A conversation with Albin Lee Meldau

One of Scandinavia’s fastest rising artists

First appearing eight months ago with a demo version of viral single “Lou Lou”, the gravelly voiced Albin Lee Meldau was discovered by Hillydilly.com with this glowing recommendation: “Having a unique voice is such a big factor in music today, and when you've the kind of vocals that Sweden's Albin Lee Meldau has, standing out and making a good impression isn't too hard at all” (via Hillydilly). Since making his official debut one month ago, this Swedish singer-songwriter has blown up with over 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and racking up 38k listens to “Lou Lou” on SoundCloud, and he is currently jet-setting across the globe to play live for a new throng of adoring fans.

What you’ll find in this interview is that beneath the raw emotion and folk-pop aesthetic is an honest-to-a-fault individual who quite simply wants to makes the best music he can. Here, we discuss what it means to go solo, an appreciation for imperfection, a love for retro pop music and a few things that don’t quite gel with one of Scandinavia’s fastest rising artists.

First of all, can you tell me a little about yourself and your musical background?

Okay, I’m a 28-year-old musician from Gothenburg in Sweden. I play pop music, straight from the heart. For me, the essential part is the story, so I try to keep myself as broad as possible. My background comes from playing on the street, playing in churches, weddings, funerals, all kinds of places. I’ve played soul for six years, I had a band called Magnolia, and so one year ago I started doing my own thing. That’s basically it, I’ve been playing a lot and busking a lot. Oh, and my parents are both singers, so I come from a musical family. I also used to play the trumpet.

Oh, do you ever play the trumpet now?

No, it’s really hard. It’s something you need to practice like all the time, so it’s not something that you can do when you feel like it. Now, I play the guitar, sing and produce.

You said you made the switch from soul to pop?

Yeah, I used to play quite old-school 60s/70s music and now I try to do more of a pop, indie thing. It’s more modern, because I don’t want to do that retro music anymore. I wanted to do my own thing.

Is there anything that influenced that change?

Well, it’s two different things: this is a diary that I’m in control of and a band is a relationship between people. It’s just a different thing. I guess it’s life that has influenced this change. I want to do things with my life, I can’t be waiting for six other people, and it’s very hard for bands also these days. No one wants to sign bands these days unless they’re 100% sure. I started this one year ago and now to be where I am today, it’s very well done, and if I had to do that as a band, I don’t think I would have managed to get this far; it’s very hard to break bands. That’s probably why, and I don’t really like waiting around or sharing or having to listen to people as well [laughs]. No, no, I just mean I’m not a very good team player in that sense. I like to be the one in charge, thus the interviews and being the front of the whole project. I’ve been the back-up singer and the singer in that band [Magnolia] for a long time, I played all kinds of instruments with them, and back-up singing is really what I used to do. I wanted to be a solo singer-songwriter.

You described this project then as your “diary”?

Basically, yes. I’m a young, diligent artist and it is about love and it is a diary. It doesn’t have to be about myself, it can be about any sort of story, but it’s definitely my diary, yeah. It’s just what it is. Most people live their lives and all people can express emotion, but this is my way of doing it. It’s a lot of emotion in one little diary, and hopefully I can release it as soon as possible. I released a little video on Mahogany Sessions the other day for “Darling”, for the next tune that’s coming, and there will be lots more songs in the near future.

Well, I’ll look forward to that, but the song we’ve been listening to a lot recently is “Lou Lou”. It’s a very emotional song, what does it mean to you?

That’s a very dark love story about a girl I used to know when I was young, it’s really… well I will leave it up to the listener to decide what it’s about. It’s filled with emotion as something people could probably relate to. It’s a short, dark, obscure, Scandic-noir love story. Horrible song for me, personally, I don’t like it one bit, because it’s so sad and I hear it all the time! Just wait, I want to release the next song, and the next one, and then the album so there will be plenty of stories.

It’s a short, dark, obscure, Scandic-noir love story.
Albin Lee Meldau

Is “Lou Lou” one that you’d perhaps struggle to play live?

Look, I love all my babies. The worst thing I know is when you don’t want to listen to a song, but if you skipped one song on [Marvin Gaye’s album] Let’s Get It On then you miss the whole story. But no, don’t worry about that. This is the first song, the first one I ever recorded, and I recorded that version for two hundred quid in a cellar, that’s just how we did it. There will be more songs coming up with fantastic producers like Jimmy Napes, Justin Koch, Bjorn Yttling Rich Cooper, Ben Burrows, Bastian Langebaek, Eg White - these are fantastic producers, grammy winners, and Justin even wrote video games. These are great people and so there will be great songs.

I would say that one thing that bloggers and listeners have picked up on is your unique vocal, is that something that came naturally to you or has it been developed over time?

I’ve been singing my whole life. I sang in choirs and I’ve been a backup singer in reggae, blues and soul bands my whole life. I’m not saying I’ve got a unique vocal, but yes I do have a voice that sounds a certain way, and you can hear that it’s me straight away, which is something I’m very proud of, but am I a fantastic singer?! There’s so many fantastic singers today, it’s ridiculous, but for me it’s what the story is all about. I’m a really big Bob Dylan fan, and a fan of people who can’t really sing, at least that’s what other people say, but that’s not what it’s about for me. The voice itself, the sound of it, is obviously something I’ve been working on, obviously, it’s my instrument. I get quite bored of listening to Beyonce and Aretha [Franklin], but yeah the singing is a big part, but some songs that whisper, those might be the good ones. Big vocals don’t really interest me, it’s the message and emotion. Perfection is not attractive at all. You need to find some kind of scar, there needs to be some weird little thing that makes it interesting. That’s probably what I think about when I sing, that it shouldn’t be perfect, it shouldn’t too much.

I completely agree, I much prefer an emotional performance, it’s not about whether it’s technically correct.

Yeah, but then you see someone like Elvis, who I think is the best singer ever, because he could combine the two - perfection and emotion. It’s really a very hard question, I’ve done this a long time, I’m a singer. I wish I could be a poet instead, and maybe a model, maybe a blogger in fashion, and I want to be a producer!

Well we often talk about how artists self-produce and how there’s more producers than ever now, would that be a goal of yours?

Well, I worked with Bjorn Yttling on the first track, “Lou Lou”. Some songs have been produced by others and some I’ve worked on. It doesn’t really matter, whatever the song becomes is the most important thing. If I do a better job then I’ll pick my version and if someone else does the better job I’ll pick their version. I would never say that I’m not open-minded to working with geniuses like them.

Obviously, you’re from Sweden, a country synonymous with pop music, do you think that’s still true today?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Are there any contemporary Swedish artists that you look to or take note of?

First Aid Kit are great singers and “My Silver Lining” is a fantastic song. Lykke Li is fantastic, a fantastic woman. Earlier this year I was a support act for Aurora, she’s a fantastic singer and artist. Basically, everyone is very good! But what do I listen to? I listen to Bob Marley, The Wailers, Elvis Presley, The Temptations, but I don’t really listen to that other stuff.

So, you’re not really a modern pop fan?

Yes, some songs are fantastic, but when it comes down to it, I don’t really have time for anyone else’s music really but my own. When I have the time I’ll listen to Bach or somethin I’ve been really longing for, I don’t have the time to search for new music since this year has been so hectic. I do like First Aid Kit however, I think they’re very good. The new Kendrick [Lamar] album, I thought that was good. Some things that come up like the Drake thing with Rihanna [referencing “Work”], you go out and you can’t really avoid it, I think it’s hilarious, but it’s not what I would listen to. Hmmm… what do I listen to. The Tallest Man On Earth is very good, Leon Bridges had a really good song, Alabama Shakes was fine. I can’t really remember! There’s millions of songs that come every week and it’s just… stuff. I can’t keep up with it. I just concentrate on writing good music. Oh, recently I found this mix of Elvis Presley’s “Crying in the Chapel” with The Wailers. I like weird stuff.

Oh wow, a little bit obscure, but cool.

Obscure, yes. Most things I would listen to right now aren’t on playlists. I don’t like doing my own playlists, I can’t be bothered, like going to one artist and changing. I also can’t understand the idea of someone else doing the playlist for you, so I just go to an artists and press shuffle! Then it has to be an artists where all the songs are good, so Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Buena Vista Social Club. I want my albums to be like that. No one should press skip or swipe to the next one because they feel the story is not good enough.

Moving on from music that you listen to, to your own career. In your opinion, what’s the best thing about being a musician? Is it writing, recording, touring?

Oh, I haven’t been touring, this is very new this thing. It’s not what you’d picture it to be, of course it’s nice not to worry as much as I used to, but it’s not nice having to get up really early every morning [laughs]. It’s not too bad, that’s probably the worst thing about being a professional musician. This is my fifth year of being a professional musician, but I’ve been busking and playing music for a long time. I mean, what is the best thing about work? And that’s when you work! I like performing, I love writing music, I like working. It’s also very nice when people listen to your song and when people all around the world want to tell you that they love your thing, that is of course fantastic. It was a very big honour for me when Quentin Tarantino said it was good and requested a mixtape. Stuff like that happens to me now. It’s the feeling that anything could happen. I love football and sports in general, and this is a sport for me, something that I need to evolve. I can’t stand people who don’t work hard, I hate lazy people. As long as I’m working, I’m happy.

It was a very big honour for me when Quentin Tarantino said it was good and requested a mixtape.
Albin Lee Meldau

That’s great. So, from everything that’ you’ve been writing over the past year, do you have a favourite song?

No! That might change from week to day, and you never know which one it’s going to be. Sometimes you think “this is my favourite song” and then you just hate it. Also, all the songs have got different stories about them, some songs might be brilliant, but it’s such a sad story that you don’t really want to listen to it.

You’ve given us lots of hints that more music is coming soon, so what’s the next release going to sound like? What’s the story behind it?

I don’t know... I’m with Sony Music here in the Nordics, so we’ll see what they say and we’ll see how the streams are going and what sort of plan they’ve got for me. I’m playing a few festivals here, I’m going to The Great Escape, and I’m going to Cape Town to work with fashion. I’m going to London, New York, L.A. and all kinds of places in the next few weeks.

A lot to look forward to this year then?

Oh, I hope so! I mean we’re doing a good job. I’ve got a fantastic team, a brilliant band and a good song. I’m very, very happy that people like it and just being able to survive on doing music, I feel like a fraud here! You pinch yourself and wonder when you’re going to wake up.

This article is written by Hannah Thacker and was published 5 years ago.

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