The racing mindset (Tankekjøret)
Alexander Rybak, the artist
His thoughts have given Alexander Rybak some challenging downers. Now he returns to Melodi Grand Prix.
An explanation: The Norwegian word “Tankekjør” has no has exact English translation. They are not even sure of the definition in Norwegian. But some dictionaries suggest “Racing thoughts, racing mindset, my brain is racing, and so on. In this article we have chosen to use “racing mindset”
– I apologise for being a bit hushed. I have a typical Monday feeling. Many things that are pressing, says Alexander Rybak (31).
He has many of these Mondays. He begins to recognise them now.
Source: A-Magasinet Aftenposten. Published 22.02.2018. Text: Arve Henriksen. Found by Mónika Menyhért, translated by TessaLa. Revision by Anni Jowett 🙂
In 2009, he sang about a youthful crush in the song “Fairytale”. On 10th March, he returns to the Melodi Grand Prix, nine years after winning, with a superior margin, the international final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow.
This time he sings “That’s How You Write a Song”, a kind of response to all the thousands of messages he receives from young hopefuls who will learn the secret of his success. This is precisely some of the reasons his thoughts may often be tiresome for the artist. Then the music has become a kind of help for self-help when the heavy thoughts appear.
– This song has helped me to process everything about the racing mindset. There are many words for this: depression and discouragement. I like to call it racing mindset. That’s what I’m struggling the most with, he says.
– I’ve learned that it is something I have to go through now and then, and that I need to process the bad feelings. To me, it’s about getting things down on a paper, in the form of a song.
Drowns in the feelings
The years after he left the stage in the Olimpijskij sports arena (Olympic Stadium) in Moscow as Norway’s third Eurovision winner, have not just been easy.
The demand from concert organisers and fans who want a bit of Rybak has been high, sometimes very high. Since 2009, the 31-year-old has been touring in major parts of Europe, released a children’s book, given voice to different characters in a number of children’s movies, released eight studio albums and participated in the Swedes’ “Let’s Dance”. Just to mention some of it. Nevertheless, he constantly experiences the feeling of inadequacy. Then the racing mindset arises.
– These heavy moments always show up when I’m home alone. When I sit there and have a hundred things to do, make accounts, reply to mail, but I do not know where to start. If I drown in those feelings, I’ll just be sitting there and realise that the whole day has gone without me getting anything done, Rybak says.
– And even if I’ve managed to do something, there is still so much I’d like to have done. It’s about stress.
Doesn’t show up unprepared
Before meeting Aftenposten for the interview, the artist has spent several hours preparing. It is because of the perfectionist in him. He hates being unprepared. The fear of it makes his dark thoughts often appear. Also the feeling of failing the fans trigger the trouble in the mind.
– Sometimes it may be a little stupid to be so much of a perfectionist. I wish I was a bit more spontaneous. I have therefore had to say no to all host jobs, all sorts of reality and such. In 90 percent of the cases, I will only feel unprepared, says Rybak.
Even a basically natural thing like going for a walk in downtown Oslo is hard if he does not prepare.
– I do not like to go shopping unless I feel I’m presentable, Rybak reveals.
He must feel he can be a good fellow human that day.
– If I feel I’m not, I feel responsibility for the neighborhood and stay home.
When the big ups and downs days appeared for the first time, he doesn’t remember. But already on the plane home from Moscow, the day after the victory, the 22-year-old understood what he had started.
From the stage in Olimpijsky he had urged all who wanted to meet up at Gardermoen when the delegation was to land on Norwegian soil.
Many thousands of visitors were waiting for the winner.
– I really don’t remember much of that flight. I thought I was prepared for what was waiting for me after I won, but I was certainly not, Rybak recalls.
When Aftenposten followed him on a three-day tour in Finland seven months later, he was standing for several hours after each and every concert to hand out hugs and signatures to screaming fans. Everybody got. To the very end.
– I feel that the worst way to disappoint myself is to disappoint the fans.
Since then, there have been various stories in the wake of his emotional reactions, episodes that have created headlines in the tabloids. He doesn’t want to talk about them anymore.
– The biggest feelings of discouragement don’t necessarily come after I’ve written something on Facebook. They come when I’m home and see all the email and the SMS waiting. I can take a time out a few days, but the worries never take vacation.
Even a loss in the favourite game FIFA may be enough to trigger the bad thoughts.
– I can not play FIFA before going on a trip. It’s not possible. If I lose three times in a row before I leave, I would have this discouragement visible in my face when I meet fans.
The physical helps
With simple steps like vacuuming or doing the dishes helps him to get out of the discouragement.
– If the thoughts are allowed to go round without getting somewhere, it will eventually be very bad, he says.
The winter is worst. Darkness and cold often make him sick.
– To be a Norwegian, born in Belarus, I have an incredibly poor immune system. I probably take three times as many vitamins as everyone else I know. When I’m doing big projects or on long trips, I get sick almost every time when I get home and want to rest, he says.
Varied musical expression
The fans in Russia know him the most as the pop star Alexander Rybak. Here at home, his classic background is just as well-known.
This autumn he will go on a tour with the Trondheimsoloists.
– It’s important for me to have different things to play on. That is where the calmness is created. After the last classical concert for a while, I have to write a new pop song or participate in a TV show. It gives me pleasure to feel versatility in life.
Has support at home
Alexander Rybak is sure that someone will shake their head on the problems he is struggling with.
– I am aware that I need be humble with this. There are many who have been unfortunate in life and who have depression due to far worse things than failing to respond to all emails or losing a FIFA match, he concludes.
The nine years since the victory in Moscow have changed Rybak, both as an artist and as a human being. His Belarusian parents are still important supporters. He also has his girlfriend Julie Elisabeth Gaarud Holm as a support when it gets tough.
– It’s much easier to read a bad review when you have a wise girlfriend next to you. I don’t participate in the Melody Grand Prix this year to assert myself. Maybe that’s where I’ve changed the most. I have gone from being an artist who will highlight myself through the music, to become an artist that highlights the music through me, Rybak says.
Prior to the Eurovision Song Contest (2009), he was not affiliated any management. Today it is Ronnie Klaussen and Mari Rustøy at Artistpartner who control his artist life. In addition, he has agents throughout the world. One of their tasks is to make sure the artist doesn’t get too deep into the comments on social media.
– We urge him not to read so much of this. We take into account the challenges he has and sort out what’s important, says Klaussen and adds: ” Alexander has also grown older and has learned to pay attention to himself to a lot more than before.”
80 million have watched his video
Nevertheless, social media is an important arena for reaching out to the fans. Today, Rybak has his own YouTube channel. Recently, the video “Kotik” passed 80 million views. Now, however, everything is about what will happen in Oslo Spektrum Saturday, March 10th.
– I do not feel that my victory from 2009 is wiped out by joining me again. Imagine if it would have been that anyone who had done well once could not join later! Imagine how dull the World Cup in football would have been if Spain, Germany or Brazil had said “no, we stop at the top”, says Rybak.
Important to believe in your ideas
In recent years he has done dozens of seminars with string orchestras, corps and choirs. They always end with a concert where children play different music genres.
– The kids are not that interested in my success, but they often ask me how to go forward when they want to develop an idea. I find that touching, says Rybak.
– I try to make them realise that all they have to do is to trust their ideas and believe in their talent.
The musician believes one must continue to dream, even after a success. Knowing that he himself said “Never again Melody Grand Prix” after he won the last time. Now he is one of the favourites to win at Oslo Spektrum. The video “That’s How You Write a Song” has already had more than 500,000 views, over twice as many of the competitors. (at the time being, more than 700,000 views 🙂 )
– I don’t want to think too much about winning. This time I’m much more ready to enjoy Spektrum and not only think about the performance itself, says Alexander Rybak.
His biggest hope for the final is that he is able to shut down the racing mindset and enjoy himself when it counts.
– There is only a 50 percent chance I’ll manage that, I think.
This post is also available in Norsk.