Is it possible to measure talent and is there a way of quantifying something so subjective? Perhaps through the years of training, musical virtuosity or how much a piece of music captures the listener without second thought. What about a mixture of these elements and more. Stine Grove is just that blend of components. Vocalist, musician, artist of the highest standards. From a young age Stine Grove began her plunge into the world of music and is now held in high regards as the epitome of vocal prowess.
Countless articles exist regarding the fame and talent of the DJs we know and love. Bolstering stories that one lives vicariously through, intimacies told through interviews and exciting new updates on their music. One integral part of the music is left out a massive percent of the time. That is the voice behind the track. The person responsible for giving the track the ethereal essence it merits.
Within the realm of trance this seems to be in larger part the perfect complement to the classical breakdowns. A cherry on top of soaring melodies and thumping bass lines within the genre. No other genre within the large umbrella in the electronic music community as a whole is known as well for its wide array of masterful vocalists. No other artist depicts this better than Stine Grove.
From early ages to now, music has been a part of Grove’s life and her involvement in the world of trance and music in general is an interesting one. Her works in the realm of electronic music are second to none. Take for example her latest release, her collaboration with highly esteemed trance DJs Ram and Arctic Moon: “A Billion Stars Above”
Stine Grove is one of the elite voices behind the greatest tracks in electronic music, here’s what she had to say.
Juan Baer: Once again, thank you for this massive opportunity. Let’s begin by asking something curious: Of all the things in the wide world of music, why electronic music? More importantly why trance and how did you get involvement with the genre commence?
Stine: Thank you for having me! Why trance? Most of all by coincidence. My background is actually rock-pop-singer-songwriter – i.e music with acoustic/ “real” instruments. In 2006 I pure some of my piano+vocals songs online and a Danish trance producer heard them and asked me if I’d be interested in doing some vocals for one of his trance tracks. Back then I was not very familiar with electronic music, but I had heard some of those “techno” tracks that I absolutely adored – for exaple FSOL’s “Papua New Guinea” and Meridian’s “Starving Dolphins”.
I heard his track and I really loved it, so I wrote and recorded some vocals for it. He put in on Myspace and a label manager heard it and wanted to sign it. Other trance producers heard it too, and ever since then the vocal requests have been hitting my inbox in a continuous flow. So actually Trance chose me, not the other way around. But the genre has really grown on me and I am in no way “genre religious”. For me it’s all about the emotion in the music. If a track has that emotion, I don’t care if it’s trance, pop, classical, Gothic, metal or something else. Goosebumps, euphoria and tears never lie.
Juan: A little bit of history for the fans: Can you walk us through your evolution through the world of music? How did you begin, how did you progress through the years, etc.?
Stine: Well I started singing, when I was about 1-2 years old, when my Father played the guitar and sang with me. So music has been with me always. At 15 I started playing the piano, which has had a great impact on how i compose and write songs. Also I have more than two decades of choir and ensemble singing behind me, which has taught me a lot about harmonizing (vocals).
In 2005 I met my first DAW – Cubase. Unfortunately the love was not mutual. I spent some time trying to figure it out, but never got further than to press “record” and “stop”. But in 2006 I was introduced to Sony Acid Pro, which is a wonderfully intuitive and easy to use DAW, and then I started recording and producing my own songs. My first professional musical work was in 2008, when I produced the instrumental theme music for a Danish TV show. And shortly after the “trance vocal avalanche”started rolling for me.
Juan: You have been revered by many of the artists by being one of the most natural voices in the world of electronic music. Rich Mowatt aka Solarstone said and I quote: “It’s quite rare to work on a track where you don’t have to tune the vocals at all.” Personally, I take that as the ultimate compliment in terms of my line of work, if I were a singer. What do you have to say to that?
Stine: I was indeed very happy and flattered about Rich’s remark. Because this particular subject – pitch correction tools – is a thorny subject for me. I know that a lot of producers use it by default (some don’t even take the time to listen first, if the vocals are in fact already in tune), because it has become one of those production practices you “just do”.
Personally I dislike pitch correction tools with a passion, and I’ll do anything to not have them applied to my vocals because it would feel like “cheating” in some way. I think that these tolls often rob the characteristics or “soul” from the human voice, leaving the vocals sounding “uncharacteristic”, robot-like or metallic. I dont like the sound at all and I’d much rather listen to someone singing slightly out of tune with a natural voice than someone singing in tune with Auto-tune any day!
Juan: In terms of artist collaborations, who do you have on your bucket list? In other words is there anyone that you simple have to work with?
Stine: In trance I’d love to work with Rich (Mowatt) and Steve (Helstrip) again, because we’re thinking along the same lines musically and they are so nice to work with. And maybe Omnia, ATB and Paul Oakenfold.
Outside of trance I’d have to say Sleepthief (again), Schiller, Massive Attack, Brrendan Perry, Washed Out, Vangelis and Ulrich Schnauss. But more than anything else, I’d love to be independent and “self-sufficient”. I’ve always wanted to produce and release my own music, and I am in the process of doing that. I have so much music in my head, which I want to show the world. Furthermore, I’m not happy about how some things often work in this scene, so in the long run I’d rather not be dependent on anyone to get my voice heard.
Juan: Building up on the previous question: Any collaborations or tracks we can look forward to?
Stine: I have new tracks out with Headstrong and an upcoming collaboration with Sleepthief (not trance). I’m very happy with them all, but the Sleepthief track was particularly fun to work with, because it’s a genre closer to my musical background. The instrumental is so creative and he really puts the vocals in the center of attention. I really got to go berserk with lots and lots of vocal layers for this one.
Juan: So a curious question: Do you write the lyrics for the tracks you lend your vocals for?
Stine: Well Don Jackson is a songwriter, so naturally he writes all the Headstrong songs; I just interpret and sing them. And “Anywhere With You” was already written (by Steve Helstrip and Kristina Westin), when I was asked to sing it.
But apart from that I always write my own lyrics and melodies (and sometimes chord progressions too), because I dont find it artistically satisfying singing the work of others – no matter how beatiful their work is. Simply because it really is the creative process; the process of creating something and expressing your own ideas – that makes me tick.
Juan: What are your favorite set of lyrics and why?
Stine: That’s a tough one. I can narrow it down to two (random order): “Cage Bird” and How Will I know”. Because these two are probably the songs that are the most personal to me, and has the most (personal) emotion and history poured into them.
Juan: How many times do you have to record to get a perfect take? I assume it’s a maximum of two given your skill.
Stine: Thank you. Well the perfect take is a rare thing – especially when you’re as neurotic and OCD about your vocals as I am. I always do between 10-30 takes of each part to mae sure I’ve got what I need because so much can go wrong. It’s not just about being pitch perfect. You can have a pitch perfect take, but then the intonation or emotion just isnt right. Or your microphone picked up some noise from the street. So like most vocal engineers I use the audio editing technique “comping” (=compiling). That’s a process where you use the best moments of multiple takes and piece them tofether to make one perfect take. I think that even the vocals of the world’s biggest divas are comped on studio releases.
Juan: Escape by The Thrillseekers is Steve Helstrip’s master work. Everything out of that album is too amazing for words, especially those tracks to which you’ve worked on with him. This next question I ask with a heavy heart. The track: “How Will I Know” has resonated and quaked through the happenings of my own life and I’m sure that those who listen to it will relate. Where did those lyrics in particular come from? What was the inspiration behind them?
Stine: Thank you very much. It feels incredibly rewarding, when someone tells me that something I wrote resonates with them.
When Steve and I worked on “How Will I know”, I was in a dark place in my life and on the verge of a very painful break up with someone I had thought, I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I wrote the lyrics trying to anticipate how I would feel after the goodbye when facing the empty void that would be left when we had let go of each other.
Juan: You have two other tracks on the Escape album, of the three, which is your favorite and why?
Stine: “How Will I Know”. Because of the astonishing beauty of Steve’s instrumental. And because of the emotional weight of the song.
Juan: One more about Escape: How did Steve approach you?
Stine: I think he added me on Facebook. I messaged him that I love his work and find it very creative and innovative and he replied with “We should make a track someday!”. I obviously agreed, because I had been wanting to work with him for years.
Juan: Yet another curious question, do you typically pick artists to work with or is it the other way around? How do you go about with that particular process?
Stine: I’ve always been picked by other artists, I have never approached anyone. I’ve been so privileged that the one irresistible and awesome collaboration request has always been followed by another. I do have breaks between collaborations every once in a while, but then I usually feel more like working with my solo stuff than reaching out to someone.
Usually producers get in touch with me via email or a message via my website and we take it from there. Most of them already have an idea or instrumental draft, which they want me to work with. But others prefer that I create a chord progression from scratch and write/ record the vocals for that. Then I send them the midi and vocal files and they create a trance track from that. So that’s actually more like a remix job.
Juan: You seem to take on a lot of little projects over social media, the most recent example being the small clip of the Stine Grove ensemble. Another, the video clip of you singing in that empty house. Is there any chance of a full video that may go on your agenda? Is this something you do for the practice and to let the creativity flow or purely out of pleasure?
Jamming with the Acapella app. Incompatibility issues with Android = psychedelic colours + sync problems. But you get the idea 🎵 pic.twitter.com/m8QcvRvevk
— Stine Grove (@StineGrove) June 24, 2017
Stine: It’s a combination of practice, creative playing and pleasure. These little singing videos are so fun to make and judging by the feedback, people seem to like them. I don’t gig or perform live at present. So I figure this is the next best thing to show a little raw and unedited piece of my voice. I never understood singers who upload “live” videos with them lip syncing to their edited and pitch corrected vocals; I think they’re missing the whole point of something being “live”.
Regarding doing a full video, it actually is on my wish list to make some full length semi-acoustic studio sessions singing some of my most popular tracks. Butt that requires me to make some stripped down instrumental backing tracks to sing to first. I’m sure I’ll manage before 2030!
Juan: So as to not tire you out and over saturate this, let me finish by asking, since you have been somewhat classically trained, assuming you listen to classical music; Which are your three essential pieces of music that everyone should listen to. And same question but for three electronic music tracks.
Stine: I do have some classical vocal training yes, but to be honest im not so well-versed in the names of the composers of classical music (although I love it). I do know that I like some of Haydn’s work and everything by Erik Satie.
Id rather talk about movie scores (which is closely related to classical music), and these three piece are almost guaranteed goosebumps:
And here’s three excellent electronic music tracks from the top of my head:
Often artists of high caliber do not receive the attention they deserve. The media and what is popular overshadows those of immense talent. But that wont be the case for Stine Grove as her career only knows one way: up into immense stardom.
Thank you once again for the opportunity Stine.