Back in 2019, Norwegian guitarist Casper Hatlestad played at Lancaster Jazz Festival. Having lived in many places and travelled often, Hatlestad’s compositions are often inspired by different cultures and places. After doing a BA and MA at Leeds Conservatoire, he then moved to Prague, and plays guitar as part of the band DOMI. He is set to release a full solo album later this year, Acoustic Tales From Prague - but for now has begun releasing some of his solo work as singles. We listened to ‘Bokka’ and ‘Ella’, which were released in April, and became completely immersed in this beautiful, acoustic music. Hatlestad’s style is characterised by intimate solo guitar playing, harmonics, a strong sense of movement and warm melodies. These singles are extremely accessible to any listener, and were inspired by some beautiful stories. On Spotify Hatlestad writes that his music ‘kept him sane’ during lockdown, and that his only wish is that listeners ‘find some peace, some calmness and mindfulness while listening’. We don’t know about you, but we certainly did.
‘Ella’ also features Hatlestad on solo guitar, yet it opens with more space and harmonics which seem to pose some questions for us as listeners, and for Hatlestad himself. This then moves into a really beautiful melody which again has a lot of movement, as Hatlestad continuously plays arpeggiated chords underneath. There are some really special moments from the bass in ‘Ella’ - it adds another layer in a way which really builds the beauty of the piece. When listening to his music, Hatlestad invites listeners to ‘take a break, close your eyes’, and in doing this the intensity and intimacy of the music is really increased. This piece has a very emotional energy to it, which makes sense when thinking about its context; Hatlestad explains that ‘during December last year, my grandmother was fighting a battle a bit too hard for her body to win.’ He composed a piece to send to her on her 90th birthday, which she really appreciated. When he got the message that she was in her last few hours, he impro-composed another piece to thank her for everything she had done for him, and for being herself. The piece didn’t make it to her in time, but Hatlestad then played it at her funeral - and that piece became ‘Ella’. The peaceful nature of the composition is so moving when thinking about its context, and the musical ability of Hatlestad is really inspiring considering the situation in which he impro-composed this piece.