Q&A with indie-pop artist Erik Odsell

Award-winning Swedish songwriter and recording artist Erik Odsell has released his new album Human earlier this year.

This comes after the successful release of his previous album Searching For Lost Boys Island, which landed him several nominations for Best Adult Contemporary Song at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards. He has a slew of awards and nominations, and is well-known in not only his native Sweden, but globally too. His third single, ‘Unapology’ garnered airplay in the UK, Germany, Austria, Netherlands and the United States, and spent 13 weeks on the Danish music chart, ChartBase Top-100.

Human has been well-received, and Erik sat down with us to give some insight into the album, his creative process and his inspirations.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

When I was just a small child my father used to put me in a baby chair in front of our old grand piano at our house while he sat there playing. My parents have told me that I could just sit there and listen for hours. When I was about 7 I started playing the piano myself and also started singing in a well-reputed choir and at the age of 13, I picked up the guitar and started to learn how to play by ear. That was around the same time as I also started playing in my first band and I guess I never stopped. I also started writing songs when I was about 13 and me and my childhood friend Henrik Hansson started recording and producing music in the late 90s. Henrik was already then really eager to learn about music recording techniques (much more than I ever was) so I guess I just got lucky that I was able to develop a skill to produce songs alongside my friend who developed the technical skills. Funny fact is that I still work together with my childhood friend Henrik and he actually co-produced my whole latest album, Human.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

My songwriting process can actually vary depending on the song but I usually start with a short melody or some kind of “hook”. From that, I usually continue with adding harmonies to set the right kind of “feeling” to the song and then I start the process of thinking of what I want this song to be about. From that, I start writing lyrics. 

However – sometimes my song comes out of a short lyrical phrase or even from just a word. When I and my co-writer Morten Kier, wrote the song Unapology, from my earlier album Searching For Lost Boys Island, it all started with one word – Unapology – which really isn’t a word. It was just a word I came up with fooling around with the thought of how to apologize to someone without really meaning it and somehow I just loved that “made-up word”.  

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Well – first of all – in my home studio I have a sign saying:” Amateurs wait for inspiration. Professionals go to work”, haha…

But sure – I also need a creative spark. For me, it could be listening to other artists music, or wanting to write about something I have experienced or sometimes just wanting to share something that is important to me in a context I hope is relatable for others also. 

And whenever I get writer’s block I try to make time to take a walk in a beautiful forest not far from where I grew up. If I walk there for an hour, listening to some good music in my headphones, I usually get a lot of ideas for new songs.

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

The music business can be cruel and when you put out new music there’s a lot (and I really mean A LOT) of hard work in marketing etc that in the end will give you just a small payout compared to all the hard work. As I don’t really enjoy the marketing phase that can be kind of stressful and make you feel drained. The business model is also completely different from when I first got into music. I mean, streaming services have had a huge impact on the business model – for better and worse. Sure – It’s a lot easier to put out music today, which is great, but there isn’t really any money in streaming if you’re not a world-known recording artist. So one thing, which would be nice to change, would be a business model regarding streaming services that would benefit songwriters a bit more than how it works today.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

I would say that I love both. I love the creative process and seeing my songs come to life in the studio knowing that with modern recording techniques and digital recording tools the sky is the limit. But I also love performing. On a good day, a live performance has that special nerve that you could never recreate in the studio. I don’t want to choose. I want it all.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

Oo – that’s a hard question to answer. I would have to say that it’s when someone tells you that your music has really made an impact on that person’s life. I also get extremely touched when people really show their feelings during a live performance. I’ve experienced people started crying at concerts and then you know that your music actually means something to someone else. I mean – that is huge!

What’s on your current playlist?

Just like everybody else I’m absolutely in love with Adele’s new album 30 so that’s on repeat. I also listen a lot to Danish artist Mads Langer’s latest album Where Oceans Meet. Highly recommended! 

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

My latest album Human will come out on vinyl in the beginning of next year and after that I will hopefully play a couple of shows with my band. 

Famous last words?

Well – the world is changing and political rhetorics, both in Europe and the US actually scares me a bit and I sometimes feel we’re moving away from common sense, compassion and humanity. So I guess my last famous words will be from my latest album:

– In a world where you can be anything. Be human. 

Watch the making of Human by Erik Odsell below:

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Image credit: Redigera

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