David Myhr - Soundshine

The day I met Benny Andersson

Posted: December 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 debuts as a writer for Swedish music production magazine STUDIO

Posted: January 9th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: post | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments

My wife, Paula, always complains that I have too many jobs. And she’s right (as usual!). Aside from being the “celebrated” (by myself that is…) artist and songwriter that I am, my day job – or shall we call it “real job” – is being a senior lecturer at a university teaching songwriting, music production and doing research (see my staff profile here). As if these two “careers” wasn’t enough I’m also writing and producing music for commercial jingles (like for instance this one for Folkia) and occasionally I play the role of ”Benny” in the the ABBA tribute band Super Trouper (more on that here).

This month I can now proudly add “writer” to the list. I’ve been asked to contribute with a series of articles about the art of songwriting for the excellent Swedish music production magazine “STUDIO”. Those of you who follow my blog  might remember it’s the same publication that made a three hour video documentary with me last spring about the making of “Never Mine” from Soundshine.

I said yes (surprisingly encouraged by Paula!) since it’s a subject I am very passionate about. And the first article in the series is OUT NOW and can be bought in your Swedish newspaper stand or as a pdf file here.

Låtskrivandeartikel

I strongly urge anyone interested in songwriting and music production to support this (and other) specialized magazine in today’s tough world for intellectual property where everything’s suddenly supposed to be free. Maybe not so much for my own article (although I’d appreciate it). It’s more of a “recommended mindset” just because I think we all need good journalism in our respective trades covering our areas of interests. I love reading about other songwriters and producers and how they work with their craft and how their studios are equipped etc. Nerd fun!

The theme of my first article is “magic melodies” (he said humbly) and I’m trying to give some ideas as to what makes a melody “simple and singable”. It’s four pages long and in Swedish (sorry Paul McCartney!). But for those of you who speak Swedish – hope you enjoy! Would love to hear your opinion in the comments below or on my Facebook Page.

 

studio omslag