowed himself to be “more blunt, daring and vulnerable” in his songwriting. “The small emotional distance I have really helps me play around with the feelings, words, values─and then when I perform it live the distance somehow disappears, and I’m able to communicate and tell the story.”
“When I’m really busy and preoccupied with other things, music and lyrics seem to come very naturally for me. My lyrics are most true and interesting when they’re delivered from a more subconscious place, a preoccupied mind,” he continues. “My lyrics tend to be quite boring and plain if I sit down and decide to write a song. So, it’s easy to say that this year of waiting, being patient and under-stimulated have been very bad for my songwriting. Luckily, I had a lot of finished songs that I could work on in the studio.”