Per Gessle was a guest on P4 Extra, Swedish Radio last Friday. Host Erik Blix asked him about his new solo album, Gyllene Tider, Marie Fredriksson, Roxette and his new project.
Erik asks Per what the album title, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig means to him. Mr. G says it means to him more or less what it says. He realized that this album is an old love that’s still there. One can say it’s a pandemic album, because he started recording it while he was isolated in Halmstad. Erik says it’s Per and Paul McCartney (who did the same). Per laughs and says there are more who did the same. Per had the idea to record acoustic songs and play as many instruments as possible himself. He didn’t have any material for that, so he thought he should dig deep into his archives from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. There are a lot of songs he thinks didn’t come out of their shadow before. He says it was exciting.
They play Ömhet here. Erik says Per sings together with Helena Josefsson. Mr. G tells Helena is fantastic and it would have been difficult to record this song without her. She is awesome. Ömhet was written right after Mazarin was recorded in 2002. The text remained the same, but he wrote new music to it for Gyllene Tider’s Dags att tänka på refrängen album, but they never recorded it. Then it was lying in the drawer until now. Erik asks how many songs Per has in the drawer. Per reacts: ”You don’t want to know!” And laughs. He himself doesn’t know it exactly either. There are tons of sketches. Before he starts a new project, he is listening to some of his old stuff to get inspiration. He has been writing songs for such a long time and he felt that slowly but surely his style is changing a bit. Erik asks if it can happen that a sketch matures, that earlier Per thought nah, it’s not good for anything, but now it seems to work. Mr. G says it can happen, for example that the text in a verse has a good idea, but it doesn’t reach the goal or you couldn’t make it in 1986, but maybe now you can get your teeth into it. On GKRA it happened that Per corrected verses he thought were clumsy. And there is also the fact that if you write a song when you are 25 and sing it when you are 61, it gets a different meaning. Erik asks if it was the case with Ömhet. PG says not really, because there the lyric is straightforward, but Tända en sticka till is a good example. It was released on Per’s first solo LP in 1983, he wrote it in 1982, so when he sings it today, there is a sentimental, nostalgic feel to it. It changes the text’s angle.
Per tells he works together with Helena since Mazarin. She came to sing backing vocals on 1 song and ended up singing on 10. He knew he wanted a female voice and they did a little audition at the studio in Skåne. Helena was the first he heard on the audition and he said he doesn’t want to listen to the others. She was the one he wanted.
Erik asks Per why he decided to make this album an acoustic one. Mr. G says he wanted to make it personal and organic and he wanted to play as many instrument as possible himself. There is mainly piano and acoustic guitar. He also tried playing bass and drums, but he realized his limits. Erik adds Paul McCartney plays all instruments himself. Per says he knows it. He is very curious about Paul’s new album. He is amazed that at his age, Paul is so sharp and he is doing this recording in his home studio alone.
Erik asks Per if he rewrote any of the lyrics for the album. Per tells he rewrote certain verses. There are songs in the drawer that have a text Per was not satisfied with, but now he has the capacity to make them relevant.
Mr. G tells now he is making an English album and he’s got a kick doing it. Erik asks when it will be released. Per says when it’s ready. They laugh. Erik says it sounds like a good startegy.
They play Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig) here. It’s a duet with Uno Svenningsson. Erik asks Per when he wrote this song and what it is about. He wrote it for En händig man in 2006. First it was mostly just an observation that sometimes things get so close that they get really blurred and you can’t really take it in. Per tells he didn’t know Uno too well. He called Per in summer and asked if they could meet and have dinner together. Per said sure, just he has to sing on one of his songs first. Then Per quickly changed the key in the song so that it suits Uno’s and Per’s voice. Mr. G thinks Uno is a lovely person and he has a fantastic voice.
Erik tells Per is more acoustic during these recent years and his music is softer. He asks if Per became softer over the years. Mr. G laughs and says he doesn’t know. It’s hard for him to answer this question because he thinks he is the same as he has always been. PG says he is lucky that he has a big tree with a lot of branches: Gyllene Tider, Roxette, solo in English and in Swedish, Mono Mind. Many different things. His classic singer songwriter side is reflected in this new album.
Erik asks Mr. G about Gyllene Tider and says he opened the door to a comeback. Per smiles and says: ”That I can never keep quiet…” They did their last tour last year, but who knows. There is nothing planned. He loves the guys in GT and he loves playing with them. When the five of them play together, the outcome is always something very special.
The guys start talking about Roxette. Erik asks Per to describe his friendship with Marie. Per says it’s hard to describe it shortly, but they got to know each other when they were teens, at the end of the 70’s. They shared a rehearsal studio in Sperlingsholm, outside Halmtad. Per was in Gyllene Tider and Marie was in Strul. So they have been friends since then. That friendship became a musical partnership in which they could develop their good sides. The basic idea with Roxette was that Per writes the songs and Marie sings. Marie could sing fantastically and Per could write OK songs. Sometimes it felt like 1 and 1 makes 3. Per says he is incredibly proud of the journey they were on together and feels honoured to have worked together with Marie over so many years. Erik tells Roxette started out as a game with a friend. Per tells they had the ambition and dream to succeed outside Sweden. They loved pop and rock music and they liked the same bands and artists, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles. When they were sitting and chatting in Per’s apartment in Halmstad, they were talking about Germany, Norway, Denmark or Belgium. To succeed in the US and play there and in South America and Roxette being global surpassed their dreams. They had their heydays between 1988 and 1995. Then Marie had her second child and wanted to have a break, so they had a break after the Crash! Boom! Bang! tour. During those 8 years they were together 24 hours a day and worked. Erik adds they travelled around the world, but probably didn’t see anything. Something like that, Per confirms. They were constantly travelling to another city, another country or were locked in their hotel rooms, spent their times at airports.
Erik asks Per how much he misses Marie. Per says it’s difficult to talk about it. It’s almost a year ago that she passed away. There is emptiness. When you lose someone very close or your family member, there is emptiness. It’s difficult to deal with it. Even in Marie’s case when they were kind of prepared, because she was sick for a long time. But still, when it happens, you know that you can’t get prepared for that. Erik asks if Per misses the partnership as well, to work together with someone the way they worked together. Mr. G says of course he misses it, however, the last albums they recorded in a different way than they recorded before Marie’s illness. It wasn’t such an intensive cooperation as during the years before her illness. But there is something special when you are working together with someone or with a band like GT. There are things that only they can share, something only Marie and Per could discuss, Roxette’s success, since it’s them who achieved it with a lot of people’s support around them. There was an enormous tightness between them, so of course he is missing it. He misses calling her and chat and fight and joke around. Erik asks if they did that often. Per says maybe not as often as they should have, but one thinks about it only now. After Marie got ill in 2002, she of course became much more private and he respected it.
Erik asks Per about his musical partnerships, how those work. Per says he is much of a lone wolf, mainly in the creative part of his work. He writes alone and he doesn’t take orders easily if someone wants to tell him how this or that should be. It’s hard for him to write music for someone else. It’s difficult to keep the balance. But then he of course needs other musicians and other singers and other producers who help him on the way.
As an end to the conversation, Erik asks Per to pick a Roxette song to play. Mr. G chooses Let Your Heart Dance With Me that was released recently. A leftover song from their last recordings. He says it’s so nice to hear Marie on it again.