It's been 10 years since Saint Anyway bandmates Jamie Kallestad and Tony Petersen posed for their first promotional photo on the old train at Cloquet's Fauley Park.
While their paths have diverged - Kallestad is based in Boston and mostly a solo performer, while Petersen is part of another homegrown band, The Social Animals - they do still cross, as Petersen played on Kallestad's most recent album, "Songs From the North Country."
However, Kallestad wrote the songs for this album in an entirely different "north country" from his Minnesota roots, traveling even further back in the family history to the northern European country of Norway.
The Cloquet native spent October through December 2015 working and wandering all around Norway, in the darkest time of the year. He worked on a farm, and bought a little guitar. He did a lot of soul searching in this "impossibly beautiful" country and said the whole experience was incredible.
"By the grace of complete strangers, I even recorded a live concert - in Kallestad," he wrote, of the town that bears his last name, in a promotional video he created to raise money for the new album.
"I think these Norway songs are the best that I've written," he added.
The Pine Journal caught up with Kallestad electronically in advance of his only local CD release show, set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, at Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe in Duluth's Canal Park. Admission is $10.
Pine Journal: What did you expect to find when you went to Norway?
Jamie Kallestad: I really wanted to find the town of Kallestad.
PJ: What did you find?
JK: The country is startlingly beautiful ... the Lyngen Alps in the North, the "farm above the clouds" in Lillehammer, the 1,000-year-old Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, the rocky seashore on the island of Sotra. I play these panoramas back in my head often.
And I did find the town of Kallestad. I was taken in by an incredibly generous host family there and their hospitality topped everything, even the scenery.
PJ: What kinds of things did you write about in your Norway songs?
JK: It was a very in-between period for me; I hope the songs reflect that. Home comes up a lot, and love. I think being far away from everything I knew clarified some things.
PJ: How would you describe your style of music?
JK: Folk/Americana is the umbrella genre, I think.
PJ: You worked with one or two other people in Saint Anyway for years. Are you working with anyone now?
JK: Well, the new albums are in my name, and I often perform solo, but I'm lucky to have several collaborators (friends) who join me live or behind the scenes. Tony Petersen and Jenn Fagre (friends from Cloquet High School) play on "Songs From The North Country," as well as my good friend Ben Cosgrove, whom I met in Boston.
PJ: Was there anyone in particular from Cloquet who influenced your musical career?
JK: I have to thank Beth Wilson, who was my choir teacher from middle school through high schooI. I can sing all right because of her. And Martha Vetter from Zion Lutheran Church really inspired me to perform, to try and tell a story well. She was and is so soulful. Martha and Ms. Wilson were mentors.
PJ: Do you have any advice for fellow young music lovers?
JK: Ha, well ... be thankful. I remember driving back from a lousy bar gig, in subzero weather, with Tony and Dane (Levinski, also of Saint Anyway), probably 1 a.m. somewhere in Wisconsin. Dane said: "It's not going to get any better than this." I've often thought about that line and that moment.
PJ: How often do you get back to Cloquet? When you visit, are there certain places you like to go each time?
JK: I take any excuse to get back to the Northland. Usually, I'm around for holidays with family, BWCA basecamping or summer gigging. I have so many favorite places in Cloquet: Pine Valley, Maple Grove Cemetery by my mom's old house, the St. Louis river near Dunlap Island. Jay Cooke State Park is a very personal place for me; I used to try to write poems there as a high schooler. Thought I was Robert Frost. It's so special to go back. The place still smells the same ... like no time has passed and I haven't changed at all. I probably haven't - ha, ha.
PJ: Where/how can people find you/your new album in-person and online?
JK: You can listen or buy the new album on my website, jamiekallestad.com. You can also pick up a copy at my upcoming CD release show set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, at Amazing Grace Cafe, 394 S. Lake Ave., Duluth. Admission is $10. Find the video at www.jamiekallestad.com/songsfromthenorthcountry.