We first took note of Kate Havnevik back in 2006 with the release of her debut, Melankton. A string of successful sync-licences saw the majority of the tracks on that album used on American TV and film and brought the half-Norwegian/half-English singer-songwriter sudden attention and success.

Having grown up in Oslo playing the piano, flute and guitar, she joined an all-female punk band at the age of 14, although her sound subsequently evolved towards poppier climes with her discovery of Kate Bush. Frequent collaboration with Guy Sigsworth has ensured that electro leanings and catchy choruses have permeated Havnevik's output, as latterly evidenced by her new long-player, &I.

The 405 met up with Havnevik last year during her visit to London to watch her idol, Kate Bush's Before The Dawn. She played us the tracks from &I and told us about how they came about, as well as the stories behind them. In this Listening Guide to the album we bring you some of her thoughts.

Our first proper introduction to this album came with 'Micronation' last year...

Guy and I wrote 'Micronation' a while back. It was this whole idea about having a micronation of one's own. I was reading about The Principality of Sealand, in the North Sea and it's basically like a platform out at sea, in the middle of nowhere and it's declared its own country - they have their own money and they have the Lord and Lady of Sealand [laughs]. Guy and I got very fascinated by them creating their own world in this way. It was a very evocative idea to write about. Part of me also regards it as Peter Pan-ish, you know - Neverland. So there is also something playful about it.

The song 'Mine' sounds a lot like a bridge between your first and second albums. Would you agree with this assessment?

Yes, that makes sense. That song has been around for quite a while and we've had different versions of it over that period. It's light and synthy and I love the drive of it. It's a mix of those two records, absolutely. It was a struggle getting it right and there were a few parts of the song which Guy and I were really fond of but which we ended up having to leave out because it sounded better edited, even though those parts were really amazing [laughs].

When that happens in the studio, do you find it difficult to let go of those elements?

Yes, it is hard to do that. There was this piano part in this song which I loved but had to go. But I might incorporate some of those bits in the live performance. These days, there are endless production possibilities but at some point you just have to stop. Guy is an extreme perfectionist so we do occasionally find it difficult to let go. I love it when songs naturally feel like "it's done", you know? But with others, you keep questioning yourself- is it finished? Should we try something else with it? I guess, in the end, it's time that stops you. You can't keep going round in circles because you might just run out of time.

If I understand correctly, the song is about amnesia. Is that right?

Well, the idea for it came to me after watching a television programme about people who had lost their memories. Do I know you? Imagine confronting a person you've been with for, like, ten years and not remembering that they were your husband or wife. You have to learn the whole story again. It's a blank canvas, you don't know whether you were happy or unhappy with that person. You are trying to build everything from this later-on point. That sparked the whole idea for the lyrics.

'Falling' is definitely up there with your catchiest moments...

Oh, thanks. It's one of the most recent tracks we wrote for the record. We'd written it and I'd improvised some sort of guide-vocal but then there was a long gap in time during which Guy changed studios and I went off doing other stuff and suddenly we listened to the demo and thought it sounded really good, so we basically had very little time. So I just wrote the lyrics there and then. I had a short period within which to do it because I was due to return to Norway the next day and I wrote the lyrics with an easy and quick flow, which really worked. It felt like a nice way to work. The song is about not really knowing if you are in the relationship or out of the relationship, you know - if it is actually working. There's that limbo of the in-between. It felt like a positive experience to finish the song and I felt that everything Guy did on it was right. The speed we then finished it was quite refreshing to me.

My favourite track on &I is 'Emperor of Nowhere'. What can you tell me about the song?

This is the most recent song which Guy and I did for the album. It's about someone who wants to be the king of everything but they don't have the content or anything to support that aspiration. It's that way of viewing yourself as someone important but without carrying much substance behind that. It's also about being lost, a person who is lost in the world.

It sounds much darker than the rest of the songs on the album. How did it come about?

We wrote it in May last year and it still feels relatively fresh. Generally, I don't have one way of writing songs. I play guitar and piano so sometimes I just start with melodic ideas on those instruments, a chord or a couple of chords on piano or guitar. Guy mainly starts with keyboards, so we try different things with keyboards and vocals, we record the idea and then listen back. We pick out words or ideas that we like and that might become the title or the overall idea for the song. Then, usually when we have a strong melodic idea or a sense of subject then I would dive into the lyric writing and fill the palette with words that belong to that story. Then it develops into something that fits together, in terms of words and melody. The lyrics really have to work well with the music, for me. I've always felt stronger as a melody person - the lyrics are usually a little more of a challenge for me. With 'Emperor' I think I was getting at people who really want to achieve something with a sense of importance about themselves but they don't actually really know what they are doing, so it then works against them because they are not humble enough. It's a hollow ambition. But they haven't done anything or contributed anything to the world.

'Still We Shine' is one of the tracks you didn't work with Guy on this time round...

That's right. I wrote that song with Sean McGhee who I went to college with. I had this demo of it which was very different to this version. It had a lot of guitar on it but it didn't sound quite right. I took the vocals and gave them to my friend Carmen Rizzo who did 'Travel In Time' with me for the first record and he put this bass-line on it which was very dubby and chilled out. The vocals were just floating and I really liked that. So I took his idea and produced it with Sean and put synth lines which suited it better. I loved being involved in the production of it. It's a warm, loving song and feels close to my heart. There's a nostalgic feel to it.

What's the story behind 'Signals'?

It's darker and spooky in a way and it's about people shutting themselves off. People you love, like family or close friends. And you're unable to reach through to them and its not clear why. Usually, of course, it's because they're having their own issues. And it can be frustrating. I wanted to write about the darkness of shutting yourself off from the world and my frustration of not being able to get through or reach that person. You know, getting a Christmas present returned to you, unopened. There is a person like this in my life and I just wanted to express to them that the door is open, whenever you're ready. Any time. We wrote the song in Poland and it's one of those Guy and Kate tracks where we start with a sound idea in the studio and then I write the melody and lyrics on top of it. We didn't finish it until much later, when we found a way to make it blossom.

'River' is a bit of a new direction for you. Much more of a 'banger' than people have come to expect from an upbeat Kate Havnevik song, isn't it.

[Laughs] yes. It feels a bit like in the spirit of 'New Day'. It's a collaboration with Sultan and Ned Shepard who are big DJs and producers from Canada. I met them because I did a tour with Schiller a couple of years ago and this other singer called Nadia Ali, who is a big dance artist, was also on tour. We became friends and they are her main collaborators and she was skyping with them one day and said they love my music and want to say hi. After the tour we exchanged emails and quite a while afterwards they sent me some tracks and asked if I wanted to write on them. I loved this particular song. I loved the flute on it because both my parents are flautists and it sounded great to me. So I wrote 'The River' and took a long break from it because I wasn't sure what the song was going to be part of but in the end we decided it would be on my record, which I am really happy about. I am really proud of it. I really like the journey of it - it has changed and evolved and we added strings to it. It's doesn't necessarily sound like 'New Day' but it really reminds me of it. I like that you don't get to the chorus until 3 minutes in - it's got space to breathe and a nice journey to it.

The other spanner-in-the-works surprise on the album is 'Rocks In The Ocean'.

That's another song I did with Sean McGhee and my Norwegian friend, Petter Haavik, who is more of a techno artist, although this song really isn't techno at all. It's pacey but dark. Definitely not a typical Kate song. It's quirky, I guess. Same with 'Emotional', which is much more aggressive and therefore, again, it's not a very typical me track. Before we had a name for it, the working title was 'Angry Kate' [laughs]. It is nice to have a variation to the sound. It is very electronic and Guy's production is very dynamic.

Finally, you mentioned that lyrics tend to be a little more of a challenge for you. Do you think this is because English is not your first language?

No, I don't think so. I just think I have always been more of a musician than a lyricist. I could write instrumental music but because I sing I want to sing words. I do love the lyrical side of it - you know, sometimes songs would start with a sentence that I come up with. But I feel like it is easier for me to get the music done first and it is then a bit more of a challenge to get the lyrics right. I love writing lyrics with Guy, for instance, because he is English and he has read different books to me and has had a different life to me and, therefore, his vocabulary is different. But together we match up, somehow, so that my Norwegian English way of expressing things makes for a nice combination with his very English way.

Kate Havnevik's &I is out on 13 March on Continentica.