Norwegian singer Ida Maria brings her colorful world to Popscene 

Punky Norwegian rocker Ida Maria remembers the exact moment in her childhood when the truth hit her like a ton of bricks.

As she was strolling with her best friend along the streets of her native Nesna, she began talking to her about all the colors she saw, and how all the names, letters and days each had different colors.

"She didn’t understand what I was talking about, so I suddenly realized that not everybody sees the world the way I do," says Maria.

The singer, who plays Popscene tonight, combed through medical journals and encyclopedias online, until she finally diagnosed her unusual condition — synesthesia, which allows her to translate sounds and other sensory perceptions into vivid rainbow hues.

"I like new experiences and I’m really curious about stuff," says Maria, initially unsure if the condition was a gift or a curse.

"So I read up until I understood what sequences in the brain perform this, and how it’s often inherited. My mom has it, too — it’s genetic. And after that, it didn’t scare me so much. It was actually a relief to know how my mind works."

How did synesthesia affect Maria’s 2008 debut, "Fortress Round My Heart" or her just-released follow-up, "Katla"?

For one thing, the overseas single "Cherry Red" wasn’t rosy at all. "I should’ve called it ‘Cherry Blue,’" she says. "Because to me, the color red is blue, since the letter R is very blue."

For her, songwriting is like painting — if you’re using soft pastels, you don’t throw a Pollock-harsh splotch of brown onto the canvas. "So I’m very selective, very careful with what I mix together, in view of my overall color scheme," she says.

"Katla" — named for a fire-breathing female dragon in Astrid Lindgren’s "The Brothers Lionheart" book — was produced by pop-savvy whiz Butch Walker, who let his subject rummage through a kaleidoscopic spectrum.

"We were experimenting, doing all kinds of weird stuff. Butch has all this awesome equipment at his studio, so it was like a playground for me," Maria says.

She faced two other health issues: constant depression and exhaustion.

"But then I discovered that I was lacking a substance in my body, and I was essentially a ticking time bomb," she says. "So I went from not being able to get out of bed to being my old self again."

While "Katla" registers on her retina as yellow, black and red, she says, "Who knows? The next album might turn out pink!"



Ida Maria

Where: Popscene, Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell. St., San Francisco

When: 10 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $10 to $12


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Tom Lanham

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