Meet Nora Sänger
Singer. Songwriter. Mother. Storyteller. Content creator. Late Bloomer.
„I’m not 22 anymore and that exactly is my superpower. I was confused about what I wanted as an artist when I was younger. Knowing myself better and having gained self-confidence makes navigating though this crazy business a lot easier.“
Nora wanted to become a singer ever since she first listened to Whitney Houston’s debut album. It was the 80’s. A lot of young girls wanted to step in Whitney’s shoes. Nora just never changed her mind. She started creating her own melodies and little songs at age seven and went on to write pop songs at twenty.
She then set out to Hamburg, one of Germany’s metropoles with a vibrant and lively music scene. She studied pop music & vocal performance as well as songwriting, and received training in camera acting and filmmaking. And, the best part, she found a producer who was thrilled with her outstanding talent for songwriting and helped her put first arrangements together.
Thus, a quest of finding her own musical identity ensued. Nora’s various collaborators always agreed on the fact that her songwriting abilities have got all it takes. However, as a trained singer and musician, it was natural for her to offer a broad variety of styles and not reduce herself to a single musical genre on all her songs. In her early days she therefore offered a repertoire that spanned from standard pop to r’n’b oriented tunes, mixed with a few acoustic piano ballads and a couple of rock inspired tracks. Add to that the fact that she was writing English lyrics as a German native and you’re off to a rocky start in the eyes of German music industry executives. Remember, it was before the days of TuneCore or RecordJet, Spotify and self-promotion on social media. If you wanted to make it big, you still had to play by the industry’s rules.
However, Nora, who is also a renowned vocal coach in her area, needed to be genuine. She could never have brought herself to sing German Popschlager. It might be Germany’s commercially most successful genre, yet Nora had never had a connection to these typically German styles. Even though she is a native, musically she always felt like a foreigner in Germany’s music landscape.
„My musical influences, the artists and albums that inspire me, that I look up to - they’re entirely from English speaking countries, mostly the US.“ explains the singer, who is to this day an admirer of Whitney Houston’s, but who also connected strongly with the work of Carole King or Elton John as well as with Christina Aguilera’s Stripped album in her formative years.
„After so long of getting rejected for my diversity, for my English lyrics and for those American aesthetics that define my melodies, I began to think that maybe I should change at least one of the factors causing problems in the eyes of the industry.“ Little did Nora know that this would make her go even more American.
It was in 2009 that one of her vocal students brought in a song by Nashville's Rascal Flatts. What Hurts The Most. Nora gave it a listen. And when that pedal steel guitar set in in the song’s intro Nora felt as though it was calling out to her.
Of course she had heard Country Music before. In fact, her home region, the beautiful Lüneburger Heide, is home to one of Germany’s most successful Country Music sessions, Monday Music Hörsten. And she was already well acquainted with their main steel guitarist Nils Tuxen.
Yet precisely What Hurts The Most with its sound spectrum of western and electric guitars, fiddle and the said pedal steel resonated strongly with her. She knew she would have to give this a try.
It took another few years to settle into the genre and assemble the right team of musicians, lead by the afore mentioned Nils Tuxen. In 2014, Nora along with producer Jo Varain (bass), Nils Tuxen (guitars), Dominik Pobot (keys), Robin McMinn (drums) got together for two studio sessions at Hamburg’s Soundhafen Studio and live recorded ten of Nora’s songs for her 2015 album Almost Golden.
„It was magical“, describes Nora, „I marveled in how handmade and old school our work process was. Nils has like a hundred instruments. When he got out a sitar guitar to play on Destination I seriously felt transferred to the 70s, George Harrison vibe included.“
Nora’s intuition about country music for herself was right on. Reviews for Almost Golden praised the singer-songwriter:
„This album is spot on on all ten songs. Nora’s songwriting is faultless.“ (Stefan Wolf, amusio.com)
„A beautiful album that unfolds further with each listen.“ (mix1-music.com)
„Nora’s brilliant Almost Golden solidifies her as a top singer-songwriter.“ (Alexander Joest, Bermudafunk)
Happy about finally having found a style that worked for her songs as well as herself as a performer, Nora had an encounter with life: she got pregnant.
So instead of further exploring and developing her new found artistic identity right away, she took off for nearly four years to start a family with her husband, to move into a house and to care for her two children.
„It might not have been the perfect career move at the time“, Nora reminisces, „but once you look at your newborn baby and become a mother, terms like ‚career move‘ become irrelevant anyways.“
When she was ready to get back to work as a singer-songwriter in late 2019, the game had changed visibly: „Suddenly it was all social media. Tons of self-produced and self-promoted emerging artists. I felt out of place and a bit like a fossil to be honest. I didn’t know how to be part of that or how to compose an Instagram post that people actually cared for. Even worse, I had a hard time understanding that an Instagram post was actually something that mattered.“
Confused about where to start and realizing that it was probably gonna be harder than ever to make money from your own music through streaming, Nora shifted her artistic concern from „being successful“ to „having valuable experiences“. One experience she hadn’t yet had was co-writing songs. Moreover, she had never cared about writing songs with a commercial appeal. These wishes made her reach out to renowned German songwriter / producer Mark Smith (responsible for various chart toppers) who turned out to be the perfect fit.
Together Nora and Mark wrote songs that stayed true to Nora’s artistic essence and incorporated an extra dose of catchyness, thanks to Mark’s gift for memorable hooks.
With their collaboration put on hold due to the corona lockdown starting in early 2020, Nora looked for other ways to produce songs in order to start her existence as an artist on social media.
Two session musicians who she’d started gigging with in 2019, pianist Stefan Rebelski and guitarist Eike Ernst, agreed to record three of her songs as acoustic singles via homerecording, sending wav files back and forth. The three resulting singles Alone In The Woods, Leap In The Dark, and Suppose I let Nora reconnect with one of her most important influences, genre defining singer-songwriters from the L.A. scene of the late 60s / early 70s. The country inspired acoustic rock track Suppose I remains a favorite among her Instagram fanbase.
And finally, in 2021 came the first release of Nora’s and Mark’s collaboration, a 70s inspired cover of Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. Smooth, groovy, vintage inspired and a little soulful.
In January 2022 followed the introspective ballad Waiting In The Dark combining acoustic singer-songwriter and neo soul influences.
With her upcoming release We’ll Make It (due Feb 11th, 2022) Nora looks towards country music again. „I am thrilled with the way Black Velvet and Waiting In The Dark turned out. I just miss pedal steels and all that.“
We'll Make It kicks off a trilogy of singles that talk about Nora's experiences as a wife and parent. Being courageous and making a commitment, embracing that it's not going to feel like happy ever after every day but that it's still pretty damn good is the message of We'll Make It. Its two successors, due out in the spring, will tackle the themes of bringing up children as well as feminism.
With her five single releases since late 2020, Nora managed to figure out the social media game for herself and is now offering content on a regular basis, especially on Instagram, which turned out to be her favorite platform.
„In the end I’m a story teller. I do it with music or with a video - and now I try to take that approach with social media content, too.“
Stay tuned for what's to come for and from Nora in 2022.