Norway today: Is there a cloud in that silver lining?

If you’ve heard of the Seattle Freeze, then a quote near the start of Solveig Torvik’s new book, “The World’s Best Place: Norway and the Norwegians,” might sound familiar. “A Norwegian will not talk to you without good reason,” states a cross-cultural communications expert. “And saying hello is not a good enough reason.”

This perhaps can be forgiven when you consider Norwegians’ generosity; they are often the first to contribute to victims of natural disasters around the world and pitch in more per-capita than virtually anyone else. And that charity begins at home. With its enviable longevity rates, its cradle-to-grave health care, its free education – not to mention its stupendous natural beauty and millions in annual revenue from North Sea oilfields – Norway is routinely named by the U.N. and other entities as the best place to live.

Torvik discussed her book, which delves beneath the surface of this seeming utopia, on Tuesday evening at the Nordic Heritage Museum. An enthusiastic audience of around 65 included many transplanted Scandinavians. A former longtime Ballard resident and journalist – she retired as associate editorial-page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Torvik now lives in Central Washington. Her first decade of life, however — the 1940s — was spent in the picturesque fjord village of Aalesund, where she was “imprinted with Norway’s values and sensibilities,” she said. Her family then immigrated to Salt Lake City.

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Swedish singer/songwriter coming to Ballard

Sofia Talvik, a singer and songwriter from Göteborg, Sweden is coming to the Nordic Heritage Museum for a concert this weekend.

Not knowing anything about the musician, we wanted to ask her a few questions:

MyBallard: Tell me a little bit about your music.
Talvik: I think my music is very personal. I try to put the lyrics in focus which often results in a bit of a minimalisttic production. I guess I’d be tagged as a singer/songwriter but leaning towards a folk pop expression. I have a new album out in May and it’s got a bigger sound than my previous work, I’ve worked a lot on giving the songs a depth, and it’s almost like my vocals are resting on top of the instruments. What’s similar in all my albums though is that my voice and acoustic guitar is the core of everything.

MyBallard: Where do you get your inspiration? Who are your musical influences?
Talvik:I get my inspiration from everyday life. I love movies and often find the score interesting, I also pick up phrases I like from the movies or TV and incorporate them in my lyrics. Musically I have a very diverse taste. Like for this album I was inspired by Kings of Leon, something you probably wouldn’t think of when you listen to it. But I also love great songwriters like Neko Case, Aimee Mann and Nick Drake.

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