From the North Woods to Norway

Wisconsin grad’s music career takes off overseas


North Woods to Norway

Photo courtesy of Alex Eichstaedt
Alex Eichstadt, a Wisconsin native, arrived in Oslo to work as a software engineer. When the pandemic hit, he knew he needed something more, so he turned to music, and his musical career took off.

Christina Brandmeier
Vilas Country News

Alex Eichstaedt, 27, never thought he’d live anywhere but Wisconsin, let alone move to Norway and become a viral music sensation for a song he wrote that positively affected society. But sometimes, life has a better plan, and the road to success isn’t always linear.

The Waukesha native and Eagle River summer resident always had a passion for music but decided to pursue a career as a software engineer after graduating from UW-Madison with computer engineering and computer science degrees. “I didn’t want to put all my eggs in the music basket,” Eichstaedt said.

“My family was by no means rich, so I knew I would need a job that could make some money as a backup plan.”

He was hoping to settle in Milwaukee or Madison. After several months of job searching, he made it to the last round of interviews at two Wisconsin companies but ultimately lost both opportunities to other candidates.

“It was a total gut punch,” Eichstaedt recalled. “So when I got a LinkedIn message from a Norwegian recruiter, I was eager to explore the opportunity.”

Norway calling

The message from Norway didn’t come entirely out of the blue. During his senior year, Eichstaedt studied abroad at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, where, according to Eichstaedt, “not a single student had gone to in over five years.”

His love of progressive electronic music helped him decide to visit.

“I had never heard of the city before, and the name sounded strange, but I knew that Kygo was from Norway, and he was probably my second favorite producer of all time after Avicii,” Eichstaedt said.

When he received the job offer for a position as a software engineer in Oslo, he was both excited and hesitant but knew deep down it was something he had to do.

“Worst case, if I didn’t like it, I could come home in a year and say I gave it a shot. So, I decided I would go for it,” Eichstaedt said. “However, I never anticipated a multi-year pandemic hitting just months after my arrival.”

Pandemic + heartbreak = new album

A couple of months into the pandemic, the Norwegian girl Eichstaedt was dating broke up with him suddenly. “I was in total shock and caught off guard. There I was, alone in a pandemic lockdown, completely heartbroken,” he said.

To make matters worse, Norway had instituted a five-person rule where people were only allowed to meet with a group of five closest friends or family. Eichstaedt wasn’t in anyone’s group of five, so he turned to music to help him cope.

“The album Overseas started from the heartbreak to express my feelings and keep my mind off the situation,” Eichstaedt said.

It took two and a half years as he produced all the beats, mixed and mastered the project himself.

“When I finally put Overseas out, I thought it was going to be ‘the one’ because of the story and emotions it captured,” Eichstaedt said.

Thanks to the haters

But Eichstaedt’s best-laid plans went awry, and he faced criticism instead of praise for his hard work. The album, released under the name Ike Music, a play on his last name, was made fun of by Norwegians, who instead called him Ikke Musikk, which happens to mean “Not Music” in Norwegian.

“I think they called me ‘Not Music’ because my style was so different than anything else in the Norwegian music scene, which is significantly stronger than the Wisconsin music scene,” Eichstaedt said.

Eichstaedt, fueled by others writing him off, wasn’t about to quit and chose to dig in and get back to work. “Over the following months after the Overseas release, I worked on this one beat in particular.

Eichstaedt records in studio

“I could feel it was different. It was a banger. And one day, I just freestyled over it. The thing was, I had freestyled the chorus in Norwegian. I always draw from real-life experiences when I freestyle, and the chorus came out edgy and with punch,” Eichstaedt said.

The song was “Tusen Takk 4 All My Haters”—“A Thousand Thanks for All My Haters.” Instead of releasing it under the name Ike Music, as he had previously, he decided to turn the tables and go by the name the negative Norwegians had given him—Ikke Musikk.

Going viral

“Ikke Musikk” released the song with $0 in marketing, making it the first song he didn’t spend any money on since high school. On the first day, it had 60 streams on Spotify. The next night, he posted a video of it on TikTok before heading off to a friend’s birthday party.

The following day, after he recovered from his night out and finally charged his dead phone, he found he had an unusual amount of messages, one of which read, “Bro, check your TikTok!”

In less than 24 hours, the video had 59,000 views, thousands of likes, hundreds of comments and over a thousand shares. The video continued to amplify, garnering over 220,000-plus views, 8,000-plus shares and 10,000-plus likes. Norway’s most prominent musicians commented, saying the song was one of the best ones out.

Not Norwegian

The most famous lyric in the song is “Først, jeg er ikke norsk,” meaning “First, I’m not Norwegian.” Memes started pouring in with the saying. Quickly, a new nickname developed—Ikke Norsk (Not Norwegian).

Eichstaedt believes the song went viral because that line resonated deeply with other people living in Norway who felt like outsiders, such as the immigrant community.

“For the first two years of my time in Norway, I had tried very hard to be Norwegian,” Eichstaedt said. “It was a status symbol, but that had changed overnight. It became cool, almost more cool, to be ikke norsk instead of norsk.”

He says he received many messages from both men and women reflecting this sentiment, calling him an inspiration.

“The impact on the culture is without a doubt the greatest feeling I have ever had, far greater than any number of streams or money made,” Eichstaedt said. “It’s really hard to describe how good it feels to have a positive impact on a society and culture like that.”

The big three

The song eventually climbed to No. 2 on Spotify’s Most Viral in Norway list, and that’s when all three major record labels came calling, including Universal, Sony, and Warner. While exciting, the experience of meeting with labels—a dream for most musicians—was ultimately disillusioning.

“The main reason I declined the offers from the labels was because they were rushing to sign me. I felt like I would sign a bad deal; none of the labels believed in my musical ability like I wanted them to,” Eichstaedt said. “They thought I got lucky.”

He did agree to do a one-song remix deal with Universal Music. The remix came out about a month after the original and exploded on the Top 30 on Spotify on its first day. Eichstaedt went from 0 listeners to over 100,000 in less than two months, officially making him what he called a “certified musical internet sensation.”

Lessons learned

Reflecting on the experience, Eichstaedt said, “I learned that what you thought would be the end goal may be just a stepping stone in a grander story. For example, most people would think getting a record label offer would be ‘it.’

“In reality, it wasn’t how I thought it would be. No one will believe in you as much as you.”

He adds that the most important thing he learned is that it’s not about being perfect but being understood. “Whether it’s in music or life, perfection does not exist. Letting go of that idea super-charged my musical takeoff and helped me meet friends and fit into society much better in Norway.”

Heading north

Regarding the future, Eichstaedt said returning home to conquer the music scene in Wisconsin and the United States is a goal. But for now, Eichstaedt is only looking as far ahead as this summer in Eagle River.

“Eagle River has always been what I describe to Norwegians as paradise. The ability to live in the moment in the North Woods and on the lake is unmatched.” He says it reminds him he’s still the same person he’s always been—just a kid from Wisconsin.


This article first appeared in the Feb, 22, 2024, edition of the Vilas County News-Review and was reprinted with permission. Visit:

You can learn more about Alex Eichstaedt and IKE music at


This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.