JENS LEKMAN: Q&A

Originally published in The Irish Times, July 30th 2010

You’re based in Australia now, but you return to your home city of Gothenburg every summer…

Yes, the Swedish summer is just like summer should be – short and full of expectation. It’s not like the Australian summer. That’s just like a nagging old couple. It just goes on for too long – you get sick of it. It’s like, ‘Oh, sunshine? Again?’

What prompted the move to Melbourne, anyway?

It was for a long-distance relationship that I had. It didn’t work out, so I went back home. Then I realised that I’d already fallen in love with the city, so I went back again. I’ve done that a couple of times, actually.

It’s been three years since Night Falls Over Kortedala . Have you written any new material lately?

Yeah, there’s a lot of new tunes. That’s why I’m doing this tour in August – to let them sniff around for a little bit. I’m not really sure what’s inspired me. In a way, it’s like how I always make music. I have all these ideas and inspirations and dreams, and it just sounds like it always does.

Has living Down Under had any impact on the new songs? Are you a songwriter defined by your surroundings?

There won’t be any didgeridoos on the record, I swear. There are a few sounds that I’ve subconsciously picked up here and there, in the context of living there, maybe. For example, have you seen that movie Picnic at Hanging Rock? I love that movie, and Hanging Rock is pretty close to where I live. The pan flute music from that movie – by Zamfir, I think his name was – was so out of context with the Australian landscape, but it fit so beautifully into the movie.

In the past, you’ve spoken about the huge volume of songs you wrote early in your career. Are you still as prolific at the age of 29?

No, I wouldn’t say so now. I still write a lot, but I was really into quantity over quality for a while. I mean, the occasional songs that made it were the exception to the rule, but I just wrote a lot of stuff that didn’t go anywhere. On the other hand, I’ve always been a fan of people who sit down in the morning and write about the most mundane thing they can think of.

When I was living in New York, I had dinner with Arthur Russell’s ex-boyfriend one night, and I think it was he who told me that [Russell] wrote a song called I Brush My Teeth for You . I’ve never heard that song, and I don’t even know if there’s a recording of it – but I thought it was the most beautiful title I’ve ever heard. And in many ways, that’s what I was doing in the past. I was writing songs about brushing my teeth, or baking a loaf of bread. I still love that idea, but now I treasure the songwriting time that I have too much to write songs like that all the time.

You worked with Tracy Thorn on her latest album, and you were also involved in the soundtrack to Drew Barrymore’s Whip It…

From what I understand, Drew and the crew had been listening to my records while making that movie, and in the end they felt that they needed to have some of my songs in there, or something. I was living in New York and really, really depressed, and just before I left for Sweden – to go to Australia again – I got this phone call from my record label, and they said they wanted to fly me out to have a coffee, and talk about the movie and my music. So I did that, and it was a short conversation – about 30-45 minutes long – and we mostly talked about monkeys. I’m not really sure why she started talking about monkeys.

And then at some point during that conversation, I realised ‘This is how I make my money’. I was about to go bankrupt at the time, I was really close to throwing in the towel and just getting a day job. Oh yeah, it happens all the time in my career, for different reasons. So I’m sitting there, and I’m thinking ‘I’m talking to Drew Barrymore about monkeys, and this is how I make my money. I have a really good job.’

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