Night after night over the past couple of years, Norwegian singer Ida Maria Sivertsen has been hitting stages across Europe. And sometimes the stage hits her back: She’s slashed her head on her guitarist’s instrument and cracked her ribs while attempting a mid-gig somersault. the 24-year-old has just emerged from two weeks of enforced bed rest after she collapsed under a punishing regime of nonstop touring and nonstop drinking (red wine by the bottle, not the glass). Today at an East London pub, she’s sporting guitar-strap friction burns down the inside of her right arm and nasty marks on the back of her hands. Cigarette burns? “No. It’s a long story,” she replies evasively, her accent thicker and trickier to decipher than usual because of the pouches of nicotine-packed snus she keeps wedged under her top lip. “I get scars really easily.”
You can hear Ida Maria’s recklessness and extreme lust for life in the shouty but stoutly tuneful punk-pop songs on her debut, Fortress Round My Heart (Waterfall/RCA). She does her best Janis Joplin on “Stella,” a raw, bluesy track about God bartering his supreme power for one night with a fortysomething hooker. This past summer, her single “Better When You’re Naked,” a melodic and smartly lascivious riot-grrrl thrasher, became a British Top 40 radio staple. “I try to fool people into thinking that this is a simple song,” she says of her approach to writing. “Then I want it to haunt them a little bit, wake them up in the middle of the night.”
Ida Maria started out playing open-mic nights in Bergen, Norway’s musical hot spot (home to Röyksopp and Kings of Convenience), as a teen, developing a sound that was edgier than the beige, easy-listening beats that predominated in the city. But it wasn’t till she moved to Sweden for college and recruited her all-male backing band that her bloody rock’n’roll started garnering attention outside Scandinavia.
Now, health permitting, she’s hell-bent on continuing to tour and “throwing everything of myself into the show,” as she takes a fairly libertarian view toward self-destruction. “I respect people who kill themselves ’cause it’s their life; they can do whatever they want with it. But I wanna be a rrrrock star!” she shouts, her rolling Scandinavian R’s making her sound like a revved-up Björk. ” ‘Cause that’s focking brilliant!”
— Ida Maria has synaesthesia, a sensory condition that makes her see colors when she hears tones or sounds.Playing her own shows can be particularly electrifying.Colors “fuck you up,” she says.
— Her first touring gig was in the Norwegian Youth Choir as second alto.