Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Spotlight - Tobias Froberg

So just the other week, I was writing about the newly minted Swedish Invasion which seems to be steadily and stealthily creeping in. And what do you know, here's another Swede to add to the list: Tobias Froberg. Tobias has released his third album (but only the 2nd to be seen here in the States), Turn Heads, digitally and later this month on the 13th physically. He was kind enough to take some time to tell me about Just Behind A Brick Wall, the fourth track on the album, which features Peter Morén (of Peter Bjorn and John). As always, text in red is his, questions in red are mine.

I've had the melody in my head for years, but never really did anything with it. Now, when I was about to make my third album, I really wanted to use it. So I started working on the lyrics. I don´t know how many times I tried, and it never worked, but everything solved itself when the words, "Just behind a brick wall, in the middle of a big hall, you need someone to call, cause you need somewhere to fall, and you don't wanna crawl you just wanna do something" came up. They came in one breath. The first sentence doesn't really mean anything, does it, but it sounds pretty good. The thing is that the more I wrote, after this first verse, the more I understood that this song was about myself, and my life situation. When I finished the song, it turned out to be one of the most personal I've ever written.

First time I played it to someone else was sitting by my American label Cheap Lullaby's grand piano in Venice Beach, CA, together with my managers. The lyrics weren't done yet but I played them the melody.

– "That's it! It's a single", Christian and Sam - my managers - said. Finish it.

So I did. I don't think about songs in terms of singles or not, but this was anyhow a good start for that song. Since I recorded and produced Turn Heads myself, I realized that I wanted someone else to sing with me on Just behind.... So I called my good friend Peter Morén. I knew that his voice would be perfect. Being out on the road all the time with Peter Bjorn and John, and for myself, touring a lot on my own, we didn't have much time. But one summer's day we were both in Stockholm, and during one afternoon we cut the track.

The video for the song was made by my girlfriend, video director, Sandra. We shot it during one afternoon, and it´s about me and Peter playing a game of chess. Peter is singing to me in a way that makes you think that he is my inner voice - which is exactly what the song is all about.

And now a few questions for Tobias:

1.) The chorus of the song goes "I wonder if you'll ever grow - no no no no no, you're not a child you know." The song seems very introspective and soul-searching. You mentioned that it directly reflects your inner voice - does the song express doubts about your becoming a musician? Something else?

It's the better part of me that expresses doubts about the worse part of me drinking too much, doing things that never leads nowhere, doubting and other bad things. I used to live that life. Nowadays, I don't drink very often and right now, when I'm on tour, I don't stay up late just because there's beer backstage or whatever. That's basically what that song is about. Me reflecting on my earlier behaviour.

2.) About a week ago, I personally dubbed the last 5 years or so the Swedish Invasion years. It seems like there are a lot of talented artists making the leap across the Atlantic. What's your take on why this is happening?

Well, I gotta say that Sweden has always produced good pop music, from Abba – and before - up until now. The thing you call the invasion is probably because the world has shrunk, you're always just a couple of mouse clicks from hearing new music. And, because of the fact that we have done well for a couple of years now, we have the spotlights on us.

3.) I know you made your debut here in the States last here, including a pair of shows at SXSW. What's it like playing here compared to back at home?

The distances, I would say. Once you´re inside of a venue there is no bigger difference.


Listen to the whole album, and you'll realize that Tobias sports a mix of Belle & Sebastian's delicate, playful, almost precious, melodies and some of fellow countryman Jens Lekman's quirkiness. In addition, you'll find a guest appearance by fellow Scandinavian, Ane Brun, who Tobias has worked with fairly regularly. Below is a song from his last album, Love and Misery, which she also had appeared in. Listen and enjoy!

Visit his website, his label Cheap Lullaby Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

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