Where are you from?
I was born in Norway, but moved to the US in 1975 to pursue my dream to fly. A few years after completing flight school, I got my dream job as pilot with United Airlines, where I worked for over 20 years before retiring. In America I lived in South Florida and Los Angeles.
When did you first come to Phuket?
My first visit was on vacation in 1998. I stayed at the Dusit Laguna Resort (now the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket) on Bang Tao Beach. Within a few days of being here I decided that this was the place I wanted to retire. I now spend about eight months a year in Phuket, and rest of the year I’m at my home in Florida or in Norway.
Tell us about the upcoming Phuket International Blues Rock Festival.
I’m excited for this year’s show, which will be the biggest yet. For the first time, it will be held at Laguna Phuket and we expect to bring in a lot of Laguna resort guests plus many expats living in the area.
Our main act will be Chris Thomas King of New Orleans, who appeared in the Coen brothers’ movie O Brother Where Art Thou in 2001 and performed on the movie’s Grammy-winning soundtrack. The soundtrack reached number one on the Billboard charts and has sold over 10 million copies. Separately, King has sold more records and appeared in more successful movies than any other blues artist this century.
Also appearing will be Irish girl rocker Grainne Duffy; Jack Derwin and John Meyer from Australia, Sweden's #1 blues rock act Sky High. Local blues acts joining the festival include Colin Hill Band with Jimmy Fame and PJae Stanley as well as The Rockin' Angels with Mojo Perry. Laguna guests at four resorts will also be treated to afternoon acoustic performances by some of the bands.
What made you decide to launch a music festival in Phuket?
In 2005, the one-year anniversary of the tsunami was approaching. I knew there would be a lot of sad events to commemorate the disaster, so I wanted to organize something positive. This first festival, held in late December 2005, was a total disaster weather-wise. The field on the Hilton resort grounds were soaked and we had to move everything inside. We still managed to pull it off, but some bands cancelled and turnout on the first night was poor. After that we moved the festival to late February and have enjoyed great weather every year since.
Before 2005 I had never organized big music events. I just love this kind of music and thought it would be a great event for Phuket. I've traveled the world and enjoyed music festivals, big and small, like Sweden's best blues festival in the small, quaint town of Åmål, Sweden.
What has surprised you the most in organising the festival?
Dealing with the bureaucracy. For each musician coming in from another country you need to submit more than 30 pages of paperwork for a work permit that’s needed for only two hours of playing. You really need competent people to help navigate this, and I’m pleased that one of our sponsors, the International Law Office, is providing assistance.
Whereabouts do you live in Phuket? What determined your choice of location?
I have a townhome at Laguna, near where I stayed on my first visit to Phuket. I really like the lifestyle here, with the huge beach at Bang Tao, the lagoons, and all the nice hotels, restaurants and facilities at Laguna that I can use. I had looked around everywhere on Phuket for a home to buy, but I ended up coming back here.
What are your favourite places to go to in Phuket?
For live music, there’s only one place to go: the Rockin’ Angels bar in Phuket City. For brunch, I go to the Indigo Pearl. For the best Italian food, there is La Gaetana in Phuket City. And I do spend a lot of time at the beach. It’s a very important part of my life here.
What do you like most about living in Phuket?
The people, the food, the weather and the lifestyle. You have everything here; whatever you want you can find.
What's the most frustrating thing about living here?
The traffic has gotten absolutely ridiculous. They desperately need to build some overpasses. I hardly ever go to Patong, but I hear about the atrocious things that the tuk-tuk drivers are doing to the tourists. It’s amazing that this can go on and it seems the authorities are unable to do anything about it.
What do you think the future holds for you?
I’m happy to wake up every day in good health, with a positive outlook. I simply hope to live for several more years and enjoy myself. As it says on our festival website phuketbluesfestival.com, “Today is a GIFT. That's why we call it The Present.” I also hope to make the festival bigger and better each year.
Are you involved in any other local charities, clubs or associations?
The festival is a charity event and proceeds will go to the Patong Rotary Club’s children’s education fund. In previous years we’ve raised as much as 100,000 baht and hope to raise more this year.
I was very fortunate to be able to go to school, get a good education and pursue my dreams. I hope to be able to help some local children to do the same.