Jan Gradvall’s podcast interview with Per Gessle

Jan Gradvall in his podcast tries to find out what drives Per Gessle, what his secret is and what happens if you analyze Gessle’s songs in depth. Jan is trying to do it via analyzing ”Allt gick så fort”, which is one of Per’s most personal songs he has ever written and can be found on the new album, ”En vacker natt”.

Per says it’s the central song on the album. He tells he read an interview with David Crosby who told he had five guitars in his bedroom and that all of them were tuned differently. Per thought it’s cool. Mr. G experimented a lot with traditional tunings, but then he googled David Crosby’s tunings and found out there are a lot of variants and found one which was very odd. So Per tried some new tricks, playing his old chords in a new way, creating completely new sounds.

”Allt gick så fort” is very text-oriented. It starts with an accident Per witnessed during a visit to France. Per says it’s a song that kind of writes itself. It matures through a whole life and suddenly it feels ready to be written down.

Jan asks Per what he is singing about when it’s in the lyrics that he was 8 years old. Per says the lyrics tell a whole life in a way. The text starts with an unknown person, but then suddenly, you sing about yourself, when you are a child and then it’s about when you are 18 and in love for the first time. In between there is another person seeing the whole thing from another angle, in the middle of his life, in the middle of his career and realizes it all went so fast. Per says the song was written very fast, but the guitar tuning was tricky. Jan asks how exactly that tuning is done. Per says when he wrote the song he went to Halmstad, to MP’s studio to record a demo. It went very well with all that new tuning. Then he went to Nashville to record it properly, but he had no clue how he did that in Halmstad, so they had to use his demo.

The whole Nashville project was different to whatever Per has done before and it’s not like today’s pop music when everything is done on computers. Per wanted to try something new. It became a completely organic album. It’s not an album for everybody. It’s for a certain audience. Per thinks many can identify with it, but many will think it’s too slow or the violin is too whiny. But it doesn’t matter. For him it was important to make this record. He wanted the lyrics and his voice to be in focus. The fantastic musicians in Nashville added a lot to it, Dan Dugmore with his pedal steel playing or Stuart Duncan with his violin playing.

Jan finds the expression ”I sin icke dansande generation” (= in his non-dancing generation) fantastic and he asks Per how he came up with this. Per says when you are sitting and chatting you realize that your generation is a non-dancing one. He finds the rhymes and songwriting exciting.

Jan mentions there are many returning symbols in Per’s lyrics on the new album, like sea, beaches, nature. Per says he has always used symbols like flowers, sea, winds, things you associate with images when you are listening to a song. It somehow makes the listener be part of the song. They recognize the smell, the taste, the feeling.

Jan and Per talk about Per’s family, that he has lost his mom, brother and sister during the past 3 years. When his sister, Gunilla died, her son found a box of 25-30 old diapositives from 1965-66. Even Per appeared on some of them. Mr. G chose a pic of Gunilla, standing and singing probably in Tylösand, to be on the album cover. Per thinks the colour of the diapositive fits the album very well.

Per tells Jan that Anton Corbijn was in New Orleans, shooting Arcade Fire when Per was in Nashville and so Anton came over and took some fantastic pictures of Per. First Per thought one of those should be on the cover, but after her sister’s diapositives were found he changed his mind. This way it is more personal and even more unexpected. The second album ”En vacker dag” will have a 1965 pic of Per’s mom on the cover, with a picnic table just behind the family’s Volvo Amazon.

Jan asks Per if losing his relatives has affected Mr. G in a way that it can be heard on the album. Per says yes and no. It of course has affected him, but none of the songs are directly about this. ”Allt gick så fort” might sound like that a bit, but the rest of the songs were written last spring after Roxette stopped touring. Some of the songs were left-overs and were re-written, but most of them are newly written.

Jan and Per talk about an earlier interview from the Son of a Plumber times and Jan remembers Per told him that his father died when Gyllene Tider broke through and Per wrote ”När alla vännerna gått hem” after his dad died. Per says it’s true and of course what happens in your life has its effects on you. These two albums he has made now he couldn’t have done 10 or 15 years ago. You must have a certain experience, a certain security, a certain courage to be able to do it. You have to find your style, your language, your strength to be able to do it.

Jan tells Per he feels that when Per sings on this new album, he is more ”naked” and asks if it is conscious. Per says he wanted to put the lyrics in focus.

Jan says the album sounds in a way very much Nashville, but also very much Halmstad. Per was travelling around the world, but always came back to Halmstad. Per says the older you get the more you go back to your roots, where you come from. It’s like when sometimes he is sitting and checking songs on Spotify and sees billions of them and he goes back to listen to songs he likes from 1967. And yes, there is a Nashville sound on the album, but at the same time, it’s Per’s stlye.

Mr. G says he wanted an album that is text-oriented and very simple, acoustic. First they just thought they shouldn’t record it in Sweden. They thought about studios in England and France, then Nashville popped up and Per liked the idea of a fusion between Tennesse and Halland. A little country has always been there in Per’s solo music. Neil Young’s “Harvest” stlye. They had no plans at all when they left Sweden for Nashville. First Per played the acoustic guitar and sang a bit, then they asked the studio if they could help to find local musicians. There are two world famous pedal steel players, Dan Dugmore and Paul Franklin. Dan Dugmore is the one who plays the pedal steel on Per’s album. When he listened to Per’s songs he wrote down numbers instead of chords. How Dan played changed the songs. Since they wanted to save time, they recorded 3-4 takes and then edited them later while mixing.

The same day Dan Dugmore came to the studio, Stuart Duncan came too to play the violin. When Per heard him playing he said wow. Everything became better and better, like the intro to ”Småstadsprat”. Then they needed a harmonica player, so Mickey Raphael plays on 3-4 songs.

Jan asks what Per thinks why his melodies are so special that they are attractive even to those who can’t speak Swedish. Per thinks they are beautiful, that’s why the albums are titled “En vacker natt” and “En vacker dag” (“A beatiful night” and “A beautiful day”). At least that was his ambition. Jan asks where Per’s melodies come from. They come from the ‘60s, but also from the Swedish traditional music. Here Per talks about his adventures with his friend, Peter as troubadours who played at nursing homes for old people. Per played the guitar and sang, Peter also played the guitar and the flute. They played everything they could and it included a lot of country as well. As troubadours, once they had to play at an old people’s nursing home in a new place in Halmstad. They entered a big table tennis hall and there were two men lying in there, they were not moving at all. They didn’t know what to do, there was no personnel around, so they just sat in the middle of the hall and started playing some songs, Proud Mary or something. Suddenly a nurse came and asked what the hell they were doing. They said they were just playing songs. A lot of doctors rushed in and then it turned out that one of the men there was in coma and he woke up to the sound of Per and Peter playing music. The day after it turned out that they shouldn’t even have to be there, at that place, but he will never forget that day. One can see that music makes miracles.

Pic from Jan Gradvall’s Instagram.

 

Per Gessle’s deep song title analysis

PG_Gradvall_podcastPer had been interviewed by Jan Gradvall for his Swedish Radio podcast and the program was made available last Saturday. You can listen to it or even download it from HERE. Per’s part starts at 7:18 and ends at 21:50. The second half of the program is an interview with Kajsa Grytt.

The topic was “I Want You”, a song title that you can find among The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello classic songs, but Jan and Per also went into a deep analysis of song titles in general.

Per’s opinion about Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” is that it’s an awesome song on Dylan’s fantastic Blonde on Blonde album. It was released in 1966 when Per was 7 years old, so he says he didn’t know what the song “I Want You” was about, but he remembers he listened to it a lot of times.

According to Per, “I Want You” is a very good, simple and direct title. It makes you curious. Gradvall asked him what makes a song title a good song title. Per says, even if today’s generation doesn’t really look at album covers, actually it’s usually the title of the song you see first. It has to raise curiosity about what the song is about. He thinks a good title is very important, but it’s also a matter of taste. He likes simple titles, but he also likes strange titles, e.g. of his GT songs ”Allt jag lärt mig i livet har jag lärt mig av Vera” or ”(Dansar inte lika bra som) Sjömän”. Per thinks many artists have boring song titles.

Jan asked Mr. G what he thinks, which his best song titles are. Per says “Dressed For Succes” is really good, “Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly” is very good, “Sleeping In My Car”, “How Do You Do!”, because it makes you curious what the song is about, “Queen Of Rain” is an exciting title, “Crash! Boom! Bang!” which is coming from Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock [here he is singing the tunes 🙂 ], “Flickorna på TV2” is a superb title.

They talk about Elvis Costello as well. Per likes him and liked his first album and the song “Watching the Detectives”. He thinks he became a little bit too clever with a little bit too many chords for Per, but he is a fantastic musician and singer. He listened more to Costello’s producer, Nick Lowe. Per prefers simplicity and beautiful, simple melodies.

“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by The Beatles is very simple and direct. Per thinks it’s a fantastic mix and it’s an odd, but a damn good song on “Abbey Road”. The album came out when Per was 10 and it was an important one for him. “Come Together” is also an outstanding song on it. George Harrison’s “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” are masterpieces on “Abbey Road”. “Octopus’s Garden” and Paul’s medley on side two are also fantastic. Per explains he did a medley on his “Son of a Plumber” album, the “Junior Suite” and it was inspired by the “Abbey Road” medley. It was real fun doing it.

Gradvall asked Per about his thoughts on The Beatles song titles. The early songs had more simple titles (“I Should Have Known Better”, “I’ll Cry Instead”, “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me”), but later the titles became more nonsense and abstract, e.g. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. If he looks back at Lennon titles, they were rather simple, e.g. “It’s So Hard”, “Jealous Guy”, “Imagine”, “God”.

Jan asked Per about his own “I Want You”. Mr. G clarifies it’s not his own song, he did it together with Marie Fredriksson, Eva Dahlgren and the Ratata guys in 1987, during their joint tour Rock runt riket. The producer was Anders Glenmark and it does sound like a Glenmarkish song.

To the question how many words are optimal in a song title Per replied sometimes he thinks as many as possible. For example, for the latest Gyllene Tider album he wrote a song with a long title “Jag tänker åka på en lång lång lång lång lång resa”. It could have been “Jag tänker åka på en lång resa”, but with 5 långs it sounds better and it is to emphasize how long the journey is. It’s that “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” is much better than “Bungalow Bill”. Or as an album title, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is much better than “Ziggy Stardust”. But a song title can be short or long, the important thing is to raise curiosity. It can be a question that might not be answered in the song or e.g. he has the title “I Never Quite Got Over The Fact That The Beatles Broke Up” which is not in the lyrics, but the content reflects that he didn’t get over the fact.

 

Per Gessle at the Göteborg Book Fair – the videos

PG_20140928If you have appr. 40-50 minutes between listening to The Per Gessle Archives and reading the books, you might want to check some videos from the book fair seminars. Unfortunately, there was no proper video recording of the complete seminars, so I thought I would put together the parts I recorded. Sorry for my sometimes shaking hands – mainly at the beginning of the Friday session, but I’m not a pro when it comes to taking videos. I left the rough cuts between the parts in, not to miss any milliseconds owing to transitions. 2-3 minutes of both videos I’ve already shared in the book fair review articles (chapter 1 and chapter 2), but now you’ll be able to watch 17m 32s (appr. 1/3) of the Friday seminar (pop quiz with Per Gessle, Sven Lindström and Nisse Hellberg) and 19m 57s (appr. 2/3) of the Sunday session where Jan Gradvall interviewed Per about songwriting. I hope your eyes won’t get hurt, but in the latter video the projected background is vibrating every now and then. Or was it Per’s aura? Either way, both seminars were very exciting and entertaining. Make sure you check the part where Per talks about the upcoming Roxette tour and thanks the fans for always being around, even in the seminar audience (Sunday seminar at about 18:35).

We are grateful to have all these guys following us everywhere. It’s awesome!

Friday seminar 26th September (in case the YouTube link doesn’t work for you because of the pop quiz songs’ copyrights, try to watch it HERE on Dailymotion):

 

Sunday seminar 28th September:


 

I felt so sorry that my camera missed the Flickorna på TV2 part of the conversation on Sunday, because it was so very funny, but fortunately, Chrissie Röhrs recorded that part, so you can watch how the double meaning of words kicked in this time (starts at 9:20). Turn someone on or switch the TV on à la PG!

Per Gessle at the Göteborg Book Fair – Chapter 2

The second day for Per at the book fair was yesterday. The seminar he took part in started at 1 pm, but fans were already waiting for him since 10 am. We were continuously filling the rows and listened to all the authors who came before Per. One of the writers was funny, he told he was the book fair support act for Mr G.

PG_IMG_9879Per arrived with Miss Dimberg and Anders Roos at about 1 pm. PG already got stopped by fans who asked him to give them autographs even before the seminar. When Per got to sit on the stage before the conversation, he was drumming on his legs and whistling. He refused to use the microphone which they could have fixed on his head, but used a standard microphone.

Many-many people were curious about Per, but the stage area was so small that a lot of people couldn’t sit down. The seminar ended appr. 10 minutes earlier than planned, probably because they saw the signing session would last longer for that many people.

Per’s interviewer was Jan Gradvall. They talked about songwriting, specific songs, as well as rhymes. He talked about his childhood room, what posters were on the walls (e.g. Hep Stars), there was a gramophone player and there were also some Barbie dolls. The family moved a lot and e.g. in 1968 they lived in Simlångsdalen. Per said his best friend was pop music. ”Tragical, but true.” Watch the short video of this part of the interview HERE.

They talked about how productive and busy Per is. He is doing many projects at a time, but when one ends, he feels like: ”Tack, nästa projekt.”, looking forward to the next project. The archives are just the summary of one chapter in his life.

After the seminar, there was a signing session next to the stage. There were so many people queueing with the Per Gessle books in their hands. Unfortunately, the last 5-6 people were asked to go to the other signing place, at the Roos & Tegnér stand, because they were running out of time and the signing at the stand had to start at 2.30 pm, but there Per really took his time and draw a great amount of Leifs in many books and boxes.

Ah, there was one new info during the interview: the Roxette rehearsals start this week. Bring on the tour!

Thanx for all your time and for the fabulous weekend, Mr G!

PG_JG_IMG_9864  PG_signing_IMG_9911  PG_signing_IMG_9958

Per with Jan Gradvall at the seminar; Per signing the books next to the stage at the seminar place; Per signing the books at the Roos & Tegnér stand

All pics in the article © Patrícia Peres

 

P.S.: Seeing this post of Per on Roxette Official after the happenings at the book fair, you could feel he had a bit of inspiration. Good luck with The Look 2! 😉

Feel like writing something like this today! /P.

Per Gessle’s agenda at the Göteborg Book Fair

Photo © Anders Roos
Photo © Anders Roos

In an earlier article we wrote about the Göteborg Book Fair that is going to happen this weekend. Per will take part in 2 seminars, one on Friday and another on Sunday. Before and after the seminars he will gladly sign THE books (and probably, anything else you want him to sign, e.g. TPGA box if you haven’t pre-ordered it signed). All the details regarding the tickets and content of the seminars are in that earlier article. Click here to check it!

As publishing company Roos & Tegnér informs, you can meet Per several times during the book fair. Here is the agenda:

Friday, 26th September
15:00 Per Gessle signing his two new books at the Roos & Tegnér stand (B07:21)
17:00 Seminar: Stjärnspäckat Popquiz – a pop quiz with Per Gessle and Nisse Hellberg (ticket required)
18:00 Per Gessle and Nisse Hellberg signing their books outside the congress hall

Sunday, 28th September
13:00 Seminar: Låtsnickare och textmakare – hantverkaren Per Gessle (Per about the books and songwriting) /no separate ticket needed/
14:00 Per Gessle signing his two new books at the Library & Storytelling Stage (Bibliotek & Berättarscen)
14:30 Per Gessle signing session at the Roos & Tegnér stand (B07:21)

Sounds like a fab weekend program, doesn’t it?

P.S.: The books you can buy at the Roos & Tegnér stand at the book fair.

Per Gessle at the Gothenburg Book Fair in September!

We already mentioned in an earlier article that Per’s 2 books will be launched at the Gothenburg Book Fair in September. However, it was quite predictable, we didn’t know it for sure back then if Mr G would be there in person. The good news is that you’ll be able to meet him at the book fair! More than that, what do you think about a 3-day-long trip in Gothenburg? Why? Because he will be at not less than 2 seminars! Both seminars are organized by Roos & Tegnér, the publishing company of the upcoming Per Gessle books (and the fabulous Alla tiders Gyllene Tider book).

PG_SL_03One seminar is on Friday, 26th September and it will start at 5.00 pm and last for 45 minutes. The topic sounds very promising. There will be a conversation led by our beloved Sven Lindström, who will have Per Gessle and Nisse Hellberg (you surely know him at least from The Lonely Boys project) as guests. They will talk about pop culture, songwriting and inspiration. Besides this, there will be a pop quiz for the two pop nerds. Sven is going to be a fab moderator of that. Sounds like it’s gonna be much fun, doesn’t it?

The other seminar, which is related to Per’s books, is on Sunday, 28th September. It starts at 1.00 pm and lasts until 1.45 pm. The moderator here will be Jan Gradvall, who is a well-known Swedish journalist and knows very much about pop culture. Per will talk about the books and how the most popular songs came to his mind. He will share his thoughts about songwriting and lyrics and he will tell about his role models and inspirations. Since there was a signing session last year, I think there will be one this year, too, however, it’s not yet confirmed.

The tickets you can buy at the entrance and on Sunday it is valid for the seminar as well. Regular prices for adults: 180 SEK per day. Happy Hour between 9:00 and 10:00 on Sunday: ticket for adults: 130 SEK. For the Friday seminar you will also need a seminar card, which costs 625 SEK if you buy it until 9th August and 675 SEK after that date.

It’s not yet known if the seminars will be broadcast live anywhere, like last year on TV4. Busy month September is going to be!

 

Update on 29th June: the seminar programme has been published. Click HERE to check it!

“This is the perfect book for any toilet in the world”

Jan Gradvall* and Björn Nordström, two authors of “Tusen svenska klassiker” (Thousand Swedish classics) – a new bible for all those who love Sweden and are interested in its music, were interviewed lately by Sven Lindström and Per Gessle on “Nordic Rox” at American Sirius Satellite Radio.

Norstedts, the publishing company, got the rights to publish this interview on its website and now you have a chance to listen to 7-minutes programme. And yes, the news title was taken from Per Gessle’s opinion 🙂

* Yep, he was the guy behind the liner notes in RoxBox as well as the author of forthcoming book on another Swedish band – kent.

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