David Myhr - Soundshine

The day I met Benny Andersson

Posted: December 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Alright folks… breaking news… I met Benny!!!

Please let me begin by apologising for the radio silence here on my news blog since the release of my ELO flavoured film song “Spellbound” which by the way turned into my career-peak (so far!) on Swedish radio. I can assure you that exciting things are in the pipeline for 2018 given that I have now finished the recordings of my second solo album (more about the recordings here). It’s about time considering my solo debut album Soundshine came out in 2012. Please register to the news-letter here on the side to stay updated! (Very few e-mails per year, I promise!).

What now causes me to break the silence (except for the fact that I’ve recently mostly been posting updates on my Facebook artist page) is the fact that I finally got to meet my life-long hero Benny Andersson of ABBA fame! It happened exactly a week ago, on Dec 1, 2017, at the12th Art of Record Production Conference, hosted by the Royal College of Music, Stockholm, Sweden.

 

 

A little over three years ago I experienced the handshake of my life. (Feel free to read my 4000 words long post about the day I met Paul McCartney). Even though it’s obviously impossible to beat, there are still a few hands I would really like to shake before I (or they) die. Now that both Tom Petty and David Bowie very sadly are out of the question (see my Petty tribute here, my Bowie tribute here) I can only wish for Jeff Lynne (read about my near-Jeff experience here). But also, of course, my Swedish heroes from the world phenomenon that is ABBA!

Whenever a Swede goes abroad we talk (proudly) of IKEA and of course ABBA. After all, they are indisputable true legends of music history in the BIG league. Loved by (almost) everybody! They sold over (unbelievable!) 400 million records worldwide and were the beginning of the Swedish music export phenomenon. As for me personally, not only did I grow up with ABBA, but they have always been present in my life one way or another. I remember hearing Waterloo on the radio as a child in the 70’s. I loved the piano outro of Chiquitita already before I became obsessed by the Beatles.  With the help of Andy Sturmer of Jellyfish as a producer, when I was in the Merrymakers, we borrowed inspiration from ABBA’s “Money Money Money” for the intro of “April’s Fool”. And through the years in the music business the ABBA stories have always been around. But most of all, ABBA has been a part of my professional life as a musician for the last 16 years. As a sideline I’m a Benny impersonator in the Swedish tribute (eight-piece) band Super Trouper which has offered hundreds of shows in Sweden and the Nordic countries. See below for a picture with me (and the other three “ABBAs”) in my wig and my platform shoes.

But years ago, I have also at a few occasions been a “Benny” stand-in in the internationally successful production ABBA The Music (later divided into The Show and The Visitors) playing together with members of the original ABBA band like Janne Schaffer, Lasse Wellander, Uffe Andersson, and Roger Palm. In this context I have toured the US (including shows at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in front of 16,000 people), Spain (World Expo in Zaragoza 2008), Cyprus, Holland, Belgium etc.

So the thought of meeting Benny has always been somewhat of a fantasy of mine. It hasn’t seem completely unlikely that it could happen one day considering we live in the same city and he’s out and about, I visit his studio every now and then, and that I know quite a few people who work with, or has worked with, him.

The first time I spotted Benny and his wife was at Malmö airport as a kid back in 1979. But I’ve also more or less bumped into him at a restaurant in Stockholm, at the Swedish Grammy awards, outside of his studio (where I’ve brought students through the years, see below). I’ve visited one of his summer houses at a party hosted by Tommy Körberg and so on. I also saw Björn and Benny salute an enormous crowd in Hyde Park in 2009. But again,  I have never got the chance to exchange a few words and shake his hand until a week ago!

It  happened on the day I was about to present a paper (“Observing melody in solo songwriting”) at the ARP conference (mentioned above) talking about methodologies from my on-going research project in the melody writing process. Benny was invited as a secret guest for a “celebrity interview”. Word got out (thanks to my assistant supervisor, friend and academic role-model Joe Bennett!) that “Benny is in the building” and I searched my way to the lobby of the Royal College of Music in Stockholm where the conference was taking place. It turned out Benny had come an hour too early and was told to come back in a while. So I thought I’d better stick around. And suddenly, the God of melodies himself walks into the building!

I recently had the honour of exchanging a couple of e-mails with Benny from my position as a senior lecturer at The School of Music at Luleå University of Technology (LTU) (see my staff profile here). LTU awarded Benny an honorary doctorate in 2012, Philosophical Faculty. So I could refer to that as my “ice breaker”, presenting myself briefly, and greeted him with a hand shake. Selfie-obsessed as I am, obviously it would be great to have a picture of this moment as well, so I asked him if he was okay with me taking a photo. He said it was no problem and jokingly asked “Shall I comb my hair?”. I answered that we looked great and took the picture. See my Facebook post here and Instagram post here.

A little later I put myself in the centre of the first row (where else?) when the “celebrity interview” took place. The interview was conducted by music researcher and former artist in his own right Göran Folkestad (who I got to know personally over a piano later in the evening singing “Oh Darling!” together after a couple of beers).
After so many years of reading about it, like for instance in this fine interview from Dagens Nyheter, or seeing it on TV (for instance in the talk show Skavlan not long ago), finally I was about to hear about melody making from Benny Andersson himself. An incredible opportunity that I feel very blessed to have experienced with my own eyes!
In the interview Benny talked about how it all began for him. How music came into his life since his father and grandfather were playing the accordion (with him playing along). His grandfather never complained about Benny’s playing and partly thanks to that eventually he got really good at it.  He also talked about how his wise mother got a piano for him and his sister back in 1956. He said: “–Once that piano came into the house. I started playing. Tried to… And since that first day I’ve been sitting at the piano, I could say, nearly every day. For 60 years. Because I like it. You know… It’s like… I have a connection… or maybe music has the connection with me.”
Folkestad started to ask very interesting questions about his compositional process. Considering my own interest in the subject, and how many times I’ve talked in my songwriting classes about Benny’s work methods (sit by the piano and work, work, work, until the ideas show up), it was almost unreal that he now not only sat there in front of me talking about just that. But also offered a demonstration on the piano!
He was saying: “–Because when I play something that I don’t ’know what it is, like in the composing process, it’s like… mostly rubbish. I can’t explain why that is. I can give you an example of how it is, but…”
Fokestad (and the audience): “–Yeah, please do!”
Benny: “–Yeah, well… Shall I?”
And since you made your way all down here in this blog post I am now very happy to be able to offer you to see exactly what I saw! Enjoy!

Filmed from the first row by myself. His highly fascinated disciple. It was kind of silly really. On the very day I’m supposed to talk about the process of melody writing Benny shows up! Talk about a humbling experience. He summed up the process in nine words: “–You have to get rid of all the rubbish!”.
And who do you think asked the first question from the audience once the interview was over? Good guess!
David Myhr: ”–OK, can I go? First row… sorry for taking the spot… First of all I want to thank you for coming and I can testify that I think you’re wrong saying you’re not an artist* because I’ve been a Benny impersonator for twenty years as a sideline and there’s a lot of head-shaking going on.”
Benny: ”–Yeah, yeah, but that was in the 60’s! I was an artist then!”**
DM: ”–But my question is, being a Beatles fan, I always read about what John did, what Paul did. They both spoke about it in separate interviews. And I’m very curious about , having read your interview in Dagens Nyheter, that you always when you compose melodies, there are never lyrics included in the process. So,  I was wondering – how did you work together in general? And if there’s a specific example it would be fantastic.”
Benny: ”–Well, do you mean during the days with ABBA?”
David: ”–Yeah, exactly”
Benny:
”–We were sitting together. I was hammering along on the piano and Björn on the guitar. And we kept on doing that until something came up. You know.  And sometimes there would be a lyric line like ”Money Money Money ” because it sits with (humming the main theme). That we tried to get rid of that actually! He wrote like three lyrics. And I said no, it’s not good. Money money… But the thing… there was a song called ”Money’, and there was a song called ‘Money Money’.  So we had to call it ‘Money Money Money’.
Yeah but we worked tightly together. Then at the time. Then that changed a bit. It actually started with ’Chess’ I think.
Since then I’ve been doing the music on my own. He always writes the lyrics. If he wants to. I always ask him first. Yeah…”
David: ”–Thank you!”
*) he actually suggested during the interview he’s just a songwriter/arranger/producer and together with ABBA live a ”backing musician” and not an ”artist”
**) In the 60’s Benny was in the biggest group of Scandinavia: Hep Stars! (see Benny behind the organ here)
In the pictures below you see me with Benny’s sound engineer and “right hand” since back in the 80’s, the sound engineer wizard Bernard Löhr (who by the way we once hired to mix The Merrymakers “Spinning My Mind Away”). He made a very interesting keynote speech the same morning. You will also find a couple of pictures from Benny’s studio Rixmixningsverket , a studio which house engineer Linn Fijal has been kind enough to show me and my students from The School of Music at Luleå University of Technology a number of times. In the small picture we see how the grand piano was miked during the recording of Benny’s new (beautiful!) album Piano.
It’s a worn-out cliché to say it. But what else is there to say, so here I go: Thank you for the music, Benny!
p.s. Feel free to check out my simple and very stripped-down version of one of ABBA’s many genius melodies: “Happy New Year” 

 

 

 


 


David Myhr interview for J-Pop World

Posted: March 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Any plans this weekend? If not, it might be the perfect moment to read the brand new David Myhr interview for J-Pop World!!! Just click on the screen dump below… enjoy!!!


“Happy New Year” from David Myhr – acoustic ABBA cover

Posted: December 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: post | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments »

So, dear everyone! It’s the end of yet another year and I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very, very “Happy New Year” by singing a song saying just that. Just click “play” below and feel free to experiment with the “share” / “download” buttons!

For me 2011 has been a great and intense year since I’ve finished my album Soundshine ready for release in 2012, pre-released it in Japan, performed live at festivals in Sweden, London, and only yesterday in Madrid. I’m truly looking forward to the next year when I finally will be able to  share my music to everyone who might be interested and I am hoping to be able to come out and play in many more places.

Like every year  – looking at the big picture – 2011 has been filled with both good news and bad news. In the latter category are of course the terrible earthquake that hit Japan and the catastrophes that followed. If there’s one country  – more than any other – that I wish a MUCH happier new year it’s Japan! Speaking of which, I will actually begin 2012 by flying to Japan on the first day of the year for in order to make a small promotional tour.

On my take of ABBA’s “Happy New Year” I decided for once to try a very stripped down recording – one voice – one guitar. Usually I find it very tempting whenever I record to double-track my vocal, add layers of harmony vocals, lots of guitar and keyboard overdubs. But for a change I decided to see what it sounds like with only one voice and one guitar. Scary experience of course, but it’s always good to remind yourself of that old cliché that “a good song should work even when accompanied only by an acoustic guitar”. And that certainly goes for many of the fantastic melodies of Sweden’s finest pop export ever – ABBA!

ABBA really don’t need any further introduction since they’re up there in the absolute top stratosphere of pop heaven having sold around 400 million copies(!) around the world, only beaten by the giants Elvis, and that favorite band of mine, the Beatles…. As a lover of melodies and timeless pop music – and being a Swede myself – of course I’ve been growing up with the music of ABBA since childhood. But in later years their music has also become part of my professional life. Every now and then in later years I put on a wig and some platform shoes and dive in to the role of playing the part of “Benny” in the ABBA tribute band Super Trouper. (That’s me to the right on the picture below!).
It’s been a true joy to closely study their brilliant arrangements in general, and piano and keyboard parts in particular, of their loved songs. I’ve also had the opportunity to hop in on various tours playing this role in other ABBA tribute groups in several countries. My proudest moment probably being playing at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in front of 16,000 people. Something that I will definitely be bragging about to my grandchildren… 

Anyway, please feel free to enjoy my New Year’s greeting (and download a free mp3 if you so wish by clicking the “arrow pointing down”) on SoundCloud or later on YouTube and “may we all have a vision of a world where every neighbor is a friend”. From me to you – I wish you a Happy New Year!