Per Øyvind Mathisen

Down South Pepper (DSP) is a Norwegian outlaw country and Americana music duo. They’ve been playing for more than a decade and has more than 20 songs that you can check on all platforms. The duo’s singles have had rotations on radio stations from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and USA and appeared on international country charts and Norwegian ones. Today we’ll get to know them more in this interview and dig deeper into their new single “Son of a Gun” so, let’s get into it!

  1. First of all, what made two Norwegian guys decide to play country/Americana? What do you find interesting about the genre?

We are intrigued by the country and Americana genres because, for us, it’s a lot about storytelling about matters that is affecting us, or that we observe. This gives us an opportunity to comment or put our little spotlight on any phenomena that we like. The genre americana also gives us the chance to combine different kinds of music styles and elements, we can use blues guitar elements and rock n’ roll piano mixed with country harmonies if we like, it’s a musical freedom to it that we like. As we both grew up in the northernmost part of Europe, very close to nature and the indigenous sami lifestyle, is maybe one of the reasons why we like organic roots music. Another reason can be the way our musician coach uncle Willy influenced us in the beginning of our musical journey. We were introduced to americana and roots artist very early when we started our first band.

  1. When was the first time that you decided to pick your instrument and start playing and who influenced that?

We both started playing guitars at the age of ten years. We challenged each other with the guitar chords we had learnt and started early to write songs that we performed to each others, and got feedback on. Rune was the first one to perform a song for an audience, that was in our class at fifth grade. The song was a love serenade to our teacher, with a lot of irony to it. That song became a hit in our class. A couple of years later we had our first band, and then Runes uncle Willy started coaching us and had a significant influence on the music we played. In addition we got a lot of inspiration from listening to our favorite band Queen, they really had a great influence on our way to think of music – for instance that genres can be mixed and the importance of being creative and not locked into a formula or genre.

  1. How did you guys meet? And what made you decide that you have the chemistry to start a band together?

We actually met at the age of five and was classmates and best friends for several years until we decided to invest in electric guitars and getting a band started. Our years learning to play guitars made us realize that this was great fun, we didn’t do too well in sports and had little interest in mountain hiking, so this became our thing. And as both of us liked to be creative and write our own songs, our music taste was compatible and we were best friends it was actually no question about starting a band. The band started when we were 14 years old and we made lots of songs that we performed at the school, as the club band at the youth club and at different parties and local festivals

  1. What’s the story behind your latest single “Son of a Gun”?

The new song “Son of a gun” is about all the grouchy people you will meet in life, and how they affect you, and how to get on with your life after. This is a humorous twist on a serious issue, just as we often write songs. We think that using humor gives problems a new angle that makes the listener reflect in another way than just writing serious songs about serious matters. When making the song we wanted to have a conflict between the lyrics and the music – sad and serious theme for the song with happy and catchy music. There is often a duality in all big matters in life, also when a son of a gun is passing away.

  1. How usually does your writing process go? Can we expect a full length soon?

When we write a song it is often starting with a vague idea about a phenomena or situation we want to write about. Other times the song can just come to us when we’re sitting with our guitars and jamming. Suddenly a feeling, a riff, or a chord progression is born and can develop into a whole song. The writing of a song can take us from one day up to several years.

Recording new songs is always a lot of fun. There are always a lot of choices and paths to choose from, that will all lead us in different directions. Shall the song be with acoustic guitars or do we need a more solid wall of sound behind the vocals, shall we have the country twang sound, or will it work better with a bluesy sound? Then if it is the bassline, shall it just support the rhythm, or does the bass need its own voice? Who will be the best bass player for the song? And then, piano, organ, jaw harp, and other instruments…Which one to choose? And how shall the lead vocal and the backing vocals harmonies be, do we need single backing harmony lines in the verses? How do we get the refrain to be outstanding? Arranging and recording a song can be a complex task, but sometimes it comes to us just like that.

We have released two albums with country and Americana in English, the first one was called “The Last Twang” and the second “Stories From a Small Town” was released in 2021. The first one was on CD and the other one only on cassette. We will maybe release an album again in a couple of years, but nowadays releasing one and one single seems to be the best strategy for us. It’s a bit like it was back in the 50’s when most of the new songs were released on singles.

  1. You have released a number of singles so far, which one do you think describes “Down South Pepper” the most?

We think our latest release Son of a Gun is a very typical Down South Pepper band song. It’s a combination of catchy music, a serious topic but with a humorous twist to it. Examples of other songs from us that are also in the same ballpark are “That’s How the Money Gets Around”, “Easy Going Guy” and “Uncle Willy”.

  1. I’m sure you’ve been asked this question a lot but I can’t help it, what’s the story behind your name Down South Pepper?

The name Down South Pepper band is maybe a bit confusing, we are living in Norway that is a country far up north – and our origin is the village Kvalsund the northernmost part of this northern country. But as a fact we moved a bit farther south in this country, so that is why we are referring to down south. And we also been told a few times in Norwegian “go where the pepper grows”, that means something like go jump in a lake, so as an answer to that we put pepper in the name. We went where the pepper grows, and that is down south.

  1. In a parallel universe, what other genre are you playing?

We like all kinds of roots music, but we are very into blues rock and heavy/glam rock in the style of the first Queen albums. If we had all the resources in the world – time, skills and money – the heavy/glam style would be a good alternative for us.

  1. Are you planning to hit the stage anytime soon? What’s your 2022 schedule?

Our plans for this year are still uncertain, we had plans for a couple of country festivals and shows in Norway this summer. But the pandemic disturbed everything and most of the festivals we had a dialog with had to change plans for this season. But even if our festival plans are not going as we thought there are a lot of venues that wants us to come and do our show so we are very optimistic for the rest of 2022 now that Norway is opened again and people can go out and enjoy music and have a good time again.

Thanks guys, wishing you the best of luck.

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