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Teitur: Island Songs

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 19, 2004

w/Griffin House
Tuesday, May 25
The Ranch Bowl
1600 S. 72nd St.
9 p.m.

On first listen, you might think you've heard laid-back pop-singer Teitur's music before.

His style is a throwback to a simpler time, before American Idols and hip-hop razzamatazz, back when words and music and melody ruled the radio waves. The profound influence of '70s AM singer-songwriters might have something to do with where he grew up.

Teitur's homeland, the Faroe Islands, lies northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway. Part of the Kingdom of Denmark, the islands' 48,000 inhabitants, most of whom make their living from the fishing industry, speak Faroese, an ancient language rooted in Old Norse. Pictures of the Faroes on the Internet make it look like a storybook land of steep jagged cliffs and sod-roofed stone houses that conjure up visions of hobbits and wizards.




"It's a very small community, and music is very much a part of people's lives," said Teitur as he navigated the Interstate somewhere between Pittsburgh and Cleveland in a land that must seem a million miles away from his native soil. "Living there is probably like living in any small town in America, but without a chance to drive four hours to see the latest band."

With only one radio station on the islands, Teitur grew up listening to Western pop standards. "Obviously I didn't get a chance to hear eclectic records or develop an interest in a certain performer or style of music, or see cool rock bands. All I had was what was on the radio."

But that was enough to inspire him to take on a career as a musician and songwriter with a style influenced by artists as diverse as The Beatles, Gershwin, Burt Bacharach, Joan Armatrading and Joni Mitchell. "I didn't write Faroes music," he said, explaining that all of his songwriting is in English. "I listened to some Faroes songs of course, but there's not much Faroes in my stuff. It's no different than how bands from Sweden and Norway write Western-influenced music."

With his old-school singer-songwriter roots, it only made sense that Teitur's first album would be produced by one of pop music's more successful hitmakers, Rupert Hine, who has worked with everyone from Tina Turner (Private Dancer) to Stevie Nicks (Other Side of the Mirror) to Suzanne Vega (Songs in Red and Gray).

Teitur said Hines first heard his music through his music publisher, and afterward approached him to work on the project. "We really clicked when we first met," Teitur said. "The process of working with someone to find the essence of what you're trying to accomplish is hard work, and someone like Rupert got me there."








"Obviously I didn't get a chance to hear eclectic records... All I had was what was on the radio."






"Every city might be new, but there very seldom is an element of surprise."



The result was Teitur's debut full-length, Poetry & Aeroplanes, recently released on Universal. The New York Times said the CD "evokes the reveries of a romantic troubadour musing out loud as he travels the world." Pure hogwash. Teitur's music is much more grounded than that. Its smooth, sentimental pop harkens to '70s-era Simon and Garfunkel or Up on the Roof-flavored James Taylor, quietly dominated by Teitur's intricate acoustic guitar work and his sweet, warm voice that closely resembles Simon's.

After being on the road for a year and playing nearly 200 dates in Europe and the United States, Teitur says his travels are influencing his songwriting. "I wrote a song today about how you can be the same person wherever you are," he said. "I'm thinking a lot about that these days, how no matter where you go, everyone is just the same and you can give and take only what you have.

"Every city might be new," Teitur said, "but there very seldom is an element of surprise. People are pretty much the same wherever you are."

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Published in The Omaha Reader May 19, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.