BlackBook Interview: Swedish Pop Sensation Olsson on Berlin, Hating Nostalgia & the Genius of Charli XCX

 

 

By the time Olsson‘s inaugural album (the humbly titled) Millions debuted in 2017, he had already done songwriting time with the fabulous Ms. Charli XCX (“Body of My Own”), and sung in a London choir with some of the backup trillers for Sam Smith and Amy Winehouse. And of his Madchester-influenced first single “Hold On,” Noisey raved that it “blends baggy vibes with gospel goodness.”

He was also nominated for a Swedish Grammy for his kooky video for the song “U.”

In the interim, the iconoclastic songsmith (born Christian Olsson) decamped to Berlin for new inspiration. It eventually led to his follow up album Tropical Cologne, partly recorded in the Peter Bjorn & John helmed INGRID studio in Stockholm, and released last week by Universal Sweden.

The breezy single “Pink Rambler” shows him to have moved decisively on from the acid house obsession, mixing languid calypso vibes with opulent harmonies and clever lyrical couplets like “Feeling like a woman / Dressed up like a man.” While on “Some Summertime,” the smooth R&B grooves and lush atmospherics are singularly elevated via a sultry guest vocal performance by Grant.

We caught up with the OLSSON recently for a chat about everything from pissing off his demons to avoiding the nostalgia trap.

 

 

Your debut album Millions exhibited a mix of styles, from Britpop to synth-pop. What are some of your most pronounced influences?

When I started writing Millions, I felt totally uninspired of all current music around me – so I started collecting images from my upbringing in the ’90s, from raves, late night parties and visuals with strong and bright colors from that era, together with Madchester beats. The only thing I knew in the beginning was that I wanted to sound like nothing out there.
Now I’m mostly into rare Africa beats like Hailu Mergia, Khruangbin and everything Steve Lacy lays his hands on. He’s the next big thing.

Is your new album title Tropical Cologne a metaphor? Or do you really wear tropical cologne? 

I feel we all want to be somewhere else. Everything is okay but nobody is alright, you know? We are all on the run and we wish we were on permanent vacation. From ourselves. From our surroundings. I wanted to capture this in something warm, decadent, romantic and perishable. And voila…Tropical Cologne.

What can we expect that was different from your first?

For me it’s still all about simple and beautiful melodies. During the whole period of writing and producing Millions, I was in a very disturbed state and told my demons to piss-off by making this album. I felt I had to write a liberating dance soundtrack to a 3AM after party. Tropical Cologne is more tomorrow’s hangover, maybe even finding clear purpose and starting to fall in love again.

 

Grant and Olsson

 

You recorded at the INGRID studio? Is there a real kinship amongst Stockholm indie musicians?

Stockholm has a really small artist community, I knew most of the INGRID members from before. I think we all did. I’ve been part of that collective from the beginning, and it makes full sense to be under the same roof, hanging out more and, by chance, even do something magical together. It’s pretty easygoing.
I think I learned early that you should surround yourself with amazing people. And then create music with them. Be nice and humble but don’t back off from your vision. Also music is a pure drug to me, but I’ve learned how to deal with it, to not overdose.

Your new single is “Pink Rambler” – have you ever seen or driven a real Rambler?

“Pink Rambler” is about someone who is rumbling around and rediscovering the world after being in hibernation for too long. But I’d love to drive around in my own Pink Rambler one day.

You mentioned that the song is about finding new hope. In these divisive times, do you feel a real sense of hope?

My music has an ambition, is somewhat hopeful…and I feel that I need it in a world where everything is free falling. It can’t get worse right?

Let’s hope not. But you sing, “I hate getting stuck in nostalgia” – yet isn’t all music making these days a product of nostalgia?

I really do hate nostalgia. I’m never like that. Maybe it’s because I also have the worst memory ever – haha. I’m obviously inspired by a bunch of old soulful crooners, but I always aim to do something new with it and move forward. As soon as I feel a song is too similar to something out there, I throw it in the bin. Maybe that’s why it takes me forever to finish an album.

 

 

There’s the line, “You’ve got your pulse against my skin / Even when I’m stuck in Berlin” – do you often get stuck in Berlin?

I moved down there after touring Millions and started writing for this album. I fell in love with the vibe – I’m not alone I know – and never thought I was going back to Sweden. I think I’ll always be stuck in Berlin in my mind, on and off.

You even worked with Charli XCX on her song “Body of My Own”? Was she as fun as she seems?

I really love writing songs for others, I’m trying to find as much time as possible for it. For me it’s the most playful process, and when you meet someone great to write with, you have no idea what’s going to come out of it. Charli is definitely someone who always pushes you in a totally new direction, she´s all about the music and a creative genius. Again, that’s the best thing about music, you can’t control it.

Finally…some Americans are going all hysterical about young politicians with “socialist” leanings. Could you perhaps tell us what is good about or bad about the Swedish system?

Sweden is nowhere what it used to be. I think we have reached rock bottom in terms of our state of the nation – sorry guys. But you know what they say though: the only way is up from here.

 

 

 

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