Dutch jazz singer brings personal lyrics

Dutch musician Norbert Kögging has put more of himself into his music than ever before.

Dutch musician Norbert Kögging has put more of himself into his music than ever before.

With his second full-length release Sketches of Ordinary Life, Kögging infuses the most personal lyrics he has ever written with his favoured jazz/pop musical stylings.

Kögging spent a lot of time singing Sinatra tunes during his jazz music undergraduate studies, but he admits it just wasn’t enough. Heading into his masters program in vocal jazz, he began to write his own music and explore a more personal journey with the genre.

“I wanted to add something,” explained Kögging. “It’s not that I felt something was necessarily missing, but I just wanted to find out what would happen if I wrote my own music. That’s when I thought it would be good to form a band.”

What turned into his signature style is a combination of jazz, pop and classical music.

“It’s not particularly pop music or jazz music,” said Kögging, “but it’s somewhere in between.”

Despite coming from a very small village in the Netherlands, Kögging insists he has always had a deep connection to Canada, having completed a winter residency at the Banff Centre during his masters.

“That’s really where everything started,” explained Kögging. “I was writing some new songs and I wanted to form a band to play those songs and a year later, I was ready to record an album.”

Having made friends with a programmer at the Banff faculty, Kögging brought his band back and recorded his first album, Daydreaming, there in 2010. Since then, Kögging has returned to Canada every year.

This year, it will be in support of his album Sketches, which addresses a lot of aspects of Kögging’s life, including the birth of his daughter and his observations about the world, including his views on social media.

“There’s a lot of talk about this ‘second life’ you can have on social media,” notes Kögging. “For me, I have a Facebook page, but I’m not trying to rebuild a new image for myself through that. Sometimes, I think that people use social media in different ways and I think we should try to stay real despite that, even if you can easily pretend to be someone else.”

That’s one reason why Kögging views his lyrics as such an important part of his musical career.

“Songwriting is a huge part of my identity now,” said Kögging. “If I don’t make it personal, the songs fall flat. They don’t go where I want them to go and during the process of writing this album, it helped me to make it more personal. I want the music to be really good because this is my life we’re talking about. So it pushed me to make a better album.”

Kögging insists though, that just because the album discusses his personal life, the subject matter isn’t necessarily heavy or depressing.

“I’m not trying to find something with my lyrics, I’m just trying to write about myself. There are some light subject matters on there, so it’s not all heavy stuff,” he said.

One of the most rewarding experiences during the album, according to Kögging, was being able to work with famed American saxophone player Michael Moore.

“He would play something and I would have goosebumps all over and then he would stop playing and then look at me and ask, ‘Was that … okay?’ in a questioning tone. And it’s so crazy because we were all looking at each other like, ‘Wow. He can seriously play’.”

Kögging will be bringing his personal lyrics and jazzy tunes to The Arts Station on Sunday, October 26.