AboutFrom the very first words of the very first song, you know that you are in the presence of a master storyteller. Thoughtful, beautiful and at times disturbingly haunting, Janove Ottesen paints a series of portraits that go far beyond the standard singer/songwriter fare.
Francis' Lonely Nights is Ottesen's debut solo CD, and it takes its listeners by surprise. Especially those who are more familiar with Ottesen's alter ego, Janove "The Jackal" Kaizer – front man of the incredibly popular band Kaizers Orchestra. Well known for their amazing concerts, multiple platinum albums and an increasingly devoted fan base throughout Europe, the music of Kaizers Orchestra is completely different from what you will hear on Francis' Lonely Nights.
What has inspired Ottesen in this direction? "I'm a songwriter," he explains. "That's what I do. When I write for Kaizers Orchestra, I'm writing songs that are specifically made for the kind of music that Kaizers does – songs that are more fictionally based. Doing a solo album gives me the opportunity to write songs that are very real – very honest."
And he has succeeded. The songs on Francis' Lonely Nights are so vivid that you can imagine their stories continuing on long after the music has stopped playing – that somewhere in another universe Juliet is making her sassy way through life, breaking hearts at every turn. That those whose worlds were destroyed by the Neighbour Boy are somehow trying to heal their shattered lives – and that in some distant city on the way to yet another Wonderful Show, a lonely soul is making yet another phone call – reaching out to the ones he's had to leave behind.
These songs – these stories – are complemented by arrangements that sometimes take an unexpected turn when you least expect it and that provide the perfect frame for the amazing pictures their lyrics create. When combined with vocals that range from bitingly sarcastic to heartbreakingly fragile, Ottesen's debut solo CD is truly a masterpiece.
Hailing from the small town of Bryne (pop. 7000) on the southwestern coast of Norway, Ottesen admits that many of the songs on Francis' Lonely Nights are based on things that have happened to him or to his friends. But he doesn't have to work hard to find inspiration; in fact, it seems to spill out from his reservoir of talent in an unending stream. "Songs just pop up all the time!" Ottesen exclaims. "When I think about those artists who experience writers' block, I feel I have been very fortunate that I've been able to do so much. I want to write as many songs as I can while they're coming so easy, because it's something that I never want to take for granted."
And the added bonus of being able to perform his songs to an audience using just his voice and a guitar is very enticing for an artist who usually performs with five band mates and a truckload of equipment. "I told everyone that I wanted to make an album that could be performed in that way," he says. "I just hoped that the songs would be good enough to stand on their own."
And indeed they do. In an age when many releases only contain one or two stand out songs, Francis' Lonely Nights harkens back to the days when entire albums were not only listenable, but bordering on extraordinary. And the more you hear of Janove Ottesen, the more you realize just how extraordinary he really is.