Published in the paper-issue of “Magasinet”- an appendix to Norwegian “Dagbladet”, 9.7.2011
Written by Eivind Sæther. Photos: Jørn H. Moen.
Found by Susanne Berlin. Article and pictures scanned by Tessa La.
English translation by Marianne Saietz
Revision by Bita J.
“The Wake Up”
Alexander Rybak (25) is no longer dependant on sleeping pills. Now, he dreams of being able to trust people once again.
Text to photo: Alexander Rybak doesn´t trust anyone, and shares that he functions best when he isn’t attached to anyone. “I don’t want to become dependant,” the album releasing 25-year-old says to Magasinet.
At the moment: He has released an album in Swedish: ” Visa vid vindens ängar”
Family: An only child. In relationship with Maria Slyngstad.
What he drives: – I usually borrow cars from my friends, so I drive a lot of different cars.
Favorite gadgets: – I play a lot of video games. Perhaps I should answer a question about that?
Last cultural experience: – I watched “Mad Men” on DVD. It’s fantastic. I dream about being Don Draper.
-I don´t trust people. –
Alexander Rybak has dark circles under his eyes as he watches guests in the restaurant at Aker Brugge, Oslo. He arrived home at 2 in the morning last night, after signing autographs for almost 3 hours after a show, and then driving on the E18 alone in the dark.
– I can be fond of people, but I can never trust anyone. For me, things work best by not becoming overly attached to people. I don’t want to be dependant.
– That sounds lonely –
– It’s not.-
Gone rather unnoticed, Alexander Rybak had released a new album this summer. He sings Swedish songs in collaboration with the old singer/songwriter Mats Paulson, “Visa vid vindens ängar”.
Young girls still scream no matter what he does, even two years after the Grand Prix victory.
- No matter how badly the music snobs try to tear me down, it’s the people who matter. I was in Hønefoss on Saturday signing the new album. In one hour, I sold 150 albums! I sign everywhere. That’s what’s lovely: the people decide.
– And they are fond of you?-
-Yes, or maybe, it’s a little up and down. But I can´t blame the media, when they wish to give space to others a little. It gets boring writing only about my sucesses in the long run.
– I can sense that some people don’t like me because I’ve had a little too much of success. I was a little like that myself when I was younger. I stepped on people because I didn’t have success myself.
– What do you think people think of you?
-People are split into two halves. Either they love everything I do, or they’re skeptics. Though the skeptics are often people who have dreamed of doing what I do, but haven’t made it or lack the financial liberty to do so.
Rybak yawns and re-adjusts his hoodie.
– If I have a bad day, I can’t go out in town. That’s a part of the celebrity career. It’s always sweet when guys 10 cm shorter than me tell me that I am not as tall as I look on TV. I guess they hope that since I’ve crushed some violins and such, it only takes one sentence to get me into a fight. But I dont give a damn what people say about me behind my back. The important thing is that I don´t disappoint anyone when I meet them. One time, I passed by a child who had an autograph book and-…He stops, unable to find the words he’s searching for.
– That will never happen again, to put it plainly.
This winter, it became too much.
Rybak was shambling between the recordings for the shows “Let’s Dance” in Sweden, and a Ukrainian variant of “X-factor”. At the same time, he performed concerts across Europe. In the end, he was vomiting during the breaks of the TV show recordings.
– My girlfriend was on holiday in Latin America, without a phone, and I was so scared that something would happen to her, that she would get kidnapped. I couldn’t sleep – Rybak shares.
He started taking sleeping pills.
– I can’t describe how scared I was. It felt like I had lost all control over the world. I started using more and more sleeping pills, became addicted to nose sprays, began getting stomach pains, and became so stressed that I started throwing up during the recordings in Sweden.
He stops to catch his breath. – I visited a bunch of psychologists in that period, but that was a bit of a disappointing project. I ended up sitting and listening to them. One of the psychologists started telling me about her ex-husband and asked me what she should do.
He smiles widely.
– I guess we are all just human beings. The psychologists helped a little, but I believe, people in your life can be potential psychologists. You don;t necessarily need a professional.-
He ducks down into his hoodie.
The restaurant is empty. The lunch guests have gone back to their jobs.
– I read somewhere, that my big idol, Heath Ledger, died from an overdose of sleeping pills. During one period, I took quite a few every night, and then, I thought of him. And I thought of James Dean… all those who died young, the mystique that forms around them. People love them forever, they become heroes, legends.-
– Do you see yourself as becoming a legend?-
– No. It’s more important that my parents are well, than if I become a legend and sell some collectors’ albums. –
The glances on the street, the way his name gets whispered along the pavements, she, who grabs for her cellphone camera: Alexander Rybak loves being a celebrity.
– I’ve got a much easier celebrity-life than many others, since I’m not afraid of scandals. The only exception was that kissing-photo of me with the dancer, says Rybak grimacing.
During his participation in “Let’s Dance” in Sweden, he was photographed in town with his dance partner Malin Johansson. The rumors of infidelity flourished.
– You know, I know what I am like! I know, I make out a little, out in town. The bad thing about it was that I hurt a girl who is close to me- and her family.
His girlfriend Maria Slyngstad lives in Hammerfest.
– But I’ve realized that I really should not speak about my love-life to the media. Actually, it is only those, who have a strong story to tell, that should be in the media. Those who have been together since they were 14 and are still together. Those with good values.
– Don’t you have good values?
– My values are a little on the odd side. They say that I should avoid hurting those who are closest to me in the room.
I can’t manage being empathic towards that guy in Australia, who has’t received a greeting-letter from me, but if he calls me, I would do anything to get it done.
– Don´t you get bad conscience?-
– As I said, I should not speak of this.-
– But aren’t you a conscientious guy ?-
–Absolutely! And then, you make your own rules along the way. I get a very bad conscience if I know there are 5 children in line who haven’t received my autograph yet.-
Alexander was a child once, too – A wonder-child. He has absolute pitch. The tones have always appeared before him, clear and shining.
– There’s very few who understand me. They don’t understand that I feel best when it’s raining a little. That’s the Belarussian in me.-
When he was little, his mother sang lullabies in minor. They cried themselves to sleep with the sad songs. Then, they woke up and rehearsed.
– I think a lot, but I’m not smart in any way. That is a dreadful combination. I can’t handle long rows of thoughts. It’s like, there is so much inside me and I think of everything at the same time,- says Rybak and as he pulls the fuzzy hair down on his head.
– Are you a bit of a weird guy?
– No. I have normal reactions on most things, though some of my values might be a little different.
– How so?-
– I am concerned with balance with never leaving a person that I’ve met. Everybody who has been nice to me, I carry with me. It becomes a large harddisk after a while.-
– You have a big heart?
– I have a big brain.-
The waitress wipes off the tables once more. Rybak checks his phone, puts his hands in his pockets.
– Has it been healthy for you – all of which you’ve experienced in the last 2 years?-
– Healthy for the man or for the artist? Those are two different things. It is not healthy to be far away from those you care about and not see mom and dad for a whole year. But it has made me extra fond of them.-
– Is it a lonely life?-
– Yes and no. I am afraid of letting people getting too close to me. I have had so many break-ups, it will take many years before I do it again. I always need to move on.-
A couple of weeks ago, he performed in a children’s show in Kristianssand.
– And I’ve become so fond of those kids, I wanted to adopt half of them. When I left, the last day, there were some who couldn´t let go of me. They hugged me harder and harder.-
He stops, holding on to the banana-split.
– I am an only child, so I get very touched. It was real love. Children dare to tell the truth, they are not superficial. But I can not get attached to them. I know, I have to move on. I can not visit them again.-
Last week, a Ukranian offered him a quarter of a million to play a few songs at a wedding. Alexander declined. He needed to rest. This evening, he will get into the car again and drive to some small town where people will be already standing in a line, waiting for him.
– Why did you stop trusting people?-
– Because I have done it in the past and been hurt, in business, in love, in everything. I’ve put my entire life in the hands of people who’ve left me.-
He walks across the empty square of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, points up to the apartment where he lives, and talks about his video games. Then he stops.
– If only I had trusted people a little less, it would not have been so painful.-