By Melody A.M.
Through interviews with a variety of (mostly) musical guests, the podcast delves into life in the Nordic region and explores what inspires some of the best acts hailing from these countries.
Melody A.M.Apr 28, 2023
EUROVISION SPECIAL - THE NORDICS AT EUROVISION
The Eurovision Song Contest has been held annually since 1956 – with the only exception being 2020, when the competition had to be cancelled due to coronavirus. It has been the longest-running yearly international music competition on TV and one of the world's longest-running TV programmes overall. Since 1956 there have been 14 victories by Nordic countries at Eurovision.
The biggest success story in terms of wins at Eurovision, among the Nordic five who take part, belongs to Sweden. To date, Sweden has won 7 times, most recently in May 2023 when Loreen's "Tattoo" pipped Finland to the post. There were three Nordic countries in the top 5, with Finland coming 2nd and Norway coming 5th.
Despite sending some 10/10 bangers to the contest, Iceland is the only Nordic country to remain without a win, yet.
To geek out about the role that the Nordics have at Eurovision, Doron is joined for this special episode by the host of the Official Eurovision Podcast and former BBC radio 1 presenter, Steve Holden. Steve is not only a fellow long-time Eurovision fan but has also got to meet and interview many Eurovision legends over the years, so it’s been great to hear some of his insights and find out about important issues such as which acts he’d like to see return to Eurovision in the future and which historic obscure national selection entries he thinks were robbed.
On our website at www.melodyam.com/eurovision you will find a playlist with suggested Eurovision-related tracks from years gone by including some of the songs that didn’t quite manage to make it to Eurovision but perhaps should have.
Norwegian trio, KEiiNO, has been making Northern Lights-style waves in the world of pop since winning Norway’s pre-Eurovision selection competition, Melodi Grand Prix, and subsequently representing their country at the song contest in 2019.
Fred Buljo, Alexandra Rotan and Tom Hugo wowed audiences around the world with their entry, "Spirit in the Sky”, and the song has brought them a loyal fanbase, which – in turn – means that they’ve had plenty of exciting opportunities to tour around the world.
KEiiNO’s sound, which mixes pop, dance and traditional Sámi joiking really stands out so that, even when they are covering other people’s songs, their distinct approach to crafting an impactful pop production is instantly recognisable (A-Ha’s “The Sun Always Shines On TV”, being a prime example). Their debut album, OKTA, offers no dull moments.
Building on their Eurovision success, KEiiNO returned to Melodi Grand Prix in 2021 with the song "Monument". The group delivered an electrifying performance that earned them second place in the competition, solidifying their status as one of Norway's most beloved musical acts.
The group's dedication to highlighting Sámi culture through their music is an important part of their identity and, in our interview, it emerges that some KEiiNO fans have been learning Sámi after discovering the language and its cultural background through the music.
Fred, Alexandra and Tom generously took time away from recording new music whilst in a remote cabin in Trysil, in the East Norway, to chat to Melody A.M. They talk about how they create music together, the importance of taking a jacuzzi break, the superiority of Norwegian cow’s milk and tap-water and –importantly – we explore the possibility of a KEiiNO return to Eurovision in the future.
Check out our KEiiNO playlist at www.melodyam.com/keiino, for some of the triumvirate’s discography highlights.
With a frenetic twist on electronic pop, ALMA has over the past 7 years become one of the most exciting pop artists in the world.
ALMA first rose to fame a decade ago when she took part in the Finnish version of the popular singing competition, IDOLS. Her powerful voice and energetic stage presence quickly caught the attentions of the judges and audiences alike and she went on to place fifth in the competition. Her enviable career trajectory following the show, however, shows that it’s not all about winning competitions.
ALMA’s debut single, "Karma", came out in 2016 and she has, since, collaborated with some of the biggest names in pop, including Miley Cyrus, Charli XCX, Tove Lo, Tove Styrke and MØ.
Our interview coincides with the release of ALMA’s highly anticipated new album, Time Machine, which showcases her growth and development as an artist. It also sees her building on her songwriting prowess, penning lyrics that, at times, come from a very personal, honest place.
With a bold style and a daring, unapologetic attitude, ALMA is a role model for many in the LGBTQIA+ community, her music speaking to the struggles and triumphs of everyday life, with a message of self-acceptance and individuality, which resonates with fans of all ages.
Listeners who have been following Melody A.M. for a while may recall that season 1 of the podcast ended with a special episode looking at the tremendous work of song-writing and production powerhouse, Max Martin. Having worked with Max Martin’s team on her new album, ALMA tells me about the sound advice and the steer which the man himself offered, in order to help make Time Machine the big pop moment that it is. We also talk politics, what with the recent Finnish elections making it impossible not to and I find out a bit about Helsinki as well as what ALMA loves most about her home country.
On our website, at www.melodyam.com/alma you can also find a playlist dedicated to some of ALMA's finest pop moments.
Ásgeir became a huge star in Iceland just as he was turning 20 years old. His debut album, which came out in 2012, ended up being the fastest-selling debut album in Icelandic history. We’re talking even more successful than Björk!
Originally performed in Icelandic, the songs were subsequently translated into English with the help of John Grant, and released internationally under the title In the Silence. The leading single from it, “King & Cross”, has - to date - had just under 60 million streams on Spotify alone.
What is it that makes Ásgeir’s music so attractive to the ear? It is, essentially, about the combination of the poetic lyrics (some of which were, in fact, written by his father), Ásgeir’s soft and soothing voice and the melodic richness that shines through both those of his songs that are layered with many dimensions of arrangements and those that are more stripped back.
Ásgeir’s most recent record, Time On My Hands, released in 2022, took the sound he had developed over the preceding decade and incorporated an additional, electronic aesthetic into the production, creating a beautiful blend of folk and pop.
For this episode of Melody A.M., Ásgeir has very kindly given us two acoustic recordings to share with our listeners. One is an Icelandic version of his song “Eventide”, which originally appeared on his 2020 album, Bury The Moon. The second recording is a stripped-back revisit of his 2019 single, “Youth”.
In our interview, Ásgeir tells Melody A.M. about the harsh winter they’ve had in Reykjavik, he talks about the evolution of his writing and his sound, he gives an insight as to how he sometimes likes to pass the time when he’s on tour and shares his dream of where he’d like to one day perform live.
For fans of cutting edge pop music, there is currently one particularly exciting Norwegian record label making a real impact. It’s called GEMS and this episode of Melody A.M. is dedicated to one of its key signings, DØSSI.
Being raised near the fjords on the West coast of Norway, Ingrid Døssland grew up on 90s pop - Shaggy’s ‘Mr Boombastic’ and the music of the Spice Girls being just a couple of examples of her early childhood inspirations. Her own music is something completely different, however. Being something of a virtuoso - she’s been playing piano and cello since she was very young and she’s also sung in choirs - DØSSI’s music has a tender, gentle and folky slant on pop music. At the heart of it is her beautiful voice, which was recently on display, as it were, at London’s St Pancras Old Church, where DØSSI performed together with fellow Norwegian musician, Inger Nordvik.
DØSSI’s debut album, “love, let go and love again”, came out at the very end of 2022. It offers emotional songwriting and beautiful melodies, including the absolutely mesmerising title track as well as the Melody A.M. favourite, ‘wildflower’, which DØSSI has recorded a special acoustic version of for the podcast.
In our interview, DØSSI also speaks about how she very nearly went down the path of becoming an opera singer, we discuss cinnamon buns as an innovative approach to selling gig tickets and we hear about what the Bergen-based musician loves about the city that is now her home.
Make sure you also check out our DØSSI playlist on our website at www.melodyam.com/dossi which features ten of her best tracks (to our ears!).
This, the first episode of Season 2 of Melody A.M., is dedicated to Icelandic musician, Emilíana Torrini, who began her music career in the mid-1990s, contributing vocals to the debut album by Icelandic band, Spoon. She went on to release her own debut, a covers album, in 1995. Having subsequently moved to London, she signed a record deal with One Little Indian, home to the likes of Björk, Chumbawamba, Skunk Anansie, Sneaker Pimps and the Sugarcubes.
In 1999 she released her breakthrough album, Love in the Time of Science, which soon established her reputation as a talented singer, songwriter and live performer. The album featured electronic beats, introspective lyrics and Torrini's powerful vocals, which some compared to Björk and Kate Bush.
Throughout her career, Torrini has collaborated with a diverse range of artists, including Belgian duo, The Colorist Orchestra, with whom she has worked on her new album, Racing The Storm, as well as pop icon Kylie Minogue. 'Slow', the chart-topping hit Torrini wrote for Minogue with long-term musical partner, Dan Carey, celebrates its 20th anniversary in Autumn 2023.
With a career spanning over nearly three decades, Torrini continues to make music that piques the listener's interest.
Talking to Melody A.M. about her work with The Colonist Orchestra, Torrini says: “It’s the circus I always wished to run away with as a kid”.
In this interview, she also reveals that she's been working on two additional new albums, the first of which is due out in 2024. She also recalls what it was like working with Kylie Minogue and what inadvertent sonic quirk might have made 'Slow' the timeless hit it is.
Check out www.melodyam.com/emiliana where you can find an Emilíana Torrini playlist with some of our favourite tracks from this artist.
MAX MARTIN SPECIAL
After persistently pursuing Britney and Madonna collaborator, Guy Sigsworth, to work with her, Norwegian singer-songwriter, film & tv score composer and multi-instrumentalist, Kate Havnevik, produced one of the most spectacular debut albums with 2006’s Melankton. As a simplistic soundscape comparison point, think Björk’s 'Jóga'. And then some.
She has since gone on to become one of the most successful synch artists, with no less than ten of her songs being used on American television drama, Grey's Anatomy.
Moreover, producer Shonda Rhimes subsequently invited her to write and record a new track especially for the show and the song in question, 'Grace', has now appeared for the first time on a reissued 15th anniversary version of Melankton.
2022 also saw the release of Kate's latest long-player, Lightship, in partnership with Sigsworth and also including a track with percussionist and composer, Talvin Singh.
In this interview with Melody A.M. Kate tells Doron and Chris about baking cakes to fund her music releases, what her creative process with her collaborators looks like and about the time David Bowie came up to her and said "Hi, are you Kate?".
Check out our Kate Havnevik playlist at www.melodyam.com/kate with some of our favourite tracks by this Norwegian talent.
Boy bands are a cultural phenomenon. Whether they’re slowly rising from stools or wanting it that way, they are an inescapable force of nature within pop music.
And Oscar Enestad knows better than most, having cut his teeth in one of Sweden’s biggest ever boy bands, FO&O, who won hearts - and awards - before going their separate ways in 2017. The three main members (a fourth left the band) have all gone on to big things: Omar Rudberg has a pop career and stars in Netflix’s huge hit, Young Royals. Felix Sandman has taken a similar route, simultaneously releasing music and acting in popular shows in Sweden and Norway. And Oscar Enestad, star of this episode, has just launched his debut album, Drömmar.
The album offers wall to wall melodic pop, with echoes of some of his big influences, The 1975 and Troye Sivan. Falsetto vocals blend with personal lyrics and catchy tunes to create a strong impression and launch him onto the Swedish music scene.
We chatted with him about life in the band versus life as a solo artist, explored whether he might soon be putting his acting chops to the test, and found out what it was like going to a music school in Stockholm surrounded by future world stars…
Check out our website at www.melodyam.com/oscar where you will also find an Oscar Enestad playlist with some of our favourite tracks by the Swede.
Swedish singer-songwriter, producer and filmmaker Jonna Lee started her music career as a fairly unassuming folk musician. Her big international breakthrough came when, in 2009, a series of mysterious videos started appearing on YouTube - and quickly went viral. Speculation as to their creator was rife - was it Christina Aguilera? Could it be Goldfrapp? - but it eventually turned out to be iamamiwhoami, Jonna’s electronic music and audiovisual project in collaboration with Claes Björklund.
Jonna founded her own record label, to whom it may concern, and three beautiful electronic albums followed, with iamamiwhoami’s music ranging from glacial soundscapes to pounding electronic beats and pop behemoths, all accompanied by spectacular visual counterparts.
Long before anyone had heard of covid-19 and lockdowns, iamamiwhoami were at the cutting edge of online concerts, creating immersive experiences which fans all over the world could enjoy. 2010’s In Concert, the first iteration of their live shows, was not only a musical art installation but also an effective way for a new act to perform to fans internationally, through an online shared experience.
In 2017, Jonna embarked on a solo project under the moniker ionnalee, although she maintained the same ethos, releasing a visual film alongside the album Everyone Afraid to be Forgotten. The follow-up, Remember the Future, featured collaborations with Röyksopp, Zola Jesus and fellow Swede Jennie Abrahamson.
And now, in 2022, Jonna is back with Claes as the pair release their latest iamamiwhoami album, Be Here Soon. We caught up with Jonna just a couple of weeks before its release - due on the same day as the birth of her first child - to discuss this latest project.
Check out our artist playlist with a selection of (a modest) twenty of our favourite iamamiwhoami and ionnalee tracks at www.melodyam.com/iam
Danish band Efterklang formed in Copenhagen in late 2000 and have been bewitching audiences with their blend of atmospheric pop and lush orchestral rock ever since.
No strangers to worldwide critical acclaim, as well as commercial success in their native Denmark, their career has seen them form their own record label, start several side projects, as well as travel to an abandoned Russian settlement near the North Pole to record sounds in and around the decaying industrial sites.
In 2021 the trio - Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg - released their sixth studio album, Windflowers. The isolation of recent years allowed them to refocus on the essential, reconnecting with each other and nature, and embody change through the symbolic titular flower, resulting in one of the most beautiful records to come out of the collective trauma the world endured thanks to the pandemic.
We caught up with Casper to look back on two decades of Efterklang, reflect on the band’s illustrious live career, and discuss his own recent critically-acclaimed debut solo album, Better Way.
Check out our Efterklang-inspired playlist at www.melodyam.com/efterklang
STEFAN STORM AND THE SOUND OF ARROWS
The Sound of Arrows are a Swedish electropop duo - often compared with Pet Shop Boys at their dreamiest - comprising of Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand. They broke through in 2011 with the album, Voyage, which quickly became a cult hit for the Popjustice generation with its hopeful lyrics, soaring melodies and euphoric hooks. They followed this eventually in 2017 with the album Stay Free, which built on their sound and added a stellar cast of supporting characters, including Annie and Niki and the Dove.
With Oskar focusing on work in film, it’s fair to say that Stefan is the lead player in The Sound of Arrows and he has his fingers in multiple musical pies, having written with the likes of British legends Richard X and Xenomania, and, in 2020, co-writing and producing Norwegian icon, Annie’s long-awaited comeback album, Dark Hearts.
We caught up with him to chat about his work with The Sound of Arrows and Annie, as well as the many other collaborations he’s done or has in the pipeline. We’ve also built a playlist of his top tunes, which you can find at www.melodyam.com/stefanstorm
THE ABBA SPECIAL
ABBA need no introduction. Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid are four of the most famous Swedes of all time and one of the world’s biggest bands ever, with hundreds of millions of album sales and their ubiquitous Greatest Hits collection, Gold, having spent more than 900 weeks in the UK charts. No one will have missed their recent comeback after 40 years, with the album Voyage and their upcoming Abbatar residency in London.
But ABBA haven’t always been viewed with the reverence they are today, though, often being sniffed at by critics and forgotten by audiences until a resurgence in interest in the 1990s, spearheaded by Erasure, Australian films Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding, and the group A-Teens, led them back to where they are today - helped in no small part by the show and film Mamma Mia, of course.
So it makes perfect sense that, in Stockholm, the place where it all began, these pop behemoths should eventually get their own museum, which opened in 2013. It quickly became a staple part of any tourist’s visit and has maintained its huge success ever since.
We wanted to find out a little bit more about this cultural Mecca and in this episode we Are speaking to Museum Director, Caroline Fagerlind, not only about the museum itself, but also about ABBA’s Stockholm, their new music and the ABBA VOYAGE shows.
Faroese musician, Janus Rasmussen, has many strings to his bow and, alongside his own solo music and a multitude of collaborations with other artists (as producer, engineer and songwriter), he is also famous for his highly-celebrated work with Ólafur Arnalds as KIASMOS.
Now based in Reykjavik, Rasmussen’s discography has spanned multiple genres. The electro-pop elements of his early career with the band Bloodgroup have evolved into a rich, predominantly instrumental techno-tingle soundscape and his prowess as a producer has also brought about a successful side-career as a host of a series of production tricks videos on Youtube.
Rasmussen’s debut album, Vin, was nominated for the Nordic Music Council Prize and we’ve included tracks from that record together with other highlights on our Janus Rasmussen playlist which you can check out on our website at www.melodyam.com/janus
What do you get when you combine two of Sweden’s hottest songwriters and performers in a duo? Musical magic, of course.
And magic is something which Pure Shores, made up of Ji Nilsson and Marlene, provide with everything they release.
The pair have always worked together behind the scenes, co-writing and producing on each other’s solo hits. Both burst into the scene around 2014, with Marlene’s instantly iconic Bon Voyage, and Ji’s Heartbreakfree.
They continued releasing gorgeous solo hits throughout the years, but it’s when they duet together that they truly shine.
First up came a one-off release for International Women’s Day, Love You Anyway. The pair then treated us to a couple more duets over the years, until they decided to make things official in 2019, launching Pure Shores - yes, they are named after that legendary All Saints song.
Each pop nugget provides three minutes of sugary joy, always recognisable with the “Pure Shores” tag at the top of the track.
2022 sees them release their first EP, as well as continuing to work on music for other artists.
We caught up with Marlene and Ji to geek out over our collective love of pop music and get their guide to the coolest hangouts in Stockholm.
We’ve also put together a playlist of some of their choicest jams, so check it out on our website at www.melodyam.com/pureshores
Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, Jenny Wilson, is the epitome of resilience.
An alumnus of First Floor Power, a late-90s Swedish pop band whose live shows inspired The Knife’s ‘You Take My Breath Away’ (to which Wilson contributed vocals), Wilson released her debut solo record, Love & Youth, back in 2005 on The Knife’s own record label, Rabid, and with each subsequent album release she has documented a life crowded with incident and challenges, from the changes brought about by motherhood, through recurring battles with cancer and, subsequently, the aftermath of sexual assault.
Wilson is a phenomenal live performer and, despite the rescheduling of several gigs in the run up to (and during) the pandemic, she managed to harness the energy she exudes in her shows and channel it into her most recent album, Mästerverket, which was recorded predominantly through complete live takes with her entire band in the studio.
Aside from Mästerverket, 2021 also saw the release of a two-track erotic horror ambient record Wilson created with her boyfriend Christian Ekvall, under the joint moniker DRIFTEN, as well as Nicole Saboune’s latest LP, Attachment Theory, which Wilson co-wrote and produced.
In allowing her vulnerability to show and, at the same time, remaining powerful, strong-willed and honest, Wilson boasts a discography that is simultaneously upsetting, moving, inspiring and galvanising.
For this episode of Melody A.M. Chris and Doron had the opportunity to meet Wilson backstage at Stockholm’s Södra Teatern before a soundcheck.
We are grateful that Wilson has also provided us with an exclusive home recording of her track, Rapin*. This interpretation of the song was originally devised for her subsequently-rescheduled solo tour in 2020. When she posted video footage of her rehearsing this version on Instagram back in November 2020 she explained: "To have the courage to tell this horrendous story I originally had to dress it in an extremely hard costume. Now I am undressing the song and [trying] to make it as beautiful and sad as I can."
Asbjørn is one of Denmark's best musical imports of the past decade.
He is, in a way, a precursor to what Troye Sivan has become and the consistent, unifying thread running through all of his releases binds honest lyrics, catchy melodies and unpredictable beats that instantly make you tap your foot and think about dancing.
His debut album, Sunken Ships, from 2012, was a beautiful coming of age record. The brilliant 2015 follow-up, Pseudo Visions, was an ambitious, predominantly audio-visual self discovery pop monster and his newest long-player, BOYOLOGY, is a contemporary look at what it means to be a human being in the year 2022.
All of Asbjørn's discography combines accessibility with quality and his humour, which you'll get a taste of from our interview, shines through his lyrics as well.
Chris and Doron caught up with Asbjørn at the end of 2021, when he was putting the finishing touches to the new album in Denmark's Jutland peninsula.
With this being our very first episode proper, Asbjørn also kindly agreed to record a special performance of his recent single, "Be Human", for Melody A.M. and you can catch it at the end of this episode.
If you head over to our website at www.melodyam.com/asbjørn, you'll find an Asbjørn playlist in which we've gathered our favourite tracks by the Danish pop kid, for your further listening pleasure.
Season 1 Introduction
With Melody A.M. Chris and Doron celebrate the music of and musicians from the Nordics. We delve into life in this region through the lens of the artists who know it best. Join us on a musical journey through these fascinating, beautiful countries.