Scandinavian Persistence: Chatting with Albin Lee Meldau

on June 06, 2017, 12:00pm

Listening to Albin Lee Meldau feels like flipping through a stack of old 45s. His eclectic, powerful voice recalls soulful singer-songwriters of decades past, but his songs also produce a wave of honeyed nostalgia. The Swedish artist has established a major following in Europe on the back of his cathartic songwriting, as if the material were oozing directly out of a diary. Through deep-rooted vocal tones and rustic guitar, Meldau digs to the core of himself in order to share and connect with any listener.

Raised by a Swedish jazz vocalist mother and a British punk father, Meldau’s music takes on the expressive qualities of the former and the intense nature of the latter, but channels it through his own language. The unique combination has earned critical acclaim in addition to droves of eager listeners, including a nomination at the Swedish Grammis and the 2016 Anchor Award, given out by the Reeperbahn Festival.

In fact, Reeperbahn has also selected Meldau to perform at their 2017 festival and the upcoming New York Edition, which showcases the German festival’s artists in Manhattan. The deceptively simple, mystic formula that has helped Meldau develop into a rising star in Scandinavia translates easily, and will surely connect with audiences from Germany to Manhattan.

Your music is so approachable and relatable. Do you find that your creativity, art and songwriting is an essential way for you to connect with others, to communicate with the world?

Thank you very much! That’s a great compliment. It’s very important for me that my story comes across as something anyone could relate to. It helps me communicate with the world, or helps me relate to it. Absolutely. It’s my diary.

How long have you played music?

I’ve played music pretty much my whole life. My mother is a music teacher and both my parents write and sing. I played trumpet as a kid, which has helped me a lot. I started playing and writing in my teens, right after I realized it was the easiest way to get female attention. Nothing has changed — just the size of the venues.

I understand that you used to focus a lot on soul and more classic sounds. How does that inform the way in which you approach pop music? Do you find that the things you like cross the boundaries of different eras, or have you had to change the way you see music and write?

It’s true, I love old Afro-music. I love reggae a little bit too much, but I’ve not regretted one moment I spent studying the old masters. We sample the old to produce the future. I’ve always been stubborn and responsive, but in a progressive way. I realized I wanted to do my own contemporary thing, no matter the outcome. I just play and think later.

You’re the son of a Swedish jazz singer mom and a British punk rocker dad. Did their music make a major impact on you from a young age? Or did you respond in the way that many of us do and seek your own path rather than follow your parents’ music?

My parents shaped me musically. I’m a big soccer fan, and I seriously thought up to the age of 15 that I stood a chance. My father loves Arsenal soccer team, but he’s not the sporty type. My teenage revolt mostly consisted of mischief no parent would encourage.

What’s the most thrilling thing about Gothenburg’s music scene?

The water that’s outside. The storms of the North Sea. The nature there is a harsh environment with a lot of darkness and not much to do — a breeding place for good bands. It’s a good place for our version of the blues.

Soon after your debut a little over a year ago, your Spotify and Soundcloud plays skyrocketed almost immediately. While each play acknowledges this ‘invisible fan’, how fulfilling and important has it been to finally tour around the world and meet your fans face-to-face?

It was a fantastic feeling having people listening to my music. I would never have even dreamt of that happening. To be honest, there have not been many encounters with fans. I don’t really feel it at all actually. I don’t think I’ve fully comprehended it, and in my hometown I’m definitely no star, only Albin. It’s a small town; they already know me.

You recently won the 2016 Anchor Award hosted by the Reeperbahn Festival in Germany, how has that changed your position in the music industry, and how important is it to give praise to emerging acts?

It was great winning the award and it’s given me a lot of experience and new opportunities. It was surreal and it still is. It’s super important to praise new acts. It’s been an honor that I hope someone this year will feel as blessed with.

What are you waiting for? Win a trip to Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany!

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