Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 7: “That was very, very unnatural for me”
K: When you published your latest album, somewhen there came the point when you had to enter the limelight, had to do promotion for your music, go to TV shows, you had that session here in the studio. How did this all feel for you?
C: That was very, very unnatural for me. Very unnatural. I decided that I’d just do it. I mean, I was not going to pretend, I didn’t try to be an artist at all. If they ask me to sing, I sing. Fine. I sing as nice as I can. And if they like it, it’s fine. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter. I did the whole thing like that. And so it was nice. It was relaxed and nice. But it was not my natural place to be. But now I’m not afraid of it, I can do it again, and I will!
J: The live version of “Tiny Penelope” was beautiful.
C: Oh, thank you.
J: I heard, the female singer came from somewhere here?
C: Oh yeah, this is another one of those lucky things… That’s the theme of this interview: Luck in life! In the spring, for three years in a row, I had the local school, the age between 13 and 15, the last school year, they came here and recorded the songs they had been rehearsing throughout the three school years basically. And of course, they were very varying in quality. Some of them couldn’t play at all, and some of them could play a little. It was great and it was a lot fun but that was it. Then all of a sudden, this girl… she wasn’t a singer, she could play some guitar and she played guitar on some other songs, she was going to sing one line in one song. When she started, I was “Yeeeees, that’s what I’ve been looking for! There it is! Thank you very much!“ It was so obvious because I always felt that I don’t want to… I want to sing but I don’t want to be a solo artist. If I would listen to my record with only my voice, I would hate it, so boring. So I wanted to have someone else, and of course I thought of Helena who is a very great friend and she is a fantastic artist in my view. But she’d done so many things and she had been so connected with Gessle, so I thought naaaah, I wanted something that was more unique. And then this 15 year old girl just appeared. So I called her, after they had left here and asked… actually I called her teacher first and asked, “Do you think she can handle this?” and he said, “Yes, I think she can but she might be a bit nervous, she is very young and she wants to be very good at the stuff she does. So try to be gentle but yes I think she can do this.” Helena also liked her voice. So she did the backing vocals for Helena’s Swedish solo record.
J: Very soft and gentle.
C: Yeah. So she came here, she’s not a singer, she doesn’t want to be a singer, I think. So she came here, doing backing vocals for Helena’s record. And it was only the three of us here and she was fantastic, she was doing everything so great! We told her “Okay, do this harmony, and now this harmony and try that“ – “Okay?“ and she just did it! Her voice is blending so well, it became the third voice, it was so nice. And then I realized: “Yeah yeah yeah, this is going to be great! She’ll sing on my record.”
K: Does she consider becoming a singer later?
C: I don’t think so, actually. Well, of course she can sing. But it’s not like she sings all the time and goes around and wants to be a singer. Not at all. She just does it. And now we’re recording the new one now, and now the idea is to share the vocals even more. That’s what I actually wanted to do on the first one but it didn’t turn out like that. She was maybe too young or too inexperienced or something. So now we’re standing in here, working out the arrangement and recording it simultaneously, the two of us. So it’s going to be a lot more of her on the next record.
K: And when will that one be out?
C: Uh, who knows? It’s a question of having time to record it.
K: We’re talking of years or months here?
C: No, it’s years. There are many other projects in the pipeline, so it will going to be over a year, I think.
K: Talking of your local involvements. We found out that you’re part of the steering group of the local school here. How come?
C: The thing is that the schools in this particular region are the worst in Sweden. You know, the ratings are bottom in any category. That wouldn’t be the end of the world for me, but my oldest daughter started school and it didn’t feel good at all. There were many problems. And in the second grade, she was eight years old, she was better at spelling than the teachers and she corrected their English and there were a lot of social problems at this school. Kids were being mean to each other and the teachers didn’t do anything. It was a very unsound situation. So my wife got involved in the local school politics trying to being part of developing the school but it was hopeless. It’s impossible. So my wife met two other families that had the same feelings and one of them had been a teacher all her life. A 50 year old woman…
K: …who is the headmaster now…
C: Yeah! And she had a vision, a dream of what she wanted to do. That vision was very much in line with our way of thinking. So she said, “Let’s start a school. I’ll be the headmaster and you’ll be the board and you can support me”, and we said, “Sure, yes.” My involvement is very minimal. I’m a supporting board member but I don’t do much, I’m the least active. My wife is much, much more into it. But it’s really great, the school’s been really good. The ideas are working and they are taking care of a lot of weak kids from other schools that are being treated badly and they blossom in this new environment. So it’s becoming really really good.
K: It’s a very small school, we took a look at it.
C: Yes, it’s like 50 kids.
K: If you had time, could you imagine being the music teacher there?
C: No. [laughs] I don’t think I would be good. But we did one charity record. My wife and I started a project in the school were the kids wrote lyrics with the help of the teachers, so it were kids lyrics. Then we also involved Michael, the guy who wrote my lyrics, to talk to the kids, hear their ideas and thoughts and write down things they said and came up with lyrics. Then I wrote music, and then the kids sing, so I spent a day at the school recording the kids singing and then I took it back here and added instruments and arrangements. Then we made a record, sold it and we got a sibling school in Africa to give the money to. So we sold as many as possible and we paid for the printing and we were able to send kind of a substantial amount to this school. So the idea is that the kids’ own work, their creativity, their singing has materialized as something that is good for someone else. And that also opens their mind for the unfairness of the world because you need to see it close. It’s so difficult when it’s remote, when it’s only pictures in the paper or on the telly. We wanted to have this contact to help our kids to understand how privileged they are and that you need to consider others and be compassionate. And that you can do it and it will make a difference.
J: Yes, I see quite often that when you post something on Facebook, it’s mostly about helping charity organizations…
C: Yeah yeah yeah.
J: Yes, you are a person who cares and there are not so many artists that are really involved, not just as a show. I think you do it from your own heart.
C: Oh yeah. Both my wife and I are really into this kind of stuff.
K: How is actually your standing as an inhabitant of this small village here? Do your neighbors know what you do? Are you a famous person here or are you just the stranger that came from the city?
C: I think, by now people around here know very well what this is and what we do and who we are. And of course in small neighborhoods like this, people are talking. I realized it actually because a year ago, one of our cats ran away, Agnes’ fantastic little cat ran away. So we did a tour knocking doors at every house in the neighborhood, and we spoke to a lot of people I never met before. Of course they all knew who I was and I didn’t know them. So I realized this is how it is, this is a small place.
K: Do the neighbors watch who’s coming down your way?
C: No, not really. But I mean, when Per comes here, he is so famous. When he goes to the local little shop to buy milk, of course people notice that very much. Now they also know that he is working here. If they go by taxi or they go to Systembolaget [the government controlled shop for alcoholic beverages in Sweden] to buy some wine, so of course people know what happens here.
We do a small break now. Christoffer leaves the office for a short moment, I use the time to inspect the collection of vinyls he has above the small bench we’re sitting around. Interesting mix of albums. Mostly Beatles-related stuff, a lot of Roxette, SOAP of course. And Eurythmics. There he comes back, I have to ask him…
Tomorrow on TDR: Face to face with Christoffer Lundquist. Pt. 8: “So yes, Per saw the mouse”
Christoffer with Tiny Penelope:
Doing promotion for himself is “very very unnatural” for Christoffer:
Through the window, the album
Through the window, the real one
The local school family Lundquist takes care of
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