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Alex Eichstaedt performing at a rooftop venue.
February 12, 2024

Study abroad leads to music success in Norway for ECE grad

Written By: Staff


Many people identify themselves by where they come from. But for University of Wisconsin–Madison alumnus Alex Eichstaedt, the opposite is true. The phrase “Først, jeg er ikke norsk,” or “First, I’m not Norwegian,” recently became central to his identity and the source of internet fame as an up-and-coming musician.

Alex Eichstaedt
Alex Eichstaedt

In the fall of 2018, after a five-month study abroad program at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Eichstaedt returned to Wisconsin, planning on staying for good. But not long after graduating with a degree in computer engineering and computer science, in May, 2019, Norway came calling again.

A recruiter at a company in Oslo offered Eichstaedt a job as a software engineer, and he headed back to Scandinavia, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. He quickly found himself isolated and questioning his decision to move, but he was determined to see his journey through.

“Deep down in my gut I had this belief that I had to stay. I didn’t come here just to run back with my tail between my legs,” Eichstaedt says.

To pass the time, he decided to lean into a childhood passion for music and spent the pandemic artfully crafting an album titled “Overseas.” However, with what Eichstaedt describes as “characteristic directness,” the Norwegian music scene wasn’t a fan of his album.

“People would recognize me and call me Ikke Musikk which translates to ‘not music,’” says Eichstaedt.

Instead of letting that deter him, he decided to turn the tables and playfully adopted the name, using the negativity as creative fuel. From that came his defiant anthem called “Tusen Takk 4 All My Haters” (A Thousand Thanks for All My Haters). This song was more than just a cheeky musical response to the criticism and cold shoulder that his album received. For Eichstaedt, it was the transformation from which he began embracing the “outsider” or “Not Music” persona.

“I realized it’s not so bad to be ‘Not Music,’ to be an antihero,” he says.

Overnight, the catchy and rebellious anthem went viral on TikTok, sparking a movement with its central message: “Først, jeg er ikke norsk,” meaning “first, I’m not Norwegian.” This opening line resonated deeply with many, from immigrants feeling like outsiders to Norwegians who, despite being native, felt a sense of exclusion.

The song quickly gained traction, not only with his newfound fans but also with those who had previously dismissed his creative pursuits. Kevin Lauren, a popular artist in Norway’s music scene, publicly praised Eichstaedt’s newest release. This endorsement further skyrocketed the song’s popularity.

Lauren invited Eichstaedt to collaborate and together they released a remix titled “Ikke Norsk,” which quickly climbed the charts, landing in the top 30 on Spotify in Norway. Eichstaedt found himself charting alongside worldwide sensations like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd.

Before he knew it, he was being recognized in stores, stopped for photos and invited to perform at events and concerts. He would try to explain who he was by introducing himself as the ‘Not Music’ guy. “I’m from outside of Norway. And they’re like, ‘Oh, I know you. You’re Ikke Norsk!’” said Eichstaedt.

He was invited on multiple podcasts and other popular artists soon voiced their support as well. Not long after, major labels like Sony and Universal were knocking. Eichstaedt decided to remain independent and instead now collaborates with Universal Studios while maintaining autonomy over his music.

While he’s enjoying his fame, Eichstaedt has no plans to leave his job as a software developer. He says he likes living a double life as both Alex and Ikke. “I do feel that there’s advantages in music, from understanding engineering topics and concepts, so I’m always trying to blend the two,” he says.

A version of this story was originally published by the International Division of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Top photo caption: Alex Eichstaedt performing at a rooftop venue. Submitted photo.