Written by Jesper Lindqvist. Pictures by Roger Larsson
Translation by Tessa Lande. Revision by Ingegerd Claesson & Anni Jowett
He came from nowhere in 2009 and took Europe by storm when his super hit “Fairytale” won the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, Alexander Rybak, tells in an exclusive interview for Poplight, his opinion of what is good music and about his plans for the future. – My dream for the future is to settle down and just write songs, Alexander Rybak says.
Alexander Rybak is currently in Skellefteå for the weekend to give two concerts together with string students from music schools in Skellefteå, Umeå and Lycksele. The music school in Skellefteå has arranged this in connection with its 50 years anniversary.
Poplight met the Norwegian violinist, and artist, after a practicing session with the students.
– I believe that all artists have to find their thing, you have to find something you want to fight for. Some choose to fight for children in Africa or AIDS. I cannot pretend that I’m really involved in those matters.
I do what I’m good at because I love being a musician, it’s my thing. I would never have got this far without amazing teachers and now I want to be involved in these children’s development, says Alexander Rybak about his current role as a teacher of young people.
“A coincidence what emerges”
Rybak won the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 with the hit song “Fairytale”. The word hit is nothing that he feels that much about. For him is a big hit is in most cases, only a song that has been lucky.
– I quite often wonder why it is called a hit, because in many cases this stamp is decided by a roll of the dice. Many producers go into the studio and feel their way by pressing different buttons. They close their eyes and “roll a dice”, and suddenly they have produced a hit.
In the past this was not possible, you had to think through your music in a completely different way before producing it. Today it is, in many cases, a coincidence what emerges. Despite these random systems, Alexander Rybak still thinks that there are factors that gives a song an impact. He believes that if a song is really good, musically, it will have an impact among a wider audience.
– If you look at the big stars like Justin Bieber and Rihanna, they have some absolutely amazing songs, then they also have songs that would not even be selected for the Melodifestivalen. They are such competent and big artists that it does not matter. A new artist needs something more.
As a new artist, without a guaranteed impact, you need to have a deeper understanding of the music, and you need to understand the music in the form of notes and tones, basic knowledge. Then you need to understand the culture we live in and be able to understand what’s hot right now.
Appreciates “Gangham Style” musically
Alexander Rybak says that each chord can evoke a feeling. Feelings of sadness, joy and pain are not randomly evoked by the music and the lyrics that are produced. And according to him, there are few artists who understand how these factors should be coordinated so the results will be successful.
– I’ve heard an artist who truly understands this, and that is Gotye with the song “Somebody That I used to know”. He is in fact already well known, but the song is so good that it doesn’t really matter. It has a fantastic harmony, melody, chords and lyrics. When these factors are put together, then there is nothing that can stop a song from being a “hit”.
The hardest thing in life is to do something simple. I actually have two songs from last year that I really liked, one was by Gotye and the other was “Gangham Style” (by PSY). The basis for, the latter song’s success is that people who are not musicians like it, but even those who have the musical intelligence understand how ingenious the song is. It is created from a fantastically intelligent foundation, and then they “put it into a ball and threw it out to the masses.” It is so hard to do something so simple.
The radio stations rejected “Fairytale”
If anyone knows what it means to make a song that strikes directly, like a hit, it’s Alexander Rybak. He went in a short time from being a relatively unknown violinist to become one of Europe’s most popular artists with his contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, “Fairytale”. The song received 387 points, the most ever. But the destiny could have been very different for Rybak and “Fairytale”.
– I knew pretty early on that my music was not made for radio. I presented “Fairytale” to different radio stations, in order to sell it in. All radio stations in Norway, Sweden and Russia said that “unfortunately, we will never play a song like this because it’s not the right format.” The radios play “secure cards”, and that’s okay. But why must everything be in a specific format?
When I write music, I always want to tell a story, then I put a melody to it. Only after these steps, I will decide what genre the song can fit into. I do not want to be imprisoned in a genre and it is not because I have not found myself, but because I want to be a versatile artist. I know I have fans who like the opportunity to hear a new genre each time I release a new album.
“Will never be on the stage again”
Alexander Rybak has a lot on his schedule in the near future. This week he flies to Greece to appear at the country’s selection for Eurovision Song Contest, and then it’s off to North America and Toronto for concerts there. On the question of whether we will see Alexander compete in Melodifestivalen or MGP, the answer is divided.
– I am so pleased that we came to the super finals (he was the songwriter for the song “I’m with you” in MGP 2013). I like to really work with songs and not just spit out of me a larger number every year, and I would be happy to join the competition for Eurovision in different countries. But I never want to be on the stage again. In the future, I see myself only as a songwriter. My dream is to settle down in the future, when I have a wife and children, and just write songs, so that I can work from the same place all the time.
From the blog of the journalist Jesper Lindqvist who took the interview above
On the way home …. for now!
So I am on my way home again, but only for a stopover. On Wednesday, the tour continues on to Malmo. New adventures, new opportunities.
There arises a certain melancholic feeling Sunday after one song contest, and the feeling is of course even stronger when you were actually present and working, basically, 24/7 with the project. I am pleased, however, when I think of the last round in Malmo in a week, it’ll be fun to visit another city I never been to before.
Earlier today was the music classes concert with Alexander Rybak, I of course visited. It struck me even more what a huge personality Rybak is. He makes it look awfully cool to play the violin, something that requires a certain character. You can definitely see how he really enjoys to entertain and share his experiences with other musically skilled people. Because musicality in individuals is something that Rybak values.
* One thing that struck me during this show. Has Bjorkman ever thought of using Alexander Rybak as the host of the Eurovision Song Contest? He has an enormous charisma, a natural humour in his expression and is also hugely versatile. Now, he is unfortunately not Swedish, which may act as disadvantage of course, but probably it would be cool to see anyway.
Will still say that it will be nice to come home, there’s something in the air in Skellefteå that has made me cold inside, a cold that will not go away, even though the temperature has been lower than in Stockholm during these days.
Now it’s time to get off the bus and on the plane. The next time I write will be on my way to Malmo. Here we go! …. Again!!