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Interview: Agnes

14 min read
Renowned For Sound editor, Brendon speaks with Swedish pop icon @agnesofficial about her incredible new album, Magic Still Exists! @trentoz

Its been a very successful journey this far for Swedish pop singer, Agnes. Taking the crown over a decade ago on Swedish Idol, the big-voices songbird quickly fell into the fame lane with hits from a young age, including the mammoth dancefloor hit, Release Me which shifted close to a million copies in the UK alone when it was released into the world in 2000.

Fast forward to 2021 and the singer has undergone one of the biggest transformations in pop music. Gone are the long brunette locks and in their place is a masterpiece of art and music that has combines to create new album, Magic Still Exists; easily one of the finest released of the year with powerful singles 24 Hours and Here Comes The Night showcasing the musicians brand new image and style.

We adore the Swedes here at Renowned For Sound and were absolutely thrilled to be given the chance to have a chat with the pop star who was in Stockholm. We got to talk about her career, her creative process, the transformation of her look and musical style and we also asked Agnes what it is about the Swedes and great pop music. Here is what she had to tell us….

Brendon Veevers: Congratulations on the new album, Magic Still Exists. That was released in late October here in the UK.  Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of the album at all? Being album number five?

Agnes: Exactly. Actually, we had a party in the studio. I’m in the studio right now where we recorded the whole album.

BV: Oh wow.

Agnes: We had a party, it wasn’t so big. It was more like friends and family and also all the people that were involved in making the album. It was so much work finishing the album so I was like so tired and then having a big release party, I was like ‘that’s gonna make it exhausted so I was like we gonna have friends and family and we performed one of the songs so, yeah, it was beautiful.

BV: So, can you tell me a little bit about the title of the album, called Magic Still Exists. What does the title of the album meant to you, and why did you land on that album name?

Agnes: Yeah it was, actually at first I was going to name the album The Soul Has No Gender. One of the songs on the album, interludes, has the name The Soul Has No Gender but I felt like having that title on the whole album might be a little too much…

BV: Political?

Agnes: yeah, but for me the meaning of those two titles has the same thing to it, and you know for  me this album is about trying to just, ummm, liberate myself- be free from fears, free from the picture I’ve been having of what you can do, what you can’t do. And also you know the whole album is really you know, me making songs and singing about having this process of coming back to music and understanding who I am as a human being but also as a creative being. I wanted to do that and at the same time I didn’t want to like dig my own grave.

BV: Yeah, yeah

Agnes: I wanted to make an album where, and that for me is where you see the light in the tunnel, and Magic Still Exists is like, we are magical beings and we can do whatever we want and it’s only our imagination.  Magic Still Exists sums up the whole album I think.

BV: Yeah. One of the things I noticed is, it’s quite obvious because you’ve got ‘freedom’ or ‘free’ being used throughout the album, throughout the lyrics in the songs. There’s even between the two singles, you’ve released three singles so far, between 24 Hours and Here Comes The Night there’s the interlude where a narrator talks about freedom and obviously that is a main theme of this record. Do you think you’ve retained the level of freedom as an artist that you wanted throughout your career?

Agnes: Yeah, I feel like where I am right now as a songwriter, and as an artist, is on a new level from where I’ve been before and I feel like, you know the whole feeling, and whole the vibe of my music is so settled in a way that it hasn’t been before, so yeah, for sure.

BV: So, you’re from, in your career you started out quite young, you were the winner of Swedish Idol, you know you started off quite early in your career, quite young in your career. Do you think you were prepared for what was to come soon after, because you achieved a huge amount of success throughout your career, especially following the release of Release Me?

Agnes: No, I wasn’t prepared and I think in the early, like in the beginning it was so much me just like…I have a picture of, you see this wheel just turning, and just trying to keep up with it was very much about why I took this time off because I wanted to be more independent and more in control. Also, when I had this time off, at first for me was just like, you know, I wanted to go out traveling, I wanted to do other things that didn’t have anything to do with music. I also wanted to do things without feeling like you have a spotlight on you.

A big thing was to also write. Write songs without, like I could write a hundred songs, knowing if I don’t want to release any of this, don’t have to. It didn’t happen before because every time I went into the studio I was on a schedule you know, so that was a big healing process for me to like go into the studio. And also, a big thing, a big key for me was also I learned music production and so I think a lot of artists, and some song writers, if you can’t produce anything, then you are so dependent on a producer, every time you want to…if you just have a idea, you are depending on calling a producer. So that was a big key for me. I can make a song, I can write whatever I want to and I can be all by myself. And that’s what it was like ‘what happened, I’m all by myself’. And so that was a big process of just having time in the studio and to do whatever and at first, I’ve been writing so many songs and all of them were so different.

So Magic Still Exists, where it all ended, you know it’s been a long journey for me. But it’s been so beautiful because I learned like, okay, what kind of lyrics do I want to write? What kind of production do I want to have? And bit by bit, piece by piece everything fell into place.

BV: So obviously the style of this new record is quite different. When people hear the record, they will recognize your voice, you’ve got a very distinctive voice, but the style of it is very different to previous records. First of all, I just want to talk about the visual, you know the aesthetic of Agnes these days. Where do you draw inspiration in terms of the looks because the triangular yellow hair is very striking on the album cover. I mean when it comes to the looks that you do now, where do you get that inspiration from, and where did you get inspiration for the album cover?

Agnes: Yeah. You know so, I feel like a part of me is very drag. I love to…take a percent of me and just turn it up one thousand percent, I love that. With 24 Hours, the look of the hair and strong silhouette, I was very inspired by Grace Jones, I love Grace Jones, and I knew I wanted to have a strong silhouette. Often when I come up with ideas I sketch…so I paint, and I had painted the triangle so many times [laughter] At first I didn’t know what it was but, then I was like, the hair should be a triangle. So I had painted a picture of how I wanted the cover of 24 Hours to be. So I think, you know, I just love the combination.

This song to me is all about liberation, being free and to, like, you can come into my world, and you can be whoever you are and whatever you want to be. To combine that with lyrics that are like spiritual, and soulful and deep, but also put a little bit of drag into it. Let us have fun, let us play with this. I want to make a world where you feel like it’s okay, where things don’t have to be too serious. Let’s just have a little fun while we’re here, you know? And I just love…I’ve been working with a designer, who I make all the clothes with, we’ve been working together for 10 years.

So I know when I was making this album I wanted to just turn it up more and for me I just love that, it makes me feel free. And also being a woman, sometimes how you dress and how you look, sometimes I feel it’s boring to just feel like ‘oh I look cute’, I want it to be something more, something weird. And a lot of my inspiration comes from Grace Jones and also Diane Vreeland, I don’t know if you know who she was, she was editor of Vogue in the 70’s I think, Diane Vreeland. Amazing woman, and crazy! [laughter] Because when I put on things that are too much then I feel like I have space to just be.

BV: Again, it goes back to that theme of freedom on the album, everything you are talking about is encapsulated in that record. I just want to talk about the new single you’ve got out, actually probably my favorite song of the entire year, Here Comes The Night. It’s an amazing club song, it’s got that 80’s feel too it, which is everything I love about a track.

Agnes: Yeah [laughter]

BV: Can you tell us a little bit about that song, and how that came together and what inspired you about that particular track?

Agnes: Yes, so that song happened while we went into the studio and we decided like ‘okay, we’re going to make an album’, and that process took like four months maybe, so that process was pretty fast in a way. So I started to play with the interludes that I have on the album, and also I wanted to make a song, because a lot of the songs have a pretty high BPM, like 120, so I wanted to make a song that was a bit slower, but at the same had the energy. And how it started out, it was like Salem, who I work with, he sat at the piano and I sat at the microphone. I didn’t have the title, the title came to me while I was singing it, just in the moment.  So it started with the chorus, and then we had the pre-chorus?. Then I was like okay, now I want to make the verses, the vibe to the verses should be something completely different. And then everything fell into place when we had the bridge like ‘faith, love, spirit’ and I was like ‘okay now we’re home.’ So that’s so different from how you create songs. Sometimes it starts with the lyrics, you have the title, or you have a sound you are very inspired by, but this song happened in the moment.

BV: That actually leads me perfectly to the next question I’ve got, about your process as  songwriter. What type of songwriter would you consider yourself to be, are you someone that writes from personal experience, or maybe some that writes from observation, and observational point of view?

Agnes:  Mmmm…I think it’s both, actually. A lot of the songs are very…like, about my process during those years of trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do. So, personal but also, I just love the perspective of it doesn’t always have to be exactly what I’ve been going through because some of the songs are…during these years I’ve been talking so much with my friends, with my family, you know. We live in a world right now where everyone are supposed to know what you are doing and where you want to go, like have a clear vision. I can see like it’s so shameful, in a way, to not know, and I was there for so many years. Ive been talking so much to friends and family about this, a lot of people, maybe it will happen a couple of times in your life where you are in a process of not knowing. So some of the songs is my process, and some are about like, my sister’s process. So it’s different from every song.

BV: You grew up in a relatively small town outside Gothenburg, did you always grow up with huge dreams of being a pop singer, or an international start, was that always something that you had been thinking of from early on, you know when you were a child?

Agnes: I think as a child I was a dreamer. I didn’t see myself like ‘I want to become a big artist’, you know, but I loved to sing. I sang all the time and I know very early on that I was going to go away from this little city. And you know a lot of people in my family are…my cousin is a poet…

BV: So, lot’s of quite create people in your family?

Agnes: Yes, in my family so it’s been pretty close to me, and knowing that it’s possible- that it’s not something very far away, but rather if you want to make something, it’s possible. So I think I had that since I was a child.

BV: So, you know I’ve got a love for Swedish artists, like I was saying at the start of our interview and Sweden has produced so many amazing musicians you know: ABBA, Roxette, Ace of Base, Robyn, you know and songwriters like Max Martin. What do you think it is about Sweden that produces such amazing pop music?

Agnes: you know I think it’s a lot of things. I think one is like, when I grew up, early on in school you can play instruments. You don’t have to pay for it, it’s like a part of school. If you want to play piano you will get lessons in it, or if you wanna sing, or whatever you want to do and that I think is a big key, like music is pretty close to people in a way. Also it’s a pretty rich country, so if you want to buy a computer, and start to produce, it’s not so far away, like a lot of people are able to do that. And also because it’s a small city, if I compare to like America, like if you want to work with people, hierarchy is so much stronger there so you can’t just call someone up, you know. But in Sweden it’s so much easier in a way, like if I want to work with somebody it’s really like texting, or calling. And also I think when it’s country you see like ‘okay, he or she did that, I’m gonna make a better song than that.’ So I think it’s a lot of things like that.

BV: So you’re able to obtain, obviously, the education and the tools to be able to make it in the industry, at least start you off at an early age.

Agnes: And also one more thing, because I’ve been making music in America as well, but I prefer making music in Sweden because the whole vibe here, it’s so much easier in a way, and also that depends on what people you work with but, you know, Sweden loves people being creative in a  weird way, it doesn’t have to like this…or this…or has to sell gold, like people here love indie and weird things. And that I think is good when you are into creating things.

BV: The sky’s the limit

Agnes: Yeah

BV: Just two more questions for you was I know that we are coming close to our 25 minutes. When it comes to music artists, who would you most like to collaborate with? If you could anyone that you could, I know you mentioned being a huge fan of Grace Jones earlier, who would you love to be able to collaborate with on a record, or a tour?

Agnes: Yeah, there are so many you know. I would love to do something with Annie Lennox.

BV: Yes, she is amazing.

Agnes: Yeah, that would be like a dream come true. I would love to do something with Harry Styles, that would be amazing. There are so many good artists. Here in Sweden we have these two sisters, they call themselves First Aid Kit. They are amazing. So yeah there are a lot of artists I’d like to work with.

BV: So a final question for you, I’m particularly keen to know the answer to this because I really want to see you live. Are there any plans to take Magic Still Exists out on the road, and if so is there anything planned for the UK?

Agnes: Actually, I can’t say, but if you just wait, we will go out next summer, and it’s going to be I think outside of Sweden.

BV: Yay! Well that’s put a smile on my face for the day. Thank you so much for so many amazing answers, you look amazing, the record’s amazing and can’t wait to see you live.

Agnes: Thank you, so wonderful to talk to you have a wonderful day!

BV: Thanks, bye.

Agnes: Bye bye.

Agnes’ brand new album, Magic Still Exists is out now.