Interview by Sophie Gatward
Ola Nils Håkan Svensson, known simply as Ola, is one of Sweden’s biggest acts of recent years with seven number one singles, all of them having gone gold or platinum. Two of his three albums have topped the Swedish album charts, and one reached the top three.
After being signed to Universal Music for many years, Ola founded his own record label Oliniho Records for the Swedish market, keeping distribution arrangements with Sony Music in Europe and internationally. Having his own record company was a conscious effort to move away from the artistic limitations he felt when signed to a major label.
Ola has just released ‘Carelessly Yours’ his fourth studio album – we were stunned when we first listened to it – it’s powerful, beautiful and inspiring! We play it at least once a day.
The first single from the album ‘I’m in Love’ topped the charts in several countries and has to date almost 17 million views on YouTube. In August 2013 Ola received a double platinum record for the song in Italy.
Ola – I’m in Love (Play this video in Creation 5)
Your new album, ‘Carelessly Yours’, is a ‘repeater’ – something you can have on repeat all day and not get sick of. Makes it hard to pick out our favourite tracks. Do you have a favourite song? If so, why that one?
Happy you feel that way! Every song on this album is really special to me in one way or another. Every song has it’s own story and comes from a different place. It was really important for me to make an album where every song had it’s own place and identity.
In the music industry today it’s all about the single song and quick releases and all that, but I wanted to make a solid album where every song was special and had it’s own thing. So it’s really hard for me to pick one song, I guess it’s the same for a mother who should pick her favorite child… maybe a bad comparison, but you get it :).
In the album do the songs come from your current self, or do you extract state-of-minds from your past experiences? If so, do you find it easy going back there and re-creating those emotions in order to create a body of work around them?
I would say the songs come from both my current self and extracted state-of-minds. It’s sometimes hard to go back emotionally for many reasons. It can be a place and experience that you have for some reason been hiding from your self or a place you are afraid of going back to, but when your done it’s a relief and the process has brought you forward. So sometimes I think you have to look back to be able to go forward – even though I’m more into what’s happening right now and the future…
How did the new album title come about?
I started to write this album pretty much 3 years ago and this period has been very interesting for me both emotionally and professionally. I’ve come to terms with why I’m doing what I’m doing and that in the first place I’m doing it for my self and how important it is for my own existence to express myself.
Whilst making this album it was really important for me to try to put myself outside of my comfort zone and try not to let fear be the winning force, I just wanted to be true to my self and not care about what others might think.
I don’t know if that makes any sense and if I answered your question, but without digging too much into it I guess that’s where the title comes from.
Are there going to be music videos for all the new album songs? Your fans for sure would love to see it – we’re captivated by each one.
I’m happy to hear that. I’m not sure… I think I need to sell some more records first :)..
I was really broke after the last video… but it was definitely worth it. I have for sure a video in my head for all of the songs that I would love to create but 6 videos out of 11 songs is pretty much I guess.
When creating your new songs, is it a collaboration of writing, sounds and ideas, or do you keep it solo? What’s the usual process, or is each song a different story?
Yeah, each song on the album has come to life in really different ways. Sometimes I have a story, cords or a melody. Sometimes I just have a beat. With ‘Jackie Kennedy’ for example, I had a melody in my head for a couple of weeks that refused to leave me.
I was whistling the melody everyday back and forth to the studio. The melody became a part of me, a part of my daily life and a company that I didn’t know if I hated or in fact liked having.
Ola – Jackie Kennedy (Play this video in Creation 5)
Rich & Young was born after a night out. A guy came up to me and said, “I thought only people with real jobs got in here…” and then he grabbed my jeans-jacket and said “ohhh, second hand”… I wrote that one from this guy’s perspective of life.
So it’s really different. Sometimes I keep it solo and sometimes we are four people putting our skills into the songs.
Ola – Rich & Young (Play this video in Creation 5)
In your song ‘’Human’’ is there a ‘’A Little Drummer Boy’’ mixed in there? Did we detect that correctly? We love it! Any specific reasons to add this to the medley?
Yeah you did, I often feel like a little drummer boy myself, and when we made that ‘mid 8’ it just came naturally and felt obvious to keep it, both story wise and melodically. I’m really thankful that the original songwriters let me use it.
Ola – Human (Live at ‘roof of Walentynowicz’) (Play this video in Creation 5)
What has been the toughest point in your whole life journey getting to where you are now?
I think to gather energy to break loose, to have the courage to just let everything go and jump – to build my own thing up.
Do you think that going through a major record label helped you become who you are, musically, today?
I would say both, if I had started out with the creative freedom I have today I would maybe be in another place right now (which I think could be both good or bad ), but I don’t know.
The ‘major record label thing’ gave me a lot of experience of the whole industry and it led me to a place today where I’m really inspired – I’m really thankful for that.
On the subject of record labels, a lot of artists break free from them for the exact reasons you did. It seems to be an all too repetitive tale amongst musicians. What’s your opinion on this?
I think when creativity meets business it’s obvious that it will create problems in many ways. It doesn’t have to but I guess it’s a healthy reaction in a way.
Which artists, if any, in today’s pop world would you love to collaborate with?
Hard question, it really needs to be a good chemistry, but of course I would love to do something with for example Robyn.
Use three words to describe your current sound:
It’s really hard for me to be objective when it comes to my own stuff… but I hope it sounds experimental, honest and fearless.
Ola – Maybe (Play this video in Creation 5)
You have been touring absolutely everywhere (almost) – how do you find it?
I love it, I love to see new places, experience different cultures and meet people from other parts of the world with different ways of seeing things. It gives me so much inspiration. To perform a long way from home and meet people who listen to my music and show up to my gigs is still so unreal to me.
The platinum eyebrows, the platinum hair. Very fitting. Will you be keeping it that way?
Ahh no, I actually have brown/red hair right now. A PR person would probably say I’m an idiot but I need to be in a constant movement and just go with that energy and inspiration and not work against it. I think I’ll always be in constant movement in both my style, sound and expression, but this album is definitely who I am right now.
Tell us a crazy/funny story from your travels:
Not sure it’s so funny but a couple of weeks ago a flight attendant came up to be before landing with my record in her hand. She told me she always has it on her travels and that she wanted me to sign it with my lips… she was totally serious. So she asked me if I could put her lipstick on and kiss the cover… I have never seen those faces on my band before…It was probably the most weird situation I’ve been in so far in this life 🙂
Ola – Tonight I’m Yours (Play this video in Creation 5)
If you were to do a music video filtered in just one colour, what would it be and why?
Purple. It’s the strongest color if you do light therapy
Ever had difficulties in Spanish speaking countries introducing yourself? “’Hola! Soy Ola.’’ 🙂
Yeah, there’s been a couple of weird situations. As I have understood it’s not a common name in the world. In some countries it’s a girls name and I think it means shit in Turkey! And as you say it means ‘hello’ in Spanish etc. Normally, people pronounce it “ALA” instead of OOla.
I also think it means wave in some countries. So shit and wave, it’s a pretty good combo!
Ola – Losin’ It (Play this video in Creation 5)
Ola chose our Sunday Sessions this week – here’s his choice of 3 songs for a smooth Sunday
Olas fourth studio album ‘Carelessly Yours’ is released on his own label ‘Oliniho Records’ under exclusive license to Sony Music.
The album contains 11 tracks which Ola has written and produced together with some of the worlds best songwriters and producers such as Shellback (Maroon 5, Pink, Usher) Klas Åhlund (Robyn, Teddybears Sthlm) and Patrik Berger (Lana del Ray, Icona Pop) Alexander Kronlund (Britney Spears, Robyn).
|Carelessly Yours Tracklist:
2. Tonight I´m Yours
4. Losin’ It
6. Jackie Kennedy
7. I´m in Love
9. Rich & Young
10. They Won´t Catch Us Alive
11. One Day
Buy Carelessly Yours on iTunes
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