Per Gessle: “I often cry” – Aftonbladet interview

Aftonbladet published an interview with Per Gessle on 25th April. he interview was done by Jan-Olov Andersson. The title already grabs your attention and you get curious about what Mr. G has to tell.

Jan-Olov states that even if Per has sold 80 million albums so far, he is not tired of it all. When they meet to talk about the new album, the love towards his wife, his role as a father and missing those who have passed away, both artists and those in his family, Per reveals what makes him extra fond of meeting his fans.

According to Jan-Olov, ”En vacker natt” is one of the best albums Per has ever made. Per says he wanted to write lyrics-based music, with his voice and acoustic guitars. It wouldn’t be pop, but thoughtfully beautiful music. Sentimental, but not tearful. It was quite easy to write and he also noticed that it became much more private than what he wrote earlier. Country sentimentality didn’t come until Per came to Nashville and met the musicians, especially Dan Dugmore and Stuart Duncan, who play pedal steel and violin. Then Mr. G felt shit, they don’t need strings, guitar loops or piano. It was something that was created in the moment.

Even if ”Småstadsprat”, the duet with Lars Winnerbäck is played extensively on the radio, Per wasn’t sure how the audience’s reception would be. He means there is no ”radio bomb” on the album and some might think the music is too slow and the violin is too whiny.

Per says that’s amazingly fascinating about his job is that one can never predict what will happen. It might not be an album for everyone, in times of Spotify, when some only listen to 24 seconds of a song. This is from another tradition. It has probably taken 58 years of Per’s life to come to a point where he dares to do it.

Jan-Olov asks Per how he will combine this country melancholy with all his previous hits. Mr. G says his original idea was to select songs from his entire songwriter career. Roxette, solo and Gyllene Tider songs. He feels that with the band he goes on tour, including a pedal steel and a violin player, he has the opportunity to change even the other songs a little bit. But he hasn’t decided yet how exactly.

Regarding Roxette, Per says the last touring years they did on Marie’s terms. That they had to cancel the tour he understands and respects Marie to 100000%. He says it felt nice that Marie herself made the decision, she could decide if it was on or off. Per says Marie and he talk sometimes, not every day. They had dinner together a few weeks ago. She is fine that she doesn’t have the stress and pressure now. That was crucial. Having 10000 people in the audience waiting…, she now feels damn good that she doesn’t have to deliver this way.

After Roxette was over, Per was thinking about what to do. Jan-Olov thought Per had hundreds of songs ready on stock, but Mr. G says the only ones he has is a few left-overs from earlier recordings. Otherwise, he doesn’t write until he knows he would make a record.

Per says he always has the antennas out. It might be something a taxi driver says, something he heard on TV or saw at the cinema. If he goes to a clothing store in London and hears a groove he likes, he records it on his iPhone. Jan-Olov asks Per what he is doing with all of these things. Mr. G says he has an idea archive. Titles, verses, words he thinks can be exciting, which can open doors. Often when he is in a writing phase, if he fails in the second verse, he can go to the archive and see if he finds something that fits.

Per talks about the fact that he uses symbols in the lyrics. If we look at his Swedish texts, there is a lot of sea and summer. He never tries to show the way, say how things are, he rather tries to let people form their own view. Then he has to use symbols. Like tussilago in ”Småstadsprat”. That means everything goes on, you get a new chance.

Per tells Jan-Olov that when people say they sing his songs on weddings or birthdays and say it’s about them, about their boyfriend or about their siblings, that they have interpreted it that way, it’s the coolest thing for a songwriter. He says then he knows he has succeeded. Mr. G says many of the lyrics that meant a lot to him, by Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, he feels like they are about him. He mentions that it was Mauro Scocco who once said it doesn’t happen often that you go and look at a sculpture and start crying. But the identification, it’s so amazingly awesome with music.

To Jan-Olov’s question if he cries often Per replies he is a weepy type when it comes to movies, in the most ridiculous context. He thinks it’s super sentimental when, for example, you portray injustice in a movie. He cries a lot more often than Åsa. She thinks it’s great fun. Per says men are raised to try to hide it.

The guys are talking about several rock icons who have passed away lately. Jan-Olov asks Per if any of them touched him extra much. Per says David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. Bowie was a shock, the day after his birthday, they were on vacation. Cohen was old, Per tried to see him as often as he could in recent years. His feeling influenced his record quite much. Girl choruses that give an angelic sense. So sometimes he uses Helena Josefsson’s voice, already since ”Mazarin”.

Jan-Olov asks Per about Sven-Erik Magnusson from Sven-Ingvars, who has died recently. Per says he wrote some songs to them. He can’t say he knew Sven-Erik very well, but he always felt young. Sven-Ingvars was a fantastic band. Their ‘60s hits can’t be copied. Listen to ”Börja om från början”. Highest elite! But when Per was young, they didn’t like the band had a ridiculous name and the guys had short hair. Back then everyone wanted to look like The Beatles on the ”Rubber Soul” cover.

Per Gessle was still living at home when Gyllene Tider became Sweden’s most popular band. His brother Bengt, who was 7 years older than Per and his sister Gunilla, who was 14 years older than him, had moved from home. Per’s father Kurt, who ran his own company as a plumber, passed away when Per was 19 years old. So when he suddenly became famous throughout Sweden, it was he and his mother who were affected. Jan-Olov asks if Per’s mother understood the strange journey Per has done. Mr. G says yes and no. He lived home for quite a while and it was so terribly hysterical around Gyllene Tider. Everyone who rang the door, the huge amount of mails, things stolen from number plates on the car to the laundry on dry. But the Roxette stuff, his mom thought it was amazing and she was always reminded of success by the people in her vicinity, but she understood just enough. She was barely outside Sweden, she was in France once. When Per showed pictures and videos she said worried: Ojojoj, I hope you take care of yourselves. Bengt passed away in spring 2014, Per’s mother Elisabeth 3.5 years ago and his sister last autumn, in cancer. Per says he hasn’t had any depression, but when your relatives die, you find other values important. Losing them certainly affected him and probably his new album too. Old photos of Gunilla and Elisabeth now are on the 2 new albums’ covers.

Per says that a lot of lyrics he has written now required a whole life to mature. He says a few years ago sometimes he drove past the house where he grew up. Now he doesn’t do it anymore, they have changed so much so you hardly recognize it. It’s strange that you want to do it, but it’s also human. When time passes you become restless, you want to belong to something. You imagine how it was, but it looks quite different. It’s like in Per Myrberg’s song ”34:an”.

Now his family is his wife Åsa, they have been together since Per was 25, and his son Gabriel, 19. To the question why Gabriel came so late Per replies his life was much about his career and Åsa was so involved in it. Organized the travelling and such. They prioritized their job. Marie set the trend when she became pregnant. She had two children, so we also took the opportunity. Roxette took four years of child break.

Jan-Olov asks Per how he is as a father. Per says he shouldn’t ask him, but he thinks he has a great relationship with Gabriel. His upbringing is quite special. There has been a lot of travelling, sometimes he had a teacher on the tours. Per thinks Gabbe has become a very easy going, normal guy. He has surely got it from his parents. Per says they are quite common people, even if it doesn’t seem so in the media.

Jan-Olov asks Per how he and Åsa have managed to keep their love alive for so long. According to Per, it’s probably just because they are pretty alike but still different. They fit well together. Per can’t see his life without Åsa. They have never had any heavy schisms, even if sometimes they think different. To the question about what, hereplies small things. Shoes choice or something like that… (laughs).

In the video which is inlcuded in the article, Per is asked about the similarity between him and Lars Winnerbäck. The reporter says if he listens to Per’s first solo album from 1983, it sounds like anything from Lars. Per couldn’t really get what he meant. He says he hasn’t listened to it since long and asks the reporter if he likes the album. The guy says yes, absolutely. Per says Lars is a fantastic songwriter and artist and Per is very happy and proud that he is on his new album now. He is a wonderful person. That he is also a small town guy, it fits well for ”Småstadsprat”.

 

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