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.

 

Gessle doesn’t take life for granted – Per Gessle interview by P4 Extra

Per Gessle was the guest of the day on P4 Extra, Swedish Radio on 26th April. The interview with him was done by Johar Bendjelloul. If you listen to the 113 min online version (including music), Per is on from 28:44 to 52:07, if you listen to him in the downloadable mp3 version of the program, he is on from 15:00 to 33:27.

Johar first talks about Per’s career that he sold an unbelievable amount of albums, 80 million with Roxette, Gyllene Tider and solo. Then he welcomes Per, the hitmaker music nerd in the studio.

They talk about last year’s announcement that Roxette had to stop touring and that this way Per had much free time left. Per thought he would do something different than what he did during the past 5 years. Johar asks Per if Roxette is over. Per replies touring is definitely over, but if they will record something together in the future, he doesn’t know, doesn’t think so.

The guys are talking about country capital Nashville, why Per chose that location. Per says he started writing songs in Swedish. Acoustic based songs with the lyrics and voice in focus, in really simple production. First he thought he would record in London or in France, but then the idea came why not making the obvious fusion of Nashville and Halmstad. Per says he always liked classic country, Neil Young or Gram Parsons.

Johar and Per are talking about Per’s voice. Per has not always liked his own voice. In the beginning he had a huge problem with his voice actually, he thought it sounded bad. Not that he sang badly, but the sound of his voice was bad. But later he learned it’s special and sometimes it’s quite good even (laughs). He says he talked a lot about it with his psychologist. Haha.

There is a premiere of ”Min plats” in the program. Per says it’s the type of song you need to have on an album. It’s the opening song and it sets the tone of what Per wants to say with this album. There is pedal steel, violin and acoustic instruments in it. Per and Helena Josefsson are singing on this track. It’s a 3-minute-long song. (You can listen to it in the online version of the interview from 32:10 to 35:15.)

Johar asks Per why he chose to work with new musicians while he is known as a control freak. Per says he is not really a control freak, just a little bit. He tries to put himself into new situations and it was really good to work with these musicians. The pedal steel player, the violin player. Per wanted something new to happen.

Per talks about the fact that he releases 2 albums. ”En vacker natt” now and ”En vacker dag” in September. He says he had so much material and it felt too much to include all on one album only.

The guys are talking about the album cover. There is Per’s sister, Gunilla on the cover of ”En vacker natt”. Per’s sister died last autumn and his son found a box full of photos. The picture is from the ’60s and Per thought this one fits the album and he dedicates this album to his sister. ”En vacker dag” is dedicated to his mother, Elisabeth. Per tells his sister, mother and brother have died during the past three years. He has been the youngest in the family and now he is the only one left. It of course has affected him, but it’s not directly in there in the songs. You realize that time passes and nothing stands still. And that’s what you reflect on when you grow older. When you are young, you take it for granted and there is an energy and a hunger that decreases over the years. It’s an important ingredient in pop music, however, it’s not pop music now on these two albums. There is an obvious connection between youth and pop music. Per thinks the task of pop music is to reflect its own time. Pop music of the ‘60s and ‘70s is very typical of its own time and also today’s pop music is very typical.

Johar wants a confirmation from Per that he won’t give up on pop music and Per says take it easy, he won’t. Haha. Johar says a lot of Per’s songs and lyrics will remain after Per will be gone. Per asks if Johar really thinks so. He asks Per what he thinks about it now that they are talking about the passing of time and deaths. Per says he doesn’t know, he doesn’t think about it. Johar is surprised and asks if Per doesn’t think his songs are classic. Johar mentions for example Sommartider being played at the school year end happenings in Sweden. Per says it’s just not a pleasant thing to think about his songs remaining after he’s gone. So they just move on to another topic.

They start talking about Per’s books he published 3 years ago, “Texter, klotter & funderingar” and “Songs, sketches & reflections”. Per laughs and says it was exhausting to collect all the things together, because it was too much material. But he was happy that people liked the end result. The books are a compilation of studio diaries, Per’s lyrics and all possible stuff. During the project, reading through and checking all things, he saw how different the ‘80s and ‘90s were. For Per, writing lyrics is a bit like writing a diary in a certain way. Sometimes he writes lyrics including what happened during the day. He writes about things he likes. Love, disappointment, stuff people can identify with. Johar says it’s kind of magical that people can feel Per’s songs are like they are written about themselves.

The guys listen to Dolly Parton’s song, Jolene. Per thinks it’s a fantastic song. Johar says the listeners couldn’t see it, but Per was listening to this song intensively, concentrating deeply on it in the studio. Johar asks Per what he thinks as a songwriter, what is the success behind this song. Per says the songwriters succeeded with everything here. For example, there is the exact same chord in both the verses and the choruses. The same chord goes round and round. It has a classic country text of a nice story. It’s a wonderful song, wonderfully arranged with pedal steel. When talking about the country milieu, Per says, on the new album he used milieu sounds between the songs.

Johar asks Per about songwriting again, if he sees colors when he writes. Per says he is always looking for some certain color, the temperature of the song. In a way it’s hard to explain though that he wants a yellow song with a little blue in it. On the new album there is everything possible. There is a certain melancholy. It’s very melodic and effectively arranged.There is happiness and there is sadness.

The guys are talking about the summer tour. Johar states Per tours terribly much, all his life, actually. He asks Per if he still finds it fun. Per replies it’s totally amazing, it’s the best thing. He likes the creative process in the studio, but it’s damn good to stand on stage and perform to the crowd. He is looking very much forward to this summer. Johar says a lot of artists say they hate touring, but Per enjoys it much. He says there is of course a price you pay, for example you wake up in a new bed each day and you don’t know where to find the toilet. Whether it’s on the left or on the right. Haha.

Johar mentions he read that Per was in Nashville once before he recorded his album. Per says he was, but can’t really remember. It was when they toured with Roxette in the US.

Johar asks Per if he likes attending other artists’ concerts. Per says sometimes he goes to shows, but often it’s boring, because tons of artists have pre-recorded CDs. It’s not like cheating, it’s just a style. Some music in the digital technology can’t be played live. But of course, he likes to attend concerts. To the question which was the last concert he saw and liked Per replies he has to think about it for a long time. He doesn’t know, he can’t say it. And here, the interview ends with this unanswered question.

 

Gomorron Sverige interview with Per Gessle

Per was one of the guests on today’s Gomorron Sverige on SVT. As he mentioned on his Instagram account: ”Early morning TV show. Really early. Really.” Haha. Poor guy, having some long and busy PR days this week.

If you are in Sweden, you can watch the show on SVT Play, if not, then you can watch it on YouTube (thanks to Gaby for recording it).

In 10 years, this is the first material Per releases in Swedish. To the question why Nashville, he replies he wanted to change the milieu a bit, not to record again in Skåne. He was thinking about recording in England or France, but suddenly Nashville popped up. Per thinks the combination of Halmstad and Nashville is perfect. He says he likes classic country, Neil Young, for example.

The host on the show says Per’s music is not really country, but Mr. G says there are country elements, for example, on Mazarin. Now he worked together with local musicians and all the instruments they used add the Nashville sound to the album, but at the same time he wanted the lyrics and his voice to be in focus.

Regarding the duet with Lars Winnerbäck, the hostess asks Per if it is a bit like looking for something new after Marie. Per says he just wanted to do something different. He likes to test different things all the time.

The host asks Per if this project is more about looking back than looking into the future. Per says in a way it is. He tried to write the lyrics from the point of view who he is today, even he writes about the same topics as usual, love, disappointment, longing, dreaming. The host asks if it is easier to write in his mother tongue, Swedish than in English. Per says it is.

They talk about the album cover of ”En vacker natt”. Per tells it’s his sister on the cover. She passed away last autumn. Her son found a box full of photos from 1965-66 and Per chose to put this picture of Gunilla on the cover. The pic was taken in Halmstad.

The hostess asks Per if losing his father, mother, brother and sister had any affect on his music. Per says of course it had in a way. Everyone who loses someone close is affected by the loss.

They are talking about the fact that a second album is out in autumn. Per says they worked fast and there was so much material, he decided to release 2 albums instead of one damn long album.

The hostess says the album looks like an old LP. Per says that was the idea behind the design. The cover also helps to create the milieu of the songs. And it will be released also on LP. The hostess asks why Mr. G thought it should be released on vinyl as well. He says mainly in Sweden, Spotify is huge in streaming music, but it’s a bit anonymous. There are no album covers, but pop or rock culture doesn’t exist without album covers. Nowadays Per still buys LPs and he is looking at the sleeves while listening to the songs on Spotify. He likes to have the lyrics in front of him when he is actively listening to music.

The hostess asks what Halmstad means to Per. He replies he has been travelling a lot around the world, but he always gets back to Halmstad. He likes Halmstad and he likes small town life. He of course likes Stockholm too, but he is more of a small town guy. Lars Winnerbäck is also a small town guy, Marie Fredriksson is also a small town girl.

The host asks about that one English song, ”Far Too Close” (duet with Savannah Church) on the album and they play a short snippet from it. Per says this is a homage to Nashville to have an English song as the last track on the album, a duet by a local country singer.

Per says the musicians in Nashville of course knew the songs ”Listen To Your Heart” or ”It Must Have Been Love”, but they thought Per’s music was strange. Per was happy about it and thought their cooperation would be exciting.

About how he wrote the songs Per says he always writes either on acoustic guitar or on piano. The host asks how long they rehearsed together with the musicians in Nashville. Per says they didn’t rehearse at all. He played the demos to them and explained some things, but then it was more like jamming. There were like 3-4 takes for a track, then they just put the whole song together. The pedal steel and the violin are very characteristic.

Per says his summer tour has its premiere in Helsingborg, but he couldn’t remember the exact date. Haha. First he said 7th July, then smiled and said or maybe rather 6th July. Yes, it’s the 6th. He won’t have Nashville musicians in the band, but Swedish guys and girls. They will play songs from Per’s whole career.

Still is from the TV show

 

Per Gessle interview by Dagens Nyheter

When Per Gessle shared some beach boogaloo pics and a video 3 weeks ago, we still didn’t know what it was about. Just that there was a photo session in Tylösand. Then it turned out that the photos have been taken by Thomas Karlsson for a Dagens Nyheter (dn.se) interview with Mr. G, done by Martin Jönsson.

The interview is very long, very much detailed and very nicely written. Martin is a talented journalist, he put the material together very professionally and Thomas took fab photos of Mr. G (don’t miss any of them in the article, as well as the ones Thomas shared on his Instagram). Hats off!

I tried to summarize the whole thing in English as detailed as I could (with all respect to Martin Jönsson and Per), but it probably won’t give the real feelings and expressions back completely. So, learn Swedish you all! 😉

NASHVILLE, OCTOBER 2016

At the beginning of the article you can read a bit about Nashville, the capital of country music and Blackbird Studios, where Per recorded his new albums. The list of musicians who already recorded there is long from Dolly Parton to Taylor Swift. For an artist who had 4 US No. 1 hits it would have been easy to sail in as a star through the studio doors. But when Per Gessle arrives to Nashville with Christoffer Lundquist, Anders Herrlin, Clarence Öfwerman and Helena Josefsson, he does it with a slightly lower profile. He doesn’t live in a luxury hotel in the center, but hires through Airbnb in the villa area a few kilometers away and walks home in the evenings. And he chooses a smaller one instead of a great prestige studio, because it’s more intimate. A living room with recording possibilities. This is his home for 3-4 weeks, but also new ground. And it’s necessary for what he wants to accomplish. What’s going to be not one album, but two: first “En vacker natt” released next week, then “En vacker dag”, released in September. Though at that time he didn’t know it.

HALMSTAD, APRIL 2016

In April 2016 Roxette had to cancel their tour due to the recommendation of Marie’s doctors. So the touring period ended for Roxette. Suddenly, Per had no plans. Roxette was over, Gyllene Tider was too early to do something together again and Mr. G felt he has to do something different vs. what he did lately. The question was only what. And where. After he spent more than 400 days in Christoffer’s studio in Vallarum, Skåne during the past 10 years, it was not an option to go there again. In addition, there was nothing to record. The only thing lying around was some songs in the archive that were written for Roxette.

Per tells dn.se he can’t write songs unplanned, it only works if he does it for a particular project. Then slowly, it became clear that he wanted to do something for himself. He wanted to write strong lyrics, for something musically different. A few months later the trip was booked to Nashville, Tennessee and Per Gessle began writing seriously. There was a lot about looking back on his roots. However, a new geographical location was required.

NASHVILLE, OCTOBER 2016

October 2016 is the second time Per Gessle was in Nashville, however, he can’t remember clearly the first time. It was a premiere show on one of Roxette’s US tours, 17 years ago. As Martin writes in the article, it’s really strange that Mr. G has not been there more times, because the city is completely built around songwriting and commercial music production, so it should have been like a second home for an artist who has long been fascinated by the music industry’s all mechanisms – and mastered them better than most.

The country sound was present on Per’s first solo album in 1983, partly on “Scener” in 1985 and on “Mazarin” in 2003. But then it was most like spice, not the base component. Per says the starting point for him was that it should sound like a merger of his Nordic heritage and Nashville. He is not a hardcore country fan, but has always liked a certain kind of country. Like Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young at the time of “Harvest”, but also Jim Reeves, whom he first heard through Gunnar Wiklund. It’s very close to him, but at the same time, he is also very much in the legacy of Swedish music.

The challenge was to bring together the Nordic and Nashville heritage in songs that still sound like Per Gessle. To tie up the career that began as a county troubadour in Halmstad, where Per and his friend sang “Drömmen om Elin” for pensioners, with a 58-year-old popnerd’s album that smells like country.

Per tells Dagens Nyheter that what he understood instantly was that the project had to be based on texts that felt credible and genuine. The song must be much more in focus. It’s an extra challenge to Mr. G, who for a long time hated the sound of his own voice. He tried to sing without thinking too much.

The first challenge was to find local musicians who can bring the Nashville sound. There was no plan, which is unusual for a control freak like Per. But studio owner John McBride helped. Per asked him about good pedal steel players. John said there are only two really good players and he called them to check if they were available. On the third day since they arrived in Nashville, Dan Dugmore came to the studio, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and cap, a gray-haired veteran who played on many albums that Per listened to in the ‘70s, like Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks and James Taylor, and who in the recent years played with two of the most successful new country stars, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. Per immediately felt he met the right musician and decided to have Dugmore on all the songs they recorded.

The next instrument missing was violin. Then came Stuart Duncan, who toured with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. He made Per and the gang open even more. He has never worked with violin or bluegrass, but Stuart introduced a completely new atmosphere, which also made the songs and arrangements different than Per imagined. Per describes Stuart’s way of playing as if he is dancing ballet between Per’s beats and it was completely new to Per musically. Totally amazing.

Martin Jönsson asks Per about what these Nashville musicians knew about him. Per says they of course heard Roxette hits, but they liked more what they heard in the studio related to this project.

Per unfortunately couldn’t work with bluegrass star Alison Krauss, but one of the greatest Nashville musicians, harmonica player Mickey Raphael was available. He played with many musicians from Bob Dylan to Emmylou Harris, but most of all with Willie Nelson since the early ‘70s. On one of the songs of “En vacker dag”, Raphael’s harmonica has an important role, together with acoustic guitars and a children’s choir.

Per tells Dagens Nyheter that he knew from the beginning that this would be his least poppish album, but by letting these musicians control and influence much, they went farther than he had thought. That’s why it became two albums in the end. The recordings were fast and improvised and the songs grew organically.

TYLÖSAND, APRIL 2017

Martin and Per are talking at Hotel Tylösand after the seaside photo session and Per shows the pictures of the album covers on his mobile. The first, “En vacker natt” is dedicated to Per’s sister, Gunilla. She appears on the cover. It was taken on the westcoast in 1966. The second, “En vacker dag” has Elisabeth, Per’s mother on the cover. The picture was taken on a trip in the late ‘60s, with the picnic table just behind the family’s Volvo Amazon.

Per’s mom, Elisabeth died 3.5 years ago. Gunilla, who was 14 years older than Per, died in cancer last autumn, just before the trip to Nashville. Per’s brother, Bengt also died not too long ago, in spring 2014. He was 7 years older than Per and died after a period of illness. Per’s father, Kurt, who ran his own business as a plumber and did not show any interest in his son’s music ambitions died after a long period of illness already when Per was 19 years old.

Mr. G says it’s strange and obviously one gets affected. His father died when Per was still so young and his siblings were so much older than him, so it was more about his mom and himself. The relationship with his siblings was not too close, because they were so much older. Per says Gunilla was Elvis, Bengt was The Beatles and Per was Bowie. There was a big age gap between them. Gunilla never lived at home when Per grew up, she lived her own life.

Per describes Gunilla as a very humanist person, an artistic soul. She was very committed to the care of severe cancer, at the hospice. Then she suffered from cancer herself. She was ill for a long time, so her death wasn’t unexpected.

Mr. G tells Dagens Nyheter that Bengt was very important to Per when he grew up, because he introduced music to Per. At the same time, Bengt also moved and lived his own life early. Then Per was much on the road with Gyllene Tider and when he got home to Halmstad, no one was at home, only his mom. Per and his dad were never so close to each other. Mr. G had the closest relationship with his mother.

The song “Några glas rosé” has the lyrics: ”Allt verkade vilset mitt i mönstret / Det var hög tid att komma bort / Jag undrade vem jag kunde vara / Och sökte efter en av samma sort”. It sounds like a more personal Gessle. Per tells Martin when he writes, he tries not to think too much. He had the ambition to write in a new way, but you never know until after succeeding. But now he can say that this feels very close to himself.

Martin and Per are talking about the fact that Mr. G has always been very much concerned with protecting his private life. Per says he feels better this way. He likes to talk about records and guitars and cars, but he has no interest in taking part in TV shows like “Så mycket bättre” or other programs and being “personal”.

To the question why, Per replies that when writing songs, you are digging all the time in yourself, you love your own story. He has sometimes become very tired of himself. Then, of course, it also comes from the fact that he has been living in the centre of attention. When Roxette was the biggest, Expressen had a small section on the entertainment pages called “Roxette of the Day”. Every day. When everyone constantly observes what you do you grow thick skin. Of course you’ll be affected anyway. You don’t have alligator skin. Martin asks Per how he handled it. Per says through his family. They are very close, always. And also through those he chooses to work with. It’s like an extended family.

Martin asks about those who Per works together with. They are the same people over the years and he is curious if it is more because of feeling safer or because of control freak reasons. According to Mr. G it’s more for the reason of feeling safe. He needs a small group of people he can trust and enjoy working with. He knows that he has to develop it and once in a while tries to work with new people in a new project, to bring in another dynamic, but some always remain. He has been lucky enough to find people whom he gets on well and can learn from, even musically. Per has never had the ambition to do the same thing. Even if the basics are always the same, he likes changing a bit between each project.

One of the central songs on “En vacker natt” is “Allt gick så fort”. It stands out, even musically. It is about different stages of life. Per says he couldn’t have written it and some other of the new songs 5-10 years ago. He couldn’t have told the stories in that way. At the same time, he doesn’t want this or other songs to be interpreted autobiographically. It’s still about storytelling and conveying feelings. Even if he mentions his mom in the text he thinks many can identify with the topic itself. The feeling of being eight years with your mom or the feeling of meeting someone. It doesn’t have to be his story.

Per tells Dagens Nyheter that he loves texts where the listeners are allowed to shape the answers and interpret the song themselves. He doesn’t want to control the listener’s experience. He can give the palette, then every painting gets ready by itself. It’s rarely good when artists explain their lyrics. When Paul McCartney told “Martha, my dear” was actually about his dog, it was not as strong anymore…

Martin asks Per about what has changed in his way of writing. Per says some of these lyrics have taken 58 years to mature. Then he can write them down in half an hour. That’s how he works. But he can’t pretend to be anything but who he is.

VALLARUM, JANUARY 2017

Besides “Småstadsprat”, a duet with Lars Winnerbäck, they talk about the duet with Helena, that she went to Nashville for the recordings, but other Swedish duet partners’ vocals were recorded in Sweden. On the autumn album, “En vacker dag” the last and perhaps most important duet is with Per Gessle’s ‘70s idol, John Holm. Title of the song is “Det är vi tillsammans”. Holm has not recorded anything since the late ‘90s and until last year he had not played live since the ’70s. But for Per he is extremely important. He sent fan mails to John Holm in the ‘70s. Mr. G is very happy that John joined him for this duet. He says John Holm is the best, a hero for him, but he thinks John has no clue how much he really meant to Per.

When Per started writing lyrics, it was by translating long, brushy English texts by Bowie, Cohen and others. Then he heard John Holm and then fell so much in place. Per thought he had a strange vocal voice. Holm also had it and it made Per’s strange voice more legitimate.

When Per made his first solo record, which was more a personal album, one of the first decisions was to make a cover of John Holm’s “Den öde stranden”. Now when he becomes more personal again and looks for the roots, Holm is an important part again. Per laughs a bit that nothing has happened since 1983, he is back to where he started. But there is a quality in it too. This is the music he comes from, the one he loves most. It still feels fresh for him, as he constantly tries to do it in new ways.

Martin Jönsson thinks there is an indisputable chemistry between Per’s and John’s voices and their duet will be heard at many weddings in the coming years.

NASHVILLE, NOVEMBER 2016

In November 2016 it was clear that there will be two albums. The musicians barely left the studio, they only visited the country sanctuary Grand Ole Opry and a few country clubs nearby, as well as paid a quick visit at the Johnny Cash Museum in the center. One evening they were invited to the BMI Awards in Nashville. Per says over a hundred prizes were awarded and most of them sounded the same. White muscle rock with country color. It’s not really the kind of country he can relate to. Although there are exceptions. Per likes Chris Stapleton and there is a song “Die a happy man” by Thomas Rhett. But basically Per is old school and he always liked the classics more.

Per and Martin also talk about Roy Orbison. Mr. G knows Roy’s son, Roy Orbison Jr., who is now building a museum about his dad. He wanted them to be blessed by Roy so he brought some of his father’s old Gibson guitars.

STOCKHOLM, APRIL 2017

When Martin and Per are having coffee at the record company office in Stockholm, Per checks “Småstadsprat” on Spotify and realizes that the single passed half a million streams. He is surprised by this, because he didn’t think the audience would be so receptive. He says it’s not Drake or Zara Larsson after all.

Martin asks Per why the word “småstad” is so important to him. Per says it’s filled with images, some words have that feature. Then it’s rewarding to write small town stories. That’s what he has been doing all his life. His language is very local, he writes about places that are perceived to be natural to many and they stick in the brain. Then the listeners make the places to their own.

To Martin’s question regarding in what aspect Per is still a small town person Per replies that it’s very much about the balance between security and looking for a personal identity, but there is both humility and insecurity in it. Both he and Marie had ambitions and dreams to get away from the small town, but at the same time they were very deeply rooted in it.

Success was very important for Per in the old days. He says when you are young and hungry you think you are unstoppable. With Roxette he never stopped. If they did interviews all day, he thought they could continue with telephone interviews with newspapers in another time zone. It was always possible to do more. Today he is more relaxed with such things. He knows he wouldn’t be able to write “The Look” today. But the records they made now could have never been done during the Roxette years. Now he feels more comfortable writing like this.

Martin asks if it’s like finding home and Per says it is. To reach here and be pleased to be right here. He thinks he is getting better. The day he doesn’t feel like it anymore, he won’t continue.

In the article there is a Spotify playlist including 20 country songs Per chose exclusively for dn.se. HERE you can listen to it.

At the end of the article there is a fact sheet with info about Per’s career, family and interests, as well as a little info about the new albums and the tour. There is a list of musicians Per worked together with on the albums: Clarence Öfwerman, Anders Herrlin, Helena Josefsson, Dan Dugmore, Stuart Duncan, Elizabeth Goodfellow, Mickey Raphael, Savannah Church, Lars Winnerbäck, Linnea Henriksson and John Holm. And we get to know who will be in the band on the summer tour: Clarence Öfwerman, Christoffer Lundquist, Helena Josefsson, Magnus Börjeson, Ola Gustafsson, Malin My-Wall and Andreas Dahlbäck.

Fantastic interview! Thanks a lot for it, Dagens Nyheter!

 

Per Gessle about the new albums and duets – interview by Swedish Radio P4

Swedish Radio (Kulturnytt P4) tried to reach Per Gessle after yesterday’s great news about his 2 new solo albums. They write that Per is now in Nashville and they interviewed him via e-mail.

Swedish Radio asked Per what made him want to do duets with Lars Winnerbäck, Linnea Henriksson and John Holm. Mr. G says often cooperates with Helena Josefsson when he is making his solo albums. This time she is there again and is doing backing vocals on almost all songs and sings one song in duet with Per. Per says Helena is incredibly talented and always lifts his songs to the sky. Their voices are a perfect match. But when Mr. G started writing last summer, he started thinking about male duet partners. A regular duet can bring a different angle to the text. When a guy and a girl sings it sounds in a certain way, but when 2 guys or 2 girls are singing, it becomes something totally different. Interesting.

Per says he has many things in common with Lars Winnerbäck. Small-town background and quite similar taste in music even if Mr. G is older. Per always liked Lars. They met at Sofiero in Helsingborg when he was on tour last summer and Per asked if he wanted to sing a duet. Thank God he wanted.

Besides Helena Josefsson there were other musicians involved: Christoffer Lundquist, Clarence Öfwerman and Anders Herrlin. They were also there in Nashville to record the songs.

The autumn album will contain duets with Linnea Henriksson and John Holm. Per says John Holm was one of those who made him start writing his own songs when he was fourteen, so it’s a personal highlight in Per’s life to record with John Holm. According to Per, John Holm is still a unique singer and personality.

Regarding Linnea Henriksson Per says he had an uptempo song he thought Linnea could sing the chorus on. But after a few weeks in Nashville, he realized that it did not fit into the project, so he put it on hold. But then he had another song that screamed for Linnea’s blue tones and it became so fine. Per is very happy and proud that Linnea wanted to cooperate.

Per says to his great surprise, he had studio time left when they were done with the 14 Swedish songs. Then he thought he could do duets in English with country-girls too. He had two quite newly written songs that he thought would be great to record in the Nashville environment. He called some friends in Nashville’s music industry and got tips on 2 talented girls, Savannah Church and Jessica S. who suddenly appeared and rounded off this incredibly exciting project.

To Swedish Radio’s question regarding how Per would describe the album he said he have tried to make very beautiful songs, arrangements and productions. Stripped down, but efficient. He went started the project with no limits and rules, he didn’t want to sound a certain way or do anything in a format which is now unfortunately characterizes the entire music industry. He wanted the local musicians to be part of and create the songs’ design. Per let them play on almost all songs to see what happens, then they edited it all afterwards and took away what they thought didn’t fit.

Per’s solo projects in Swedish are always quite text-oriented. So it is this time. Perhaps more than ever.

Each song has its own story, it’s about being young and getting older. To look back but also dare to look ahead. Happiness, but also disappointment. About things don’t always turn out as planned or as expected. I have lost my mother, brother and sister in the last three years and it has certainly put its weight on the lyrics and my life in general. But life goes on.

To Swedish Radio’s question if there will be duets on stage, Per replied who knows. He has the habit from Roxette.

The first album, En vacker natt, will be out on April 28th. The first single “Småstadsprat“, a duet with Lars Winnerbäck, will be released on March 17th.

The second album, En vacker dag, will be released on September 1st.

Photo by Anton Corbijn