Lekman is currently on tour in support of his third record, and performs in Atlanta next week at the Variety Playhouse, with fellow Swedish act Taken by Trees opening the show.
$18-$20. 8 p.m. Tues., October 16, Variety Playhouse.
I’ve always wondered about your relationship with Secretly Canadian — how did you end up with them in the first place?
They were the first ones to hear my music. I was making songs and recordings in my bedroom at my parents' place for a really long time, since I was 15 or something. I was 21 and I had come to a point where I felt like something needs to happen — but I didn’t know what — because otherwise I felt like I would just grow old and bitter. I had put so much effort into making music and nothing had come out of it. For some reason, I have no idea why, I just felt like maybe Secretly Canadian would understand... I thought Secretly Canadian was maybe the label for this and I loved a lot of their bands. So I sent them a CD and they wrote back like a week after.
You’ve called I Know What Love Isn’t your "first true album." Why have you made that distinction here, even though you’ve released several albums — including When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog, Oh You’re So Silent, Jens, and Night Falls Over Kortedala?
Well, Oh You’re So Silent, Jens was actually a collection. Night Falls was put together by my friends. I just gave them a bunch of songs. Do you know what Eurovision Contest is?
No, I don’t.
Well you know ABBA? They basically came out of this competition that we have every year, where all the countries, or most countries in Europe, pick a song. Then, they send it to this contest — which is broadcast all over Europe — and we just compete in songwriting. It’s become a spectacle now. It’s all about dancing and the show...but it used to be about songwriting.
So it’s more like American Idol in the U.S., or something like that?
Yeah I would say so. It’s just about who puts on the greatest show — and the songs were crap. But a lot of great bands came out of that in the old days. In the end, every country in Europe gets to call in and say, "Okay song number one — eight points, song number two — six points." So they had sort of a similar thing, where they would call me and go, "Yeah I think that first song — eight points," and then I would put together a chart.
Out of curiosity, do you remember what your highest ranking and lowest ranking songs were?
I don’t, because this was sort of before the songs were finished. I remember “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” getting a low [score], almost being bounced off the album. But then I worked on it some more, and it bounced back.
Over the years, you've communicated with fans directly through your website's Small Talk section. I’m slightly familiar with the site — where you ask people to write you stories. How did that come about?
In the beginning, it was just normal fan mail. People just sending me questions or praise or hate, and then it started getting too boring — that kind of communication. So I started this topic of the month thing, where I just picked a topic, and people had to refer to that somehow. It made the conversations so much more interesting. I think now people have understood that, and I think they think of me as this little treasure chest where they can store their secrets. A lot of people send me stuff and they start the email with, this is something I would never tell even my husband or my wife or my family.
What's that like for you? I can see it being overbearing or almost too much.
Well a lot of times, it's funny stories and it’s not like they’re treating me like a diary. It’s that they understand that there needs to be a story in there. But apart from a few times when I feel like, "Okay this is getting maybe a little bit too heavy," usually it’s really good stories. I like the idea of not writing about myself for a while.
Do you have one or two stories off the top of your head that originally made you think about potentially creating songs based on these stories?
No, not really, I just have little sparks that I think are going to become something bigger. They usually don’t send me the complete stories, it’s just little fragments of something.
Also related to Small Talk, are those your drawings?
Yes, but I mainly just put a paper over a photo, and just do like this [traces an image]. It’s mostly just because I got sick of the Google image thing, where you pick a photo — like every blog now. They just Google image something. I wanted it to be more cohesive.
In one of your most recent posts, you talk about going to Denmark to see the sand dunes, is that where the album cover is?
I had seen the album cover maybe a month or two before [our interview], and then recently I read that and thought, “that’s Denmark?"
Well that’s why I’m wearing a hat and coat. It was freezing.
Moving back to the latest record, who sings harmonies on the album's second song, “Erica America?”
Sophia Bruth, she’s a jazz singer from Melbourne.
She’s great. Are most of the musicians on the record from Melbourne, where you wrote much of I Know What Love Isn't?
No, they’re from all over, really. I did a lot of recordings with people over Skype. I have a lot of musicians in Philadelphia and New York, and those places. Sweden too. There’s a lot of recordings I just did with the drummer over Skype.
How much did you use Skype in making the album?
Mainly, I had to put together loops with little sample beats and stuff like that. I just wanted it to be more loosely played. Mainly, they were just replacing the loops and I would just sit over Skype and go, "More high hat."
So you didn’t actually record the album like that?
Some of the drums and bass parts, stuff like that, yeah.
You were micing your laptop?
No, they were in a studio.
You have said before that you don't like working in traditional studios. How come?
I think it’s the fact that they’re so expensive. I mean I have my own space that I work and record in. I don’t have very fancy mics or anything like that, but I can just sit there for days and hours and weeks and months and just work on things. I need that. I can see how other people shape up and get things done, and it works better for them. But not for me, I need to sit around and think. I just need to have the time to let things mature, like a good cheese.
What kind of cheese?
What kind of cheese my music is?
I don’t know too much about cheese to be honest [smiles].
Fair enough [laughs]. How do you choose your players for your tour? I know you’ve had different bands for different records. For this tour, how is this band coming together?
It’s a really hard process. I just send out emails to everyone I know in music and just check if anyone knows anyone who is not planning to have a baby within the next two years or something.
Is that a prerequisite?
I think so, and I think that is the reason why I now have a band that is like the average age of 22. Me and my bass player, who is also 30-plus, we’re talking about how we have to tuck them in and night and read them bedtime stories, stuff like that.
Can you really do a hundred pushups, like you claim on "Every Little Hair Knows Your Name?"
I could at one point, yes. But then I got into running instead.
Are you still a big runner now?
Yeah, I love running, long distance. I think it’s something that suits... like a writer or someone who’s self-employed and works with creative stuff. Do you know Haruki Murakami?
No, I’m not familiar.
[He's] a guy, a writer from Japan. I haven’t read his other books, but they're supposed to be very good. But he wrote a book about his relationship to running, and the running’s relationship to writing, basically. He writes really long novels. I think you just have to have some sort of routine and get a vacation from your brain once a day, cause you have all of those thoughts and ideas floating around. I usually don’t run longer than half a marathon, then it starts getting painful after that. I only run for the pleasure of it, it’s meditation.
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