Per Gessle at the Tommie Haglund Festival – panel discussion

As we already informed you about it, there was a panel discussion between Tommie Haglund and Per Gessle at the Tommie Haglund Festival, at culture house Najaden in Halmstad on 24th April. I promised to write an English summary, but because of the PG unplugged tour now it took a bit more time for me to share this.

The discussion started at 15:00. The two music giants got a loud applause when they entered the concert hall. They sat on a couch and the moderator, Anelia Kadieva Jonsson sat in an armchair next to them.

Anelia asked how the guys met. Per let Tommie explain it. Tommie said they met at Regnbågen (confectionery in Halmstad). There was a Gyllene Tider tour going on and Tommie had a festival in Stockholm and asked PG if he wanted to come and see. Per says the festival concert was on a weekend and he probably picked the worst day. That was an experience, he laughed. He thought it was exciting though and he is fascinated by Tommie’s music. He added that for Making Something Out Of Nothing he only wrote the lyrics, the music was written by Tommie and it’s cool to be a part of it. Tommie asked Per if he had any text to send over to him, so he could get inspiration from it. Per sent Tommie several texts, but Tommie didn’t really like them. Then there was one that stuck.

Anelia asked Tommie what the text of the song means to him. For him it’s about things that you maybe regret, things you might have done differently. Then she turned to Per to ask the same, but Mr. G told that lyrics have the power of having different meanings for different people. He understands Tommie’s interpretation and it’s good. Per doesn’t like to analyze his own texts. The lyric is about what you think it is about. So Tommie interpreted it this way and got inspiration from it to write the music he wrote to it.

Anelia was curious if the guys were nervous before they started working together. PG’s simple answer was „no”. Haha. Tommie talked about how he wrote the music to the song and realized he talked so much. Per laughed and said „it’s your festival”. The song (Making Something Out Of Nothing without text) became part of Tommie’s symphony.

Per told he worked together with several composers before. He gave them his texts and they made music to them. He was fascinated the most by Tommie’s style, his competence. Per is coming from a totally different music world. It’s a new and very exciting journey for him.

Anelia wanted to know what the guys thought about the result after the song was recorded. Per said it was absolutely amazing and incomparable. Tommie also liked it a lot. He said it was cool to see that the orchestra liked it too and conductor Joachim Gustafsson was phenomenal and Emmi Christensson sang beautifully. Tommie thinks the text made the magic with the music.

The moderator asked Per what his relation to classical music is. Mr. G said it’s quite limited. Classical music for him is from Für Elise on the piano when he was a kid, via Ekseption playing in parks, to his teenage years when he really loved Erik Satie. So it’s rather popular classical music that he listened to. What surprised Per is that Tommie has a wide knowledge about pop music. Tommie said he likes guitars, so he likes Roxette’s music. He thinks all types of music have the same base, but they go different ways. Per thinks that if you have a musical knowledge like Tommie has, then you have a wide space of what sound, what instruments, what arrangement to use. Per said he can’t do that, because he has only a limited amount of colours on his pallette.

Anelia thinks that the song is like a symphony, until the vocal comes in when it becomes sort of a musical. So it might be a new genre, a symphonic musical. She told that already as a child, she was listening to classical music, but there were two exceptions, ABBA and Roxette. She thinks that their music is so melodic that it becomes timeless. She remembers Per told in an interview that pop music should reflect the present, but it’s interesting that what he wrote 30 years ago still feels fresh. Anelia was curious about how someone can write songs this way. Per said he doesn’t know. Anelia said she thought she could get a recipe. The timeless music is the result of what Per is. He grew up with music from the 60’s and 70’s. Everything he wrote is melodic. He needs help with everything else, e.g. the arrangement, the band. Today’s pop music is made most often on laptops and that needs another type of thinking, it’s less about melodies. If there was a recipe, he would have had more hits. To write a song that becomes No. 1 has to have many factors besides the melody. There has to be marketing, timing, trends, luck etc. You can’t just sit next to the piano in the studio and say „yeah, I have written a No. 1 song now”. But you can feel that a song you wrote is maybe better than the one you wrote before. It feels special.

Anelia asked the guys how the songs and music are born. Per explained he is not the one who is sitting all day and works, he works as little as possible. Most often he needs a project, a project that is a Gyllene Tider album or a solo album or the Nashville project. Then his thoughts are around that and ideas are coming to him. To have 10 good songs, maybe you have to write 20. Sometimes one song is like the other, so one kicks out the other. For Roxette there are a lot of ballads – Marie was an amazing ballad singer –, but there can’t be only ballads on an album. Ideas can come from anywhere. Per told he sits in front of TV with the acoustic guitar in his hands, plays something and when he thinks it’s good, he records it with his iPhone. His iPhone is full of ideas.

For Tommie it doesn’t work like this. He can relate to working as least as possible and he also needs a project to be able to work, being it orchestral works. He has a focus and in his mind he collects ideas. He has the „iPhone” in the back of his head, he said. Haha. He realized it very early that if he hears music he can remember it. He is collecting and collecting for even two years and when it’s ready, it’s written down. It’s a long process.

Anelia asked Per whether it’s music or text that comes first. PG replied that there is no rule for that. He most often tries to write the music and lyrics at the same time, so they express the same thing. The text is so much different vs. music. For him texts take more time to write than music. His music is built on melodies. When he now looks at the texts he wrote many years ago they now mean totally different things than back then. Also, if a text is sung by a woman, it makes it different when it’s sung by a man. Regarding how it has changed to write songs over the years, e.g. vs. when he was 20, Per said the most difficult for him nowadays is to write effective 3-chord pop music. At the age of 20 there was this youthful energy and curiosity. „It’s very hard to find it now when I’m… 25”, Per said. Haha. Now he easily feels like he is repeating himself. Or it happens that he is writing and realizes that shit, he already wrote this 5 or 25 years ago. He is not sure that over the years he became a better composer. He is maybe more focused now as a songwriter. But now it’s definitely not like when he was writing e.g. The Look, and a ballad he writes now is paler than Listen To Your Heart.

Anelia asked if Per thinks the target group has become different over the years.  Mr. G informed that the audience gets older too, but if he looks at Spotify and sees who is listening to Roxette, 75-85% of the people are under 45. It’s fun for him as a 63-year-old. At the same time, the old Gyllene Tider songs always find a new generation.

For success there have to be so many factors. Per said success helps you to express yourself the way you want to musically, as a songwriter, as an artist. It’s like when he is now on his unplugged tour. He never told any stories in between the songs he performs, but now it’s much fun.

The moderator said Making Something Out Of Nothing is so magically beautiful that you just want to hear more. She asked if maybe the guys plan to work together on a symphonic musical. Tommie said there are plans. He talked about Borges, Argentinean poet, who wrote La rosa profunda and Tommie composed a song cycle. He wants to frame La rosa profunda with 2 songs Per wrote the text to. The first one would be Voices In The Snow and the other Making Something Out Of Nothing. Anelia asked if Per is writing the text now or maybe he found one in a drawer. PG found one in his archives that would fit and Tommie also thought it would. Tommie said it’s a damn good lyric and if one thinks how a pop text connects with Borges, they have the same values. It’s pure poetry. Tommie already has it all in the back of his head, however, he is now working on his piano concerto.

Anelia asked Per what he is up to these days. Mr. G said he is in the middle of his unplugged tour, they have just released a remix of Fading Like A Flower together with Galantis. Also, he recorded a new album under PG Roxette and in May comes a new single under this project.

Anelia said Per has several ongoing projects and is trying out new things, like now this collabortion with Tommie. She was curious about what Per’s driving force is. „Not to be bored”, Per said. The curiosity is there in his personality and it’s fun to try different things. It’s fun to work together with Tommie. Sometimes you think it’s difficult to work with new people, who you don’t know, because there might be compromises.

Anelia asked the guys which song or music they think is the best one ever written. Tommie replied Making Something Out Of Nothing. Haha. In the end Tommie chose Beethoven’s late quartets, which are very much ahead of their time and Per picked God Only Knows from The Beach Boys, which he thinks is a fantastic song.

The moderator wished good luck to the guys with all what they are doing and the panel discussion ended with a loud applause from the audience.

Those who came to the event were the first ones to hear the song live during the concert that lasted from 16:00 to 19:45 including 2 breaks. Per – instead of watching the F1 race, haha – stayed for the concert as well, sitting in the second row together with Åsa and Lars Nordin, as well as Tommie.


  1. Fredric Delius – North Country Sketches
  2. Tommie Haglund / Per Gessle – Making Something Out Of Nothing (sung by Emmi Christensson)
  3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 21 (with Marcos Madrigal on piano)
  4. Tommie Haglund – Symphony No. 1

The whole concert was beautiful and it was fantastic to hear Making Something Out Of Nothing live, sung by Emmi Christensson. The Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Joachim Gustafsson was also amazing.

Photos in the article are taken by Patrícia Peres.