Starting of in Vaasa on Feb 10 at O’Malley’s acting as a “living Beatles jukebox” which is a side project I sometimes entertain myself (and hopefully the audience as well) with. The concept is I enter the stage where there’s an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, and a piano – and I ask the audience: “-What do yo wanna hear?”. Then they can shout whatever Beatles title they want. And off I go – singing and banging out the song on whatever instrument I find suitable. A fun concept with many possible twists and turns in the repertoire. I never know what to expect. It can start with “Sexy Sadie” and end up with “Hey Bulldog”. Or (more likely) start off with “All my loving” and end up with “Hey Jude”. All depending on the “level” and mood of the attending crowd….
The second Finnish show will take place in Turku on March 2 at a the cool pop club Flavour of the Month (named after The Posies great song) hosted by Pikku-Torre. This time I will go back to playing only my own stuff – both from the upcoming album Soundshine but also my old songs from my time with the Merrymakers – and I look forward to meeting the audience over there and the people behind the club and the Finnish pop site One Chord To Another who seem to have an impeccable taste in music. Click the picture below to come to the event page:
Finland for me is quite exotic although I do have a special bond to the country since my father grew up in a small village called Kukkola close to the Torne river. Quoting Wikipedia: “The Finnish and Swedish sides of the river were once one cultural entity, as before 1809 they were both parts of Sweden”. As a child my father actually spoke Finnish at home and he was born with the Finnish name Suo as his last name. In the 50’s he and his brothers had their last name “translated” into Swedish and then the family name became Myhr from the Swedish word “myr”. What it means in English…? “Swamp”! How about David Swamp as my new artist name?
The last thing I have to say related to Finland for now is that you have to see the movie Steam of Life if you can get your hands on it. It’s about “Finnish men in sauna, speaking straight from the heart.”. A master piece if you ask me!
Little did I know that only three years later Tom Petty would team up with ex-Beatle George Harrison who had just made a comeback with the brilliant Cloud Nine album, and that album’s producer ex-E.L.O. genius Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison in the supergroup Traveling Wilburys. And soon after came one of my all time favorite albums – Petty’s masterpiece Full Moon Fever. I was blown away and realized he’s the coolest artist on earth, writing nothing but brilliant songs and with a taste for Beatles, Byrds, Dylan, American roots rock, British new wave á la Costello, Rickenbacker guitars, well… I could make the list longer. (No wonder another pop fanatic like Sweden’s Per Gessle of Roxette always was a big fan!) Another few years later came the album “Wildflowers” and I realized Petty is like vintage vine. Just gets better with age. (At least up ’til that point.)
I saw him live in Stockholm in ’93, and I saw him at Hollywood Bowl, L.A. (where I amazingly have played myself two times), in 2006 (with my hero Jeff Lynne as a guest!), and now it’s time again to welcome him to Europe after twenty years!
So while waiting for my solo album Soundshine due for release in Europe on Lojinx this spring I thought this was enough reason to have a go at one of my favorite Petty songs – “Wildflowers”. Just like I did with ABBA’s “Happy New Year” a couple of weeks ago I decided to keep it simple; one voice – one guitar. As I said then I’m often tempted to add layers of vocals and lots of overdubs. It’s like Jeff Lynne said in this interview “I used to think that more is more, I just loved to overdub.”.
I didn’t intend to make the song “my own” by changing it around too much which is normally recommended when making cover versions but I just think it’s perfect as it is. Sorry for that!
And so the final day came! The day of my first live appearance in Tokyo with a band since the Merrymakers played three songs in front of record business people in 1997 with Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish) on drums!
For more than fifteen years it has been on my “to-do-before-I-die”-list to play in Japan again – but with a full band – AND for the people who actually bought the records, for people who actually have heard my music, for people that actually bought a ticket to come and see the show. And now with my solo debut album Soundshine recently released in Japan (before anywhere else in the world) the dream grew even stronger. And suddenly the day came! It happened on January 11, 2012, at the Powerpop Academy Party that took place in the very hip and happening rock club shimokitawa THREE.
The club is located in the coolest of Tokyo areas which is called Shimokitazawa and is Tokyo’s answer to New York’s Greenwich village or London’s Camden Town. Here’s a picture of me inspecting the neighbourhood in the hours before the concert.
The evening started with two brilliant support acts. The first one called hello! from which the lead singer Yasu also played in my band. I loved their colorful, charming performance and their music reminded me at times of an old favorite band of mine, Ben Folds Five. The highlight for me was when they made a very creative, and inspired version of “April’s Fool” by the Merrymakers. For any songwriter having your songs covered it’s a great honor and a thrilling feeling – and for me it was very touching to watch their cool version of our old song. A similar, almost surreal, feeling hit me when I watched the second band Doacock (which by the way also was a brilliant and highly energetic band) when they made a Merrymakers cover as well. So cool!
And then it was time for my own performance. I started of by playing a few songs on my own – switching between piano and electric guitar. Among the songs I played was “Monument of Me” which was the Merrymakers big radio hit in Japan back in the day – but also “April’s Fool” which had been heard in a “new” version earlier in the evening.
But I couldn’t wait until I got my new backing band up on stage! We played a bunch of songs from Soundshine and it all went incredibly well. The band was tight, inspired, and rockin’ – and the audience seemed very enthusiastic (at least from what I could tell up from stage!). They clapped, cheered, sang-along, danced, and I couldn’t have been happier. When we reached the end of the show with the in Japan famous song “Boom Boom Beat”, and my single “Got you where he wanted”, the house was truly rocking! Also – significantly for Japan – the sound was pristine! I wouldn’t expect a highly professional sound in a small basement rock club in other parts of the world but here the sound was really super. For a performing musician to be inspired and relaxed that is of highest importance.
The show was captured by a film team so hopefully it will be possible to see the show in the future but for now – please enjoy an amateur clip from a cell phone to get a “glimpse” of the first song from the concert “Cut to the chase”. :
I want to say thank you to everyone in the audience who came to the show. You received me with open arms and I will never forget this day! I also want to thank my backing band (you rock!!!) – for the evening dubbed “The Merryfakers” – for an incredible performance. And thanks to boss of Thistime Records / PowerPopAcademy Shinsuke Fujisawa who put it all together with his colleagues and thanks to shimokitazawa THREE for a great evening and for great sound! Please enjoy a slideshow with more photos from the gig, and meeting music business partners, friends, and fans below:
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This was a true “milestone” in my career. Now I have to go back to Sweden and “reality” for a while – and start planning the launch of Soundshine in Europe which is planned for late March. But I will always treasure this memory of Japan – and I can’t wait to come back hopefully sooner rather than later!!! Domo arigato gozaimasu Japan!!!
Thanks to Kiku Fukuzumi for slide show pictures (except the one in the street taken by Ryuji Gotoh), Akky Yasui for picture at the top of the blog post, and to Miyuki Kimura for video clip!
And suddenly there I was again… in a Japanese radio studio. For the first time since the Merrymakers promotional tours of 1997. Radio Nippon had kindly invited me to sing and play two songs and to give an interview talking about my background as a member of The Merrymakers, producer for Japanese artists, but above all my new album Soundshine. It became a quite long and hopefully nice interview that was broadcasted on radio in Japan but also streaming video on the net. They promised me to get a recording of the whole thing so hopefully I will be able to share some of it here later. But for now all I can offer is some photos by Kiku Fukzumi documenting this event that took place on Jan 10, 2012.
I remember Paul McCartney once said “I love being in a band. It’s a luxury. I’d rather have a band than a Rolls Royce.” And it’s true that being in a band is a true luxury. Especially a “real” band. It’s hard to beat the feeling of being in a tight group working creatively together towards the same goal with an “us against the world” mentality. I have very fond memories of the periods when the Merrymakers were a tight songwriting team and we inspired and bounced ideas off each other.
But it’s also true that being a solo artist now gives me a freedom that’s hard to beat. Now I am free to ask whoever I feel like at any given moment for a collaboration. I may not get a positive response all the time but sometimes I might get lucky. For instance on my coming album I’ve been fortunate enough to write with pop heroes like Andreas Mattsson (Popsicle) and Peter Morén (Peter Bjorn & John) and on one of the Japanese bonus tracks which was originally written for Puffy I’ve worked together with another Swedish master of pop; Peter Kvint.
When performing live I am now also able to experiment on a case-to-case basis. Many times I will have to accept that there’s only budget for one guy in the band – myself! Just like in Madrid in December and at Club Wonder in Osaka on this promotional tour of Japan. Other times I can try the “Chuck Berry method” – touring on your own and have local bands backing up in order to save travel costs.
I tried this in London last year and now on this promotional tour of Japan it was time again to try a “local” band put together specially for me for the gig at or the Powerpop Academy Party in Tokyo on Jan 10. They are Ryuji Gotoh from ONEPERCENTRES on drums, Osam Watanabe on bass, and Yasu Hashiguchi from hello! on guitar. It was only a week before the rehersal that I got their e-mail address and was able to start to share some sound files on Dropbox containing their respective parts for each song – so of course I was a little worried… Suddenly last weekend I was standing in a rehearsal room in Tokyo and there they were – nailing every drumfill, every lick, and they play with power, confidence, and they… rocked! Have a glimpse yourself into the rehearsals if you want by watching this video (sorry for the distorted sound):
What a relief and what a great feeling! I’m truly impressed with the dedication and professionalism with which these guys have approached my songs. I was (and still am) very humble and grateful. After all I’m not Chuck Berry who invented Rock’n’Roll. I’m just David Myhr with a bunch of new songs. So thanks Ryuji, Osam, and Yasu for a great job with the rehearsals!
I first fell in love with Matthew Sweet‘s brilliant album “Girlfriend” in the early 90’s. It became a standing favorite in my CD collection. There’s brilliant songwriting (“I’ve been waiting”, “Girlfriend”, “Winona”, “Evangeline”), great pop feel, beautiful harmony vocals mixed with wacky and noisy guitar work by Richard Lloyd (Television). Sour and sweet at the same time. The guitar playing inspired me a great deal to try to find a kind of “crazy” take on every solo instead of a slick, melodic, or a standard blues-based approach. Like for instance my solo on the Merrymakers since long forgotten Dreamgirl #9. My personal theory is that everything began with Paul McCartney’s legendary guitar solo on Taxman which definitely opened a lot of doors for how a guitar solo can sound.
Even though I haven’t followed Matthew’s work intensely since the 90’s his influence apparently still is present in the back of my head. For instance it was the intro riff of his hit song “Sick of myself” that inspired me to the guitar riff of my own “Got you where he wanted”. It’s something with the raw energy and simplicity that always strike me when listening to it. I turned up the volume on my VOX AC-30, took my guitar, came to think if this song, and somehow I just switched the order of the chords and there was the embryo of a new song. In the end if you listen to the songs they don’t have much to do with each other – but this is a good example of a spark that ignited the writing of a song. Re-cycling is a big part of what great pop-writing always has been about! Just ask Per Gessle of Roxette or Noel Gallagher of Oasis…
So, why all this talk about this old hero of mine you might ask. Yes, because the other day (in the midst of my promotional tour of Japan) I was fortunate enough to be invited by Sony Music Publishing Japan to attend a concert at the Billboard Live in Tokyo to see Matthew Sweet and his band (consisting of among others two members of Velvet Crush) perform the entire album live! Such a great – and almost surreal – experience to sit there and watching your favorite album LIVE with the Tokyo skyline as a backdrop.
The show was great and it was very interesting to see the well behaved Japanese crowd sitting quiet at their tables watching the concert. It was very far from the typical crowded, sweaty, basement kind of rock-club. And I must admit I was worryingly comfortable there at the table with my pasta and a glass of red wine. Must be an sign of age! The only downside was that the lead vocals were a bit too low volume-vise. But who was I to complain? I was very fortunate to be there in the first place and the icing on the cake was of course to see Matthew, Paul Chastain, and Rick Menck backstage aftewards and give them my praise. Here’s a couple pictures from the meet & greet – one with Matthew Sweet and me – the other with Paul Chastain (Velvet Crush) and me:
The first of three appearances on my Japan promo tour of January took place at Club Wonder, Osaka, on Jan 4. Just like when I played there in 2009 I felt very welcomed by the bar owner Kazu and his friends. Club Wonder is a really special place! A really small but really cool bar, devoted to all things “power pop”. (Power Pop, for those who don’t know, is to quote allmusic guide; “a cross between the crunching hard rock of the Who and the sweet melodicism of the Beatles and Beach Boys, with the ringing guitars of the Byrds thrown in for good measure”). So here on the 7th floor in a building in a small street of Osaka is a place where bands like Jellyfish, Teenage Fanclub, and Matthew Sweet are legends, and where for instance Swedish bands like my own The Merrymakers, or Beagle and Popsicle are household names. Quite fascinating!
I made a solo “acoustic” performance for the devoted audience of music lovers who I can’t thank enough for their love and support. I played no less than 23 of my original songs during two hours and threw in two covers as well, one from Jellyfish, and one from Emitt Rhodes that we recorded with the Merrymakers. I played the majority of the songs from my new album Soundshine, but in order to fill the two hour set I had to dive deep into old Merrymakers songs as well, including some very old ones dating all the way back to 1992(!). It was twenty years ago today, man!
After the “show” it was time for meet & greet with the audience and I proudly signed my new album for a few of them. Here’s a picture of me and Yas who also runs a blog – if you understand Japanese you can read his full report from the concert here.
More “mingling pictures”:
Some members of the cool band The Mayflowers picked up a guitar and it turned into a small acoustic jam session which is something I of course enjoyed a lot. Afterwards we went to a local restaurant and had a big laugh with Kazu, together with members of TateFuji and The Ants among others.
The day after I took the opportunity to visit Umeda Tower Records to check if Soundshine was exposed in the record store. I was very pleasantly surprised to see the album on the “New Releases & Recommended” section so being the shy person I am I immediately called to the staff “That’s me, that’s me, that’s me!!!!”. Here’s picture of me posing with the nice store assistant who tried not to look to bothered by the self-invited artist!
My wife and I were also invited by our new ukulele playing friend Ryoko to have the local specialty Okonomiyaki and the whole Osaka experience was complete! Domo arigato Osaka! Hope to be back soon!
The Soundshine promotional tour of Japan has begun well. On the first day – after recovering from jetlag and New Year’s party in Sweden – my wife and I were invited by our good friend Kimikazu “Kaz” Harada to see a show at the Budokan with the Japanese band Base Ball Bear. Kaz is an influential and highly regarded profile in the music business (manager for among others Tamio Okuda, and Puffy) and as the generous and welcoming person he is he arranged V.I.P. seats and backstage passes for us. You can check out his blog here.
Only the fact that I was going to see the legendary Budokan from inside made me excited. It’s a venue famous for many, many legendary concerts. Most importantly for me of course the Beatles concert in 1966 from which you can see a clip here.
We had modest expectations on the concert since we were not familiar with Base Ball Bear before but we were very positively surprised! The concert experience became a really great one due to the fact that they really made a spectacular and highly entertaining show – which lasted for 2,5 hours! And also due to the extremely devoted audience that seemed to be completely “in synch” with the band. We had almost as much fun looking at the audience interacting with the the band – making gestures, clapping, and singing along – as watching the band themselves. When the concert finished we were supposed to meet with Kaz and some record label people but also with the band themselves!
Here’s some picture from the meet & greet. Me together with Akito Katayose who just like me once produced the great Japanese band Fujifabric. Also together with the bass player Tomoyuki Miyakawa from the band Hige and finally together with a couple of friends from EMI Japan.
On our way backstage going around the corridors surrounding the whole venue I suddenly decided to try to enter through a door to get a last glimpse of the band during their encore. When I opened the door I found myself BEHIND the stage and the band – exposed to the whole audience of 5,000 people! I certainly hope not too many people had time to discover me… I also hope the people producing the concert DVD from the event won’t notice the strange disoriented Swede coming in from nowhere…
Why I did it? I guess subconsciously I felt I belong on stage!? But I guess I will have to realize that the Budokan might still be a little bit too big for me….
I fell in love with the country when I was there a few times in end of the 90’s with the Merrymakers promoting our two albums. We traveled all over the country to make showcases at record stores, signing records and making interviews. It was in a strange time when the music business was doing well (believe it or not!) and Swedish music was particularly successful there. Such were the times that for example the record company would pay a trip for the three of us to only to take a photo for the front cover of our album “Bubblegun”. They put us, the struggling poor musicians, in one fancy hotel suite each for a whole week and it must have costed a small fortune (not least considering the bills from various sky bars, restaurants etc). Ironically the photo we ended up with features us in the stairs of a subway station – a photo that could just as well have been taken in Stockholm… but in all insanity, for me the experience created some unforgettable memories. Please feel free to enjoy a long lost super-rare promo clip of our Japanese radio smash hit “Monument of Me” which I found the other day on a VHS at home:
After a few years of longing back to Japan Paula and I went there in 2007 and it was great – catching up in person with old friends, business associates, a few loyal fans, and artists that I had been writing for – here for instance together with Puffy (left), Sarasa IFU (center). We also were introduced to the very famous Japanese artist Tamio Okuda (to the right).
We came back in 2009 and this time I also made an acoustic live appearance at Club Wonder in Osaka (which I also will do tomorrow!) even though I still wasn’t officially a solo artist, just a Merrymaker without any new music to present. Only five days later(!) I came back to take part in a songwriting camp writing songs with Japanese artist but that’s for another blog post…
This time there’s no major label involved though. Rumors has it that they are specializing in Korean boy-bands and no matter how I try I don’t seem to fit in that category. Instead, a small cool and tasteful independent label named Thistime Records has licensed the rights for Japan from me. They seem to have a great love for guitar based melodic pop and power pop so I have certainly found a great “home” for my record here in Japan which I am very humbly thankful and happy about.
How was 2012 for you so far? Personally, I started off by jumping on a plane together with my wife Paula with destination Tokyo and have spent 25 of the first 32 hours travelling. We had only just got home from a very nice New Year’s dinner with close friends when it was time to get going again, ignore any potential hangover, and now we’re here! Here’s a picture from the Narita Express:
The reason for suddenly being here is that it’s now time to make a so called “promotional tour” since my album Soundshine was pre-released in Japan just a few weeks ago.
On Wednesday (Jan 4) I will make a one man acoustic performance at Club Wonder in Osaka which you can read more about by clicking the poster below:
On Tuesday (Jan 3) I will make an appearance and an interview in Radio Nippon.
The “grande finale” of this promo tour will be the Power Pop Academy party arranged by Thistime Records at Shimokitazawa Three on Wednesday Jan 11. There I will make another live performance – this time backed up by Japanese musicians!! Very cool!!! They are Ryuji Gotoh from ONEPERCENTRES on drums, Osam Watanabe on bass, and Yasu Hashiguchi from hello! on guitar. I am very humbly thankful that they seem to be willing to learn my songs to back me up and I hope it’s going to be great party night!! So if you happen to be around Tokyo, make sure not to miss out on this (click picture below for more info about the party):
Apart from the promo activities we are hoping to do some shopping, see old friends, catch Matthew Sweet in concert on Friday, eat lots of delicious Japanese food, and of course sing some karaoke!