From the sound stage to the studio

Anyone who saw Steve Carell’s romantic comedy Dan in Real Life is familiar with Sondre Lerche’s music.

CD cover image released by Rounder Records

Anyone who saw Steve Carell’s romantic comedy Dan in Real Life is familiar with Sondre Lerche’s music.

Lerche and his band perform Modern Nature in the film’s joyous wedding scene. It’s Lerche strumming his guitar offstage when Carell performs Let My Love Open the Door. Director Peter Hedges sought out the 27-year-old Norwegian, and said he wanted the music to feel like a character in the film.

Now Lerche is trying to take advantage of the attention with a lush CD, Heartbeat Radio, released this month. He says it “sort of sums up all of the themes of all of my (five) records.”

“It’s a record I feel very good about,” he said. “Someone hearing me for the first time will understand, ’This is what he does.’ It has elements of all that I’m interested in.”

Lerche’s music is sophisticated pop with jazz undertones, conveying buoyancy and a sense of whimsy. He retains a youthful sense of discovery with an older person’s self-assuredness.

Hedges hadn’t heard of him when he was searching for a musician to participate in his film. He couldn’t stop listening when someone passed along Lerche’s music and pushed for him even though his producers hadn’t heard of him, either.

At age nine, Lerche recalled listening to a dance version of Cole Porter’s Night and Day that U2 recorded for a charity album. Instead of being attracted to the hip rock band, he was intrigued by a composition that was written in the 1930s.

He said he knew he wanted to be a musician before he was a teenager, and had a record contract by the time he was 16. His biggest fear was not being able to write something he considered good enough to sing.

His idols growing up were his fellow Norwegians in a-Ha, but he has a big appetite for music. He remembers seeking out the music of Elvis Costello, with whom he once toured as an opening act, by buying This Year’s Model and Painted From Memory on the same day. They were two discs that couldn’t be more different stylistically, and he loved them both.

There’s a danger, he feels, of getting too sophisticated. A lot of classic pop songwriting is a little lifeless and scholarly, he said.

His music has a pop-rock jauntiness that never really went out of style in his native Norway.

Lerche’s music is frequently compared to the British band Prefab Sprout. Come to think of it, the airiness and female backing vocals on Lerche’s new I Cannot Let You Go sounds an awful lot like Sprout’s When Love Breaks Down.

“Busted!” Lerche said, bursting into a wide smile when confronted with the evidence.

Lerche said he had never even heard of Prefab Sprout until the band’s name kept getting mentioned in reviews of his early discs. So he checked them out — an artist influenced by critics’ unknowing claims of what had influenced him.

“Their music became part of my vocabulary,” he said over lunch in Brooklyn, where he moved in part to advance his actress wife’s career. “But I sort of held back in really going all the way until that song. It’s almost like an homage.”

It’s a sign of security to wear influences so obviously. Lerche’s confidence is showing, and one of his biggest fans is impressed.

“There’s not many guys like him,” Hedges said. “I just think he’s at the beginning of what he’s capable of.”


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