En vacker RoxBlog interview with Per Gessle

After Per Gessle’s new album, ”En vacker natt” was released, several questions popped up in my mind. I was reading and watching all the interviews with him, but many questions had no answers in any of them. So it was obvious there is a need for a RoxetteBlog interview and so I put all the Qs together and sent them in hope for answers.

We all know that Mr. G is faster than a shot from a gun, but while he is in the middle of a signing session tour, doing a lot of promo stuff and other interviews, you would think it would take much more time than just 2-3 days to have the answers. Not in his case! Yesterday I had the chance to meet him in Malmö and his answers were sent back to me before the signing session started. I was already prepared to ask him not be ”angry” with me because of those many Qs, but this way it was far much better. I could thank him in person! I told him I didn’t expect him to send the answers back so fast. He said it’s incredible that there are many interviews with him, but there are still this many Qs that weren’t asked by others. I told him I thought he might have felt tortured because of this. He said no, no. It’s a long interview, but he had a long flight and at least he had something to do while flying, so all fine. You must love him!

When you will read on, you might get the feeling that the long flight was coming to an end fast towards the last questions, related to the tour. On the other hand, all ”could be”-s sound rather ”yes” or ”partly yes” in my ears. Or… let’s see what happens! 😉

I’d like to thank D&D Management for their cooperation and of course, thanx a million to Mr. G for the answers. Very much appreciated!

So, now to the interview. Besides all the detailed info about the new album and the recording sessions, you will find out what Per thinks about Roxette’s future and you’ll have some hints regarding the upcoming tour as well. You’ll even read about a y.u.m.m.y. surprise release for the first time here! What can I say? Mahi Nana! Enjoy!

Patrícia Peres: – Hej Per! First of all, thank you very much in advance for taking your time to answer all nerdish Qs coming here! In each interview and in your posts it shines through that the ”En vacker…” project is a love project for you. How does it feel that you get so much positive feedback on the first album?

Per Gessle: – Hello Patricia, hope you’re doing fine. As always I’m very flattered that people are connecting in a positive way to my songs. You can never take that for granted. As you know, it’s been ten years since I did a Swedish solo album and so many things have changed. Not only in the ”real world” but also in the music industry. It can be really hard for artists my age to cut through the enormous amount of music and information that surrounds us. It’s pretty competitive out there. But I’ve been lucky this time. Hopefully the album will grow organically, more and more people will hear it and eventually it will be a part of their lives just like Mazarin became in 2003. That would be lovely.  And I’m really proud of the records.

PP: – There were no leaks, everything seemed to be in order regarding the release and there is much promo around the album. It’s a perfectly organized release. Do you think so too?

PG: – Yes, it’s all been handled beautifully by Her Majesty Queen Marie Dimberg together with her sausage dog Harry + Josef Hermansson and Lotta Eriksson at Space Station 12 together with media mastermind Liza Berthelsen together with Sanken, Sebastian and Johanna at BMG together with Bosse-the-radioguru together with the distribution folks at Sony. So many people are involved in this release and they’re all bringing positive energy to the project. I’m a lucky guy.

PP: – The albums are released on Space Station 12 in cooperation with Sony / BMG. What is the role of SS12 and what is that of Sony / BMG?

PG: – SS12 is the home office, BMG is handling marketing and Sony is responsible for physical products, like CDs and LPs.

PP: – The first album’s title is ”En vacker natt”, then there is the summer tour, ”En vacker kväll” and in September comes the second album, ”En vacker dag”. Is it intentional that the timeline is in reverse order (instead of dag -> kväll -> natt)?

PG: – Yes, when we were mixing the records I decided that was the only way to go. Backwards. I have this song ”En vacker dag” which opens the second album and since I wanted it on album nr 2 that dictated the titles of the two records.

PP: – Does the first album contain more ”night” songs and the second more ”day” songs? Or how did you decide which songs to put on which album?

PG: – Well, there are no big differences between the albums. They basically got the same vibe. They’re all from the same sessions. Same coffee machine. As always I’ve tried to make running orders that make each album as strong and vibrant as possible and also ”easy” to get into and listen to. The tempos and keys have to be right etc.

PP: – We know you see songs in colors. Can you tell what color the album has in your mind? Does the ”color coding” in the booklet mean the color of the songs?

PG: – No, the colour coding in the booklets was done by Pär Wickholm. He did an excellent job. He’s really talented. For me the album contains lots of nuances from the 60’s and 70’s, beautiful shades, not too bright. Just like the pictures on the albums. Or like old polaroids. It’s getting pretty sentimental here and there.

PP: – The album is quite melancholic. Could you tell us which song in music history you think is the most melancholic?

PG: – Oh, there are so many songs that mesmerize you and make you slow down a bit. ”Duncan” by Paul Simon. ”Let the wind carry me” by Joni Mitchell. ”Bird on a wire” by Leonard Cohen. ”Sweetheart like you” by Bob Dylan. ”Pancho and Lefty” by Townes van Zandt. Songs that change your life forever. Powerful stuff.

PP: – You listen to the songs uncountable times during the recording, mixing etc. phases. How does it work after everything is done and the album is ready to be released and you have to say a final OK? Do you listen to the album from A to Z? In what circumstances? How did it happen with ”En vacker natt”?

PG: – For these particular records I had the running orders pretty much in place before we began to mix so we decided to start mixing song nr 1 (Min plats) and go from there. But with every mix the big picture altered a bit and in the end you have made quite a lot of changes. Sometimes songs get a different vibe in the mix. You remember it to have a certain attitude or feel but maybe it doesn’t when you’re done with it! Maybe it feels short. Or too long. It’s all about the emotion. Since I still think in terms of ”albums” it’s important for me to find the perfect spot for every track so they ”help” and assist each other. For instance, I didn’t want ”Tittar på dej när du dansar” too early on the first album since I want to give the listener four or five songs before the first classic ”pop song” occurs.

PP: – When we interviewed you after Roxette’s ”Good Karma” release, you said you think 40 minutes is a perfect length for an album. Now we got a 32-minute-long record. What’s the case with this length?

PG: – Well, there were two options. To release one album that was 64-65 minutes long or to split everything in two parts. Personally, I think an hours worth of music at once is much too much so the choice was pretty obvious.

PP: – The opening song, ”Min plats” sets the tone of the album and you say without ”Allt gick så fort” this project wouldn’t have come alive at all. Then it’s surprising a bit that the first single is not one of these 2 songs you seem to find the most important on the album, but a third one. How has ”Småstadsprat” become a single?

PG: – I told my partners-in-crime I’m not really that interested in releasing singles at all. However if they (SS12+BMG) prefer any of the songs as a ”teaser” for the album I’m open to anything. The duet with LW made sense since it was a very media-friendly choice for Sweden and Norway. Everyone got curious. And it’s a good song, I love it. But then again, I love them all!! This is not a project built on hit singles, this needs more attention than that.

PP: – The single was released digitally only and there were some promo singles issued. Why no physical release? It’s not too collector-friendly.

PG: – I know. However, there will most likely be a physical release of ”Småstadsprat” in a couple of weeks. We should have done that to begin with. Our mistake. You live and learn.

PP: – Anyway, collectors are crazy to pay an unbelievable amount of money for this promo single on Tradera. It’s sold for much more than your Peter Pop and the Helicopters single. How about that?

PG: – People are crazy. But you have to love the kings and queens of Nerdom.

PP: – You mentioned in interviews that there is no radio bomb on the album. But Swedish radio seems to play ”Småstadsprat” heavily. How does it feel?

PG: – Well, I’m very happy about this of course. I didn’t expect that at all. Maybe it’s because it stands out. Nothing on commercial radio sounds like ”Småstadsprat”.

PP: – Will there be a 2nd single off the album? If yes, can we get to know which song it is?

PG: – Yes, there will be another one and it will most likely be ”Tittar på dej när du dansar”. It’s got a great summer vibe to it, don’t you think?

PP (& Kiwein): – After listening to the album so many times, it feels that it could easily be used as a soundtrack to a movie. Are there any soundtrack plans in sight?

PG: – No, but I would love that. I would start working on it within the hour! Let’s tune the guitar!

PP: – Which song do you think has the best title on ”En vacker natt”? Which one do you think makes one curious about the album?

PG: – Titles are very important to me. It’s the first impression you get from a song. I like all of them. They make me interested and curious. ”Några glas rosé” was a title I had played around with for a while. I love that one.

PP: – Now in the digital era, in the times of streaming, it’s known that more than one third of the listeners skip a song after 30 seconds on Spotify. From this point of view, which song would you suggest to start listening to, so that the listener gets to know what the album is about and maybe decides not to skip?

PG: – You’re right and it’s totally stupid and silly and mindblowing when you think about it. I don’t want to play that game. This is not music for that type of restless audience. The whole idea with these two albums is that you have to give them time and get into the vibe and let yourself be seduced by this particular musical universe. I think you should start with ”Min plats” where you get eight seconds of waves and seagulls as a bonus!

PP: – When you start singing on ”Enkel resa”, one immediately has the feeling that he/she could sing along, because the lyrics sound familiar. Then we realize it’s a bit of ”Blåa jeans (och röda läppar)”. Haha. I love your recycling habit and the way you do that! How did these lyrics came into sight for this project?

PG: – I re-wrote that lyric from 1982 so it fit MP’s chords that eventually became ”Enkel resa”. I’ve always liked some parts of the words and the quotation-style but not until now have they made sense to me. Something was missing and I finally grabbed it. Probably thanks to MP’s weird chord progression.

PP: – One could sense it and in your ”song by song comments” you confirmed that ”Första pris” and ”Far Too Close” were originally written for Roxette. When did you write them, for which Roxette album?

PG: – Both were written for ”Good Karma” but we never worked on them for several reasons. The ”original” version of ”Första pris” is called ”The Finest Prize”.

PP: – How much did you change the lyrics of ”Första pris” when you decided to do it in Swedish? Have you recorded an English demo to it?

PG: – I tried to capture the same lyrical idea about a woman and a man living in their own universe. Content and strangely unaffected by life’s rewards. Yes, there are several English demos recorded.  Tits & Ass have been on fire with this one!

PP: – Talking about Roxette, we are happy that you mention in interviews that Marie is fine. Good to have some news about her every now and then. In interviews you say that the touring period with Roxette is 100% over, which we have known since April 2016, but you also mention here and there that you don’t think you will record together again. Why do you think it won’t happen in the future?

PG: – I don’t think it will happen because of Marie’s situation. She can’t really be involved in the process of making Roxette records anymore and without her taking a major part it’s no point for me to make those recordings. Roxette is the two of us working together, not me, Chris & Clarence making records with Marie just singing on them.

PP: – Back to the album and the songs, you said it took only 20 minutes to record Savannah Church on ”Far Too Close”, because she was singing so well. Which song took the most time to record and why?

PG: – Everything went really fast. The only song that was a little tricky was ”Några glas rosé” since it doesn’t have any obvious chorus and five verses. There’s always a chance you’ll find it tiresome and long when you have a song structure like that. But we managed to work it out, making a key change for the violin solo and edit the ending section of the song. The original recording was much longer.

PP: – Mahi Nana is the new Sha la la! ”Tittar på dej när du dansar” is probably the most liked ”En vacker natt” song by those who have always been a Per Up-(or at least Mid-)tempo Gessle fan. Sha la la and Na Na Na Na Na are well-known singing phrases, but Mahi Nana is a bit like Inganakee leo yo. One starts wondering, how does such an expression come to your mind?

PG: – On the T&A-demo I’m actually singing ”na na na na…” but in the studio I suggested that Helena-The-Wizard should sing something else so I came up with ”Mahi Nana”. It sounded weird and catchy at the same time. I googled it and I found someone somewhere with that name but I thought that was kind of nice. Glad you like it!

PP: – Which ”En vacker natt” song had the strangest or funniest working title?

PG: – I don’t do working-titles that often. But ”Tittar på dej när du dansar” was called ”Kärlek låter så här” and „Mahi Nana” for a couple of hours…

PP: – You often say you’ve been lucky enough to work together with people who you get on well with and can learn from, even musically. What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned during the Nashville project?

PG: – I was reminded of how much fun it is to play ”real” instruments together. I’ve spent so many years programming in the studio so this was a blessing just to sit down and play together. That’s where I come from and it was really refreshing to experience again.

PP: – What was the biggest compliment you got from the musicians in Nashville?

PG: – Oh, I was really flattered that they liked the songs so much. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I thought they all would come in and ”do their job” like any sessionplayer. But they told me they found my music special and beautiful and that they never played on anything like it before. That made me smile and grab another donut!

PP: – You had the chance to use Roy Orbison’s guitars on the album. It must have felt amazing. What do you think, which song Roy Orbison would like the most on ”En vacker natt”?

PG: – Oh, he could have done a wonderful version of ”Far Too Close”.

PP: – Your mom, sister and brother have passed away during the past 3 years. Does this Nashville project make it easier for you to process the loss?

PG: – Hard to say. Life goes on, doesn’t it? But, of course, you change a bit as a person when your family disappears. I’m sure I’ve changed too. I don’t know in what way but I’m sure it has happened. That’s what life does to you.

PP (& Tomasz): – ”En vacker natt” is dedicated to your sister, ”En vacker dag” to your mother. Knowing your brother introduced you to the music world, it’s a bit surprising he is not mentioned next to your sister maybe. Or are these albums more like ”dedication to women”?

PG: – No, the second album is dedicated to both my mother and my brother.

PP: – In one of the interviews you mentioned that your mother sang a lot. Did she have a nice voice? Did it ever happen that you sang together?

PG: – She had a nice voice but she always sang silly songs. Just like parents do. And no, we never really sang together.

PP: – Which is the song Åsa likes the most on the album?

PG: – Oh, I don’t know. She seems to like all of them, she plays it all the time on her iPhone and in her car.

PP: – Now you are in the middle of a signing session tour, which came a bit as a surprise to us, as you already signed 3600 CDs for those who pre-ordered the album. It’s now harder to buy an unsigned ”En vacker natt” CD than a signed one. Haha. Why did you decide to go on a 1-month-long tour with 14 stops?

PG: – I think it’s quite nice to meet all those people that are interested in what I do. And also, I think it’s a good idea to support the physical format a bit. Here in Sweden Spotify and the streaming services have got 94% of the market so someone like me should wave the flag for the LP and the CD a bit since it’s my preferred choice of presenting music. And yes, I think we’ve shipped around 20.000 physical records and I’ve signed just over 4000 of them. Phew! Could be worse. Could be that nobody was interested!

PP: – When it turned out, many fans decided on meeting you on this little tour. People come to Sweden from several countries to get their signed copies directly from you. How does it feel?

PG: – Lovely. You’ve all spoiled me!

PP: – And after all the signings, how is your hand doing? Can you still play the guitar without any problems?

PG: – Of course, the in-stores are like going to the gym for the hand!

PP: – Will there be a signing session tour in autumn too, when the second album, ”En vacker dag” is out?

PG: – I don’t know. Time will tell. It all depends on how the summer tour feels and the common reaction to the second one.

PP: – Oh and not to forget about the vinyl! Bengans informed the ”En vacker natt” vinyl had been delayed. It almost didn’t make it to the shops until the signing session started. Not the limited edition though. It’s still not on stock. What’s the problem with the vinyl production this time?

PG: – I don’t know. I think nobody expected this kind of interest in my LP. A first batch of vinyl has arrived now but the red vinyl is still a couple of weeks down the road.  It’s a shame but the good thing is that it looks (and feels) FAB!!!

PP: – The tour is getting closer and closer! I have to mention that we are grateful that the complete tour schedule was shared at once (except for the 2 concerts in Finland that were added later, in February). It makes a fan’s life a lot easier, because this way we can start planning early and add as many shows to our to-attend list as we can. So thank you very much for that!

Will you keep the tradition of having a pre-tour show at Leif’s? If yes, is there an exact date set yet?

PG: – Could be….

PP: – Our polls show it won’t be easy for you to put a setlist together. And mixing your 3 careers makes it even tougher. When do you start rehearsing? Will you have a separate session with the new band members?

PG: – We start rehearsing in June. I’m gonna decide what to play in a couple of days. It’s tricky. But lots of fun.

PP: – How Ola Gustafsson, Malin My-Wall and Andreas Dahlbäck came into sight? Did you know them before or someone suggested them to you?

PG: – No, I didn’t know them but had heard of them. I was looking for certain players and these three were my first choices. They’re amazing all of them.

PP: – You mentioned in an interview and well… we also know that you’re a fan of short concerts. You would keep the show around 100 minutes. Can we expect a varying setlist from night to night?

PG: – Could be….

PP: – Can we expect any surprise guests on tour? Besides a maybe obvious Lars Winnerbäck.

PG: – Could be…

PP: – Your support acts will be the amazing Good Harvest and Strandels. Why exactly them? Will both acts play before all your shows or will there be concerts where only one of them will play?

PG: – Both of them are great. I think they will be there every night. Hope so.

PP: – Is Micke N-S working hard on your new guitar picks yet?

PG: – Could be…

PP: – Gyllene Tider is rumored to go on tour next year. We hope it will happen. A 40th anniversary is worth celebrating! So this summer there won’t be many GT songs on tour or …?

PG: – Hmmm….

PP: – Talking about a 40th anniversary, will you see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their 40th anniversary tour?

PG: – No plans yet.

PP: – Thank you very much for your time and see you on tour! Awesome that you keep us busy all year in 2017!

PG: – My pleasure. And don’t forget that a Mazarin vinyl-LP will be out just in time for the tour. I couldn’t resist…