Young Norwegians Hope 'Young Americans' Will Be Big Break

Getaway People song chosen as theme to new TV show.

Christian "Boots" Ottestat, lead vocalist and guitarist of the Getaway People, understands luck and timing play significant roles in a band's career.

"You never know when it's your turn to bat," Boots said. "At some stage, you have to hope that the powers that be give you the big push. Meanwhile, we just go out and play the best we can at all times, just touring and touring and touring."

Hard work and good luck now seem to be converging for the Norwegian quintet, which has been based in New Jersey since coming to the United States in 1998. The group's new single, "Six Pacs" (RealAudio excerpt), has been selected as the theme song for the new WB Network series "Young Americans," which will debut shortly before the band's second album, Turnpike Diaries, is released July 18.

Turnpike Diaries is an apt title for a record largely conceived while touring — with Barenaked Ladies, the Dave Matthews Band and others — to support the band's self-titled 1998 debut.

"We had a little makeshift studio in the back of our bus, enough to fiddle around with basic stuff," Boots said. " 'Six Pacs' is practically an ode to the road and the people we'd hang out with on tour."

Set to hip-hop-style loops and jazzy, blues-influenced instrumentation, "Six Pacs," and Turnpike Diaries as a whole, is reminiscent of G. Love & Special Sauce, Soul Coughing, Beck and other modern rockers. But Boots' voice often recalls older artists such as Dr. John or Leon Redbone.

In the song's first verse, Boots sings: "Six packs and Big Macs keep us rolling down the road/ Cigarettes and coffee, everywhere we go/ Learn to appreciate those simple little things/ And open up our arms to what the road may bring."

The song's upbeat sensibility caught the attention of producers for WB's "Young Americans."

Mood Music

"Unlike other teen shows that are angst-driven, ours is about a group of kids who want to do the right things, and how they handle the obstacles they're presented," Joe Voci, the show's executive producer, said. "The song presented a mood, tone and feel that is optimistic and implies a sense of adventure."

"I think they chose the song for the same reason we put it on the album," Boots said. "It's immediate and happy and has a groove to it."

The version of "Six Pacs" heard on the show, which debuts July 12, will not include the lyrical reference to cigarettes, which the band changed at the producers' request.

Turnpike Diaries features several guest appearances, including the Roots' Rhazel on "Come Love Me" (RealAudio excerpt), Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer on "Sleepwalkin' " and Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley on "Open Your Mind" (RealAudio excerpt). From the pop-soul heartbreak of "Deceived by an Angel" to the reggae-influenced stylings of "Sleepwalkin' " and the Beck-like "Soi Cowboy," the album is populated by an international flavor.

That approach is in many ways a result of Boots' background and education. At the University of Newcastle, he wrote his master's thesis on the cultural differences between Cameroonian and African émigrés living in Norway, and later worked with Worldview Rights, an international group that uses media and communications technology to promote democracy and human rights.

Work Extended In Art

"Their motto is they want to be a voice for the voiceless," Boots said. Among other projects, Worldview establishes short-wave radio networks in nondemocratic societies such as Tibet and Burma. Boots helped establish such a network in Nigeria by smuggling reporters out of the country and into a technical college in Norway, where Nigerians broadcast uncensored news back to Nigeria on short-wave radio.

Boots also has been active in the struggle to free Tibet from Chinese rule, and was chosen to interview the Dalai Lama in 1996 at the Nobel Peace Prize concert. In May, Boots met the Dalai Lama again when the Getaway People performed at a Worldview Rights-sponsored conference.

"We stood in his grace and felt like all our troubles had been lifted from our backs," Boots said, adding that the Dalai Lama's main theme at the conference was simple.

"Basically, he said to smile more, but mean it at all times and be yourself; it helps if someone important says it, you know? If you look at the Getaway People lyrically, that's how we've tried to carry ourselves. It's all about being honest."

The Getaway People — whose lineup also includes keyboard player/vocalist Honda, guitarist/vocalist Stone, bass player/vocalist Race and drummer/programmer Leroy — formed in 1994 in Stavanger, Norway. After recording their debut in Norway in 1997, the band signed with Columbia Records in America, who re-released The Getaway People in 1998.