Northsong: The Interview

The folk genius behind Illinois based Northsong, Cortland Runyon, joins us to answer questions about his new EP, "Winter's Dominion," his aspirations, and what he thinks of the American metal scene as a whole.


We are always fascinated by the idea of a true one man band. There are obviously both challenges and benefits to being the one and only. How has this come in to play with you and Northsong?

I do enjoy the freedom of writing music and lyrics by myself without needing the approval of any other band members. It's also pretty cool that I get to record whenever I "feel like it" because I can be a real lazy bastard sometimes.

However being in a one-man band also has it's disadvantages. For example, if you're stuck composing a certain part of a song, there's not a lot of people who can help you. For the most part, it's only you. I have songs that I haven't finished because I couldn't really hear what would "sound good" to put next. There's also the fact that you're your only promoter when you start out. Luckily, I had connections beforehand. You also have to gain production knowledge before you just decide to record. No one wants to listen to a poorly produced album unless the music is good enough to do it justice.

It's no secret that you drew some influence from some of the titans of the genre, from Amon Amarth to Sonata Arctica. But what led you, specifically into the folk metal world in the first place?

At first I as really big in Power Metal and Melodic Death Metal. Eventually after exploring genres I stumbled upon Folk Metal, and fell in love. I looked up more bands under the genre until I came upon Windrider, who's music inspired me to create my own Folk Metal solo project. I could've started a project for any genre, really, but Folk was my favorite at the time, and it still is.

Your love of Norse mythology has a clear influence on your songwriting. How did you come up with some of the track titles, and the lyrics themselves?

For the most part, I usually write lyrics first, and name them later. With "Mountains of Madness" however, I named the song after I composed it, and I tried my best to make the lyrics relevant to the title. It was the first song I've written for Northsong, so I didn't quite know what I was doing. As for the other songs, I just looked at the stereotypical Viking Metal lyrics, and tried to create the same battle-like atmosphere in my own lyrics. They're not exactly the most poetic lyrics, but they get the job done, which is good enough for me.

Where did you find your inspiration while writing and recording "Winter's Dominion"?

My main inspirations came from other Folk and Viking Metal bands such as Ensiferum, Amon Amarth, and Windrider. The fact that I really wanted a release under my belt kept me going. It took me four times to record "Mountains of Madness" before I finally got the right sound, and I applied the technique to the other songs. I just wanted a real epic and heroic sound that most Folk Metal fans would be able to appreciate.


Besides the traditional bass, drums, guitars, what other instruments did you use in the recording of the album?

Believe it or not, I didn't put bass in any of the six songs on the EP. I just used a Contrabass/Cello combination on the keyboard for the low-end sounds. The orchestrations were all done on my computer, and I had the same rhythm track copied three times, but each copy had a different instrument set. I used full strings for one, the contrabass and cello combo I just talked about, and I added an orchestral ensemble for the third. Aside from all the rhythm tracks, I also had a few keyboard-made folk intruments, such as flutes and the occasional violin.

You made the decision to cover a song by Windrider, a band that Sorrow Eternal writers enjoy quite a bit. How did this cover come to life?

There's not much else I can say other than "Let Death Be Our Pride" is my favorite Windrider song. I originally only planned on adding the core five songs, but the combined length of those were too short for an EP. Really all I did was compose the orchestrations in a program called Guitar Pro 5, and I got to work on recording the guitars and vocals. It's not a real hard song to learn by ear, and I didn't have to write the song myself because it was already written, so it was rather easy to make.

Have you put any thought into the prospect of expanding the band, adding members, and taking the show on the road? If so, who are some musicians you would want to share the stage or tour with?

I'm definitely trying to get a live line-up together, but no one in my area seems to be interested in Folk Metal. There's a huge chance that I'll be moving to the UK after I graduate high school to go to college. If I do move, I'll be in the same area as bands like Windrider, Cryptic Age, and Ravenage, so I'd love to share the stage with them. I have no doubt that a few of my talented friends overseas would be part of a live line-up. If I got really popular, it would be really awesome to tour with Ensiferum and Finntroll in the future; and I would love a spot on Heidenfest, Paganfest, or any other Folk Metal tour/festival.

What are your thoughts on the folk metal genre, and the direction some of the newer bands are taking it?

Personally, I love folk and metal, so it's a perfect combination for my tastes. There is a lot of diversity in the sub-genre as well, because it has sub-sub-genres like Folk Black, Folk Death, Symphonic Folk (like myself) etc. Newer bands seem to be taking it in even more directions, for better or worse. I've recently downloaded a bunch of newer, more locally based bands' albums, and a lot of them were really good. Folk Metal is a bit more complex compared to a few other genres, and it's great to see more and more people becoming fans of it, and even starting Folk Metal bands.

What is it like being an up and coming metal musician in Illinois, and what is your take on the American metal scene as a whole?

In the town that I live in, there are quite a few metal bands that I could share the stage with to earn more recognition. Though they aren't exactly my taste. A lot of these bands play Metalcore-sounding stuff, which is really the gist of the American Metal scene. However, there are new folk metal bands emerging all over the country, such as Winterhym, Blodravn, and Abandoned Gods, who are really worth a look at. It's good to see other up and coming artists who aren't just trying to be the next Avenged Sevenfold.

What do you find yourself listening to in your spare time? Do you tend to stick with metal, or are there other artists and styles that you find yourself stuck on?

Folk, Melodic Death, Black, and Power Metal is really the core of my music diet, but I also listen to other non-metal genres, such as classical or symphonic arrangements, and neo-folk. There's also a few random songs I have in my library that belong to random genres. Flogging Molly, for example, is band who is a mix of Celtic Folk music and modern day Punk Rock.

You offer your albums up for free download to your fans. What led you to make this decision, and what are your thoughts on the concept of downloading?


I believe that offering my music for free will lead to it spreading around the net faster, to new audiences. In fact, I blame the non-existent price of "Winter's Dominion" for my swift success. If you ask me, I think every unsigned band should offer their first release for free, because fans would only have 1-3 preview songs to decide if they're willing to purchase the album or not. Then they can decide whether or not they'll be willing to purchase another. Plus, if someone buys an album for only a couple of songs and hates the rest, that's bad news for the band. When I buy an album, I want to know what I should expect from it. If it's an album from one of my favorite bands, however, I'll pre-order that shit in a heart beat. As for downloading, I believe it is a powerful tool for marketing yourself, though it can also be used for evil. Despite anyone's opinion, it is vital to support your favorite musicians

What do you have in mind for the future of Northsong? What can we expect to see and hear in the coming months?

I'm currently working on a full-length album titled "The Final Journey", which will feature 7-9 lengthy songs. It will have more folk instruments, and an overall better production quality. I think fans old and new will like the sound; it's like the "Winter's Dominion" stuff, but with all new elements. With that said, I'll state that I want to stay true to my original sound in all future albums. I also plan on charging for this one, because I can't fork up a lot of money for college with my minimum wage job alone. If you want to read an update I released for it, you can go here: ( https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=259163737461293 )

I also want to re-record the entire "Winter's Dominion" EP in the future, but I want to be more knowledgeable in the production arts, which my take up to 5 years. I mentioned earlier that I would be moving to the UK in the next year. I believe this will lead to big things for my project. Either way, I don't care too much for the fame. I just want my music to be heard....and liked.

Thank you again for your time, and for giving us some excellent metal to blast around the office. We look forward to hearing what you come up with next.