Swedish documentary/interview,broadcast in early June but filmed in April 2004.
Agnetha is interviewed by Lotta Bromé.
|LB Lotta Bromé
AF Agnetha Fältskog
LB : Describe me.
AF : Describe you?
LB: Go ahead. Describe me. We’re switching roles.
AF: Describe you? Wow, I wasn’t expecting that question. A word describing you… curious.
LB: How would you describe yourself then?
AF: Cautious. In some situations.
LB: Hi, I’m Lotta.
AF: Hi, I’m Agnetha.
LB: Have you missed your voice?
AF: My own voice?
AF: No, but I’ve missed singing. And I felt that ok, I am maybe not too old, I can make one more album. But then I wondered if my voice was still there, I didn’t know. So it took a while before I had gotten my voice back in shape.
LB: But can’t you try that at home?
AF: Yes, I can, but it’s not the same thing as when you stand there in front of the microphone. Then things happen and that’s when you notice if it’s still there. But it’s not as if I’ve been practicing singing during these 17 years and been singing every day and practicing scales. It has lied fallow, it really has. It’s been resting.
LB: What about when you were this 17-18 year old teenager from Småland who came to Stockholm with your dad.
AF: Yes, that was exciting. It was fantastic.
LB: Who were you then?
AF: Then I was a young, inexperienced, very naïve girl who beamed with happiness because I was going up to Stockholm to make a record with Lille Gerhard for the record company Cupol. And my dad came with me and we took the train there, and it was very exciting. I stayed with an aunt then. And then there was the first day of recording at the Phillips studio. They were my own songs and the string ensemble sat there and played them. “Oh God, it’s really my song, wow!” It was a really incredible experience.
LB: What did you do on Sten & Stanley’s tour bus?
AF: We actually toured together, both them and I and Björn Ulvaeus. I’ve been out in Swedish folkparks a lot before the ABBA years. We traveled from north to south.
LB: When you became a vocalist with your first band in Jönköping. What was their name?
AF: Bernt Enghardts.
LB: Was it true that they already had a vocalist whose name was Agneta before you.
AF: Yes, exactly.
LB: And the posters had been printed.
AF: I don’t know how it happened but she wasn’t able to continue singing with the orchestra. They had already had posters printed and on them it said “with Agneta”. And then she quit and they actually looked for someone whose name was Agneta. So it was convenient.
LB: What did you dream of as a child?
AF: My dream was to become a singer. I had idols like Connie Francis, Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw, Sylvie Vartan, Rita Pavone. I could mention several others. That was almost the only thing I did, to play records and sing along.
LB: But what was in that dream, to become famous? What did that mean?
AF: I don’t think I thought very much about getting famous then or that is was that I was longing for. The most important thing was to get into a studio to sing my own songs.
LB: I’m not a blonde, so because of that I didn’t get to be Agnetha during “Klassens timma” (part of the school schedule in Swedish schools, where the pupils got to sing etc...).
AF: You probably got to be Frida I assume.
LB: Or Bjorn, because I thought it was so cool to have a guitar in those days.
LB: If you had been able to choose, who in ABBA would you have liked to be?
AF: Well… Maybe Frida.
AF: Because I think she was more fun to watch on stage. When it comes to our voices I think we were equal. Both of us were as important because our voices complemented each other so incredibly well. But when it comes to moving on stage, I thought Frida was very cool, much better, much more relaxed than I was. So when it comes to that, I would have liked to be Frida.
LB: But it was your behind that was chosen as the sexiest, not hers.
AF: Well, maybe then I contributed with something at least.
LB: Explain to me, who never have been on a world tour, what is it like?
AF: It is something incredibly huge to go on a world tour and it’s both good and bad. It’s also fun but it’s not something I would want to do nowadays. The hysteria we experienced in Australia, it was on the border of being scary. I was so afraid many times when we went in the cars to and from the stage, that someone would get pinned or run over, because there were people standing there banging on the car. And there were guards everywhere. It was a scary feeling.
LB: Was there a period when you were completely silent?
AF: Oh yes, a long period after ABBA quit. Then I couldn’t stand listening to music, I didn’t feel like listening to ABBA or anything else. And it’s often very quiet in my surroundings. I simply can’t handle too much noise. For example if there’s a plane flying above or that some machine is on at home, sounds that cross each other, it stresses me out. But I can listen to loud sounds in headphones when I’m singing, and when I listen to music I often want it loud, it doesn’t bother me then. But different sounds at the same time can make me stressed.
LB: How long was that silent period?
AF: It was quite long, maybe 5-6 years or even up to 10 years. Not that it was really quiet at home, but I just didn’t want to listen to an ABBA album. I couldn’t stand to listen to it because there had been so much of it. And it was there all the time and still today I can feel… not a day goes by that I don’t dream or think of ABBA. I dream about one of the others, about Frida or Bjorn or Benny or myself in various situations, so it’s always there with me. It has meant incredibly much to me.
LB: Before ABBA you had recorded 6 albums and you’re releasing one now. Why aren’t there any of your songs on the album?
AF: Because I have released so much of my own material earlier. I’ve mostly sung original material, when it comes to my songs or ABBA. Then it was also original material, not by me.
LB: Well, once.
AF: Yes, I have written one song.
LB: “Disillusion”, huh?
AF: Yes, “Disillusion”. And now when I wanted to make an album after so many years, I felt… I made it because I wanted to sing more, I felt I couldn’t leave it all behind me, I have to sing some more. And the thing that was difficult, it was to select 13-14 songs that mean the most. Because there are so many of them.
LB: Then another favorite appeared, the ABBA producer Tretow.
AF: Yeah, at first I was by myself, but then I felt I really wanted to work with Micke B Tretow because we’re so used to work together. He was, well, he is such a mainstay and knows exactly if I get stuck somewhere singing, which happens sometimes. He knows and says “Don’t take it so seriously”. He knows exactly how to make me get out of that situation. So we worked for a while on the album, but unfortunately Micke fell ill, but he’s absolutely improving, things are going in the right direction, so that feels good. But it was tough that he wasn’t able to continue working on the album. But then Anders Neglin and Dan Strömkvist joined and I think things have gone very well. It feels like we’ve known each other for a long, long time. We really have complemented each other and I think producing is very interesting. And we have complemented each other because I’m not really a technical producer. I don’t know much about the controls, I have more of an image inside my head and I know exactly how I want it to sound, if there are certain parts in the songs, like I want that part over there instead, it should be put together with that part. That part ends there and then that part begins at the same time. I have many of those ideas inside my head. And I’ve been there, we’ve been together during the whole recording with musicians, back up singers and strings.
LB: You thank Demis Roussos. There aren’t that many of us who understand his greatness.
AF: No. I heard his voice when I was in the city, I heard his music coming out of a store. It was this one “Goodbye, my love, goodbye” or maybe it was another song. I thought “Whose great voice is this?”. So I stood there really listening. It was Demis Roussos. It was fantastic. I love that kind of songs.
LB: “Past, Present And Future” is an interesting song on the album. It’s really sad.
AF: Yes, it is. The lyrics are really sad. But I have a tendency to fall for sad songs, I always have. And I don’t know why. It’s probably because they are so dramatic.
LB: You’re singing it now. Shangri-Las sang it once upon a time.
AF: Yes, a girl group. It’s one of those songs that I had forgotten about, but when I began to look in all these boxes for this kind of songs, I suddenly found this one.
LB: What boxes? Where did you find them?
AF: In my house. <laughs> No, I went to a record store where they had so many different records from this time period. And I went through them and I bought so many of them. And then there was a CD with several girl groups. And then that song was in the middle of all the other songs that I remembered. And I felt that this song was so deep inside me and I thought that this song should be on the album. And then I thought it was a bit original to talk my way through the song instead of singing.
LB: If you sing these kinds of songs, don’t you need to know what you’re singing about in order to make it credible?
AF: Yes, when you sing it’s very important with the lyrics, that you feel what it is you want to tell with his song. And it’s very easy for me to interpret especially sad songs, unhappy love and so on.
LB: In other words, you have been sad.
AF: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been very sad, many times. But I’m not always sad.
LB: Can you read music?
AF: Oh yes, I can play music by reading it. But I don’t write it myself.
LB: But how do you write down songs when you compose your own music?
AF: In a very special way. It’s very strange, I can barely explain it. I write words, sometimes in a strange language, but mostly in English. I write the lyrics and then I write the notes above and then the chords on the side. I’ve always done it that way. And I’m probably the only one who knows how to interpret it. And then sometimes when I write songs and lyrics, I can think of something when I’m about to go to bed, when I’m half asleep, “wow, that’s a good melody”. Then I hardly have the strength to get up and write it down. But it’s often at those times that it comes to me. I think it often comes to me when I relax. And the thing that was so great was that I began so early, feeling that I could compose. I was only 5-6 years old when I realized that. So it was very early on. I discovered the piano keys, that note was there, so very early on I realized I could make my own song. So I began to write songs and the first one was “Två små troll” or some other song.
LB: How did it go?
AF: “Två små troll träffades en dag
Två små troll lekte med varann
Kom sa den ena
Kom sa den andra
Kom ska vi leka med varann”
(“Two little trolls met one day
Two little trolls played with each other
Come said one of them
Come said the other
Come let’s play together”)
There was nothing special about it.
(Meanwhile a duck is approaching Agnetha and Lotta)
AF: It’s coming here now.
LB: That song is working. Två små änder (Two little ducks).
AF: Yes, exactly.
LB: What’s the difference between the Agnetha who was in ABBA and the Agnetha who is sitting here now? How have you changed?
AF: I’m probably the same person, but I’m much more mellow today. During the ABBA period it was a muddle, it was more or less chaos, to be able to handle such a job and then have the children at home and a lot of other everyday chores. When we were the busiest with ABBA, our children were so young, and both mom and dad went away so often. I constantly had a bad conscience. And on top of that they were children of divorce. So they were very vulnerable. And it’s that way for many people, that a career and having children unfortunately come at the same time, when you’re 20-30-something. It’s a bit unfortunate in one way but you have to make the best out of it. And you can ask for help from people around you if you have to. I had to take the chance because it was my thing, I felt that this is what I wanted to do.
LB: Have you been a good mother?
AF: I have tried to be a good mother. I think I have been. But of course not flawless, but I hope I have raised my children so they have these fundamental values.
LB: What are they, these fundamental values?
AF: Well, so that they feel secure, so that they can enjoy life, that they dare to do things. I don’t want my issues to rub off on them. <laughs> I want them to have a life where they feel good.
LB: I don’t get the impression that you are a coward.
AF: No, I’m probably not. I like challenges.
LB: But there’s maybe a difference between being a coward and being afraid.
AF: Yes, I think there is. You can have too much respect, for example with my fear of flying. I’m so fascinated with these planes which take off up into the sky knowing how much they weigh. How does it work with all the screws and so on? I’m very afraid that there might be accidents. I don’t feel well when my family fly. I’m afraid of that in some way even though I know it’s safe. That’s how I am.
LB: I found an old film where you’re walking with some good-looking guys in pilot uniforms and you sing “Opp, opp, opp”. And you get into one of those Draken planes (military plane). Isn’t that ironic?
AF: Yes, but I wasn’t that afraid then. <laughs>
LB: If you look back on your life, when do you think you did something which made you feel like “Wow, that was really brave of me”?
AF: Hmm. I’m not the kind of brave person who goes parachute jumping. <laughs> I wish I was a tough person who could say that I’ve begun deep-sea diving, but I’m not like that. I’m not adventurous in that way. I think it’s brave not being afraid to show your feelings, to dare to express that. Because I’m really a sensitive person. I cry easily and I have my ups and downs. I’m not a person who elbows my way forward, which I’ve read many times you need to be in order to be in this business. But I don’t think I’ve been that way. Maybe you get further that way. Even further.
LB: But can you get any further?
AF: No, maybe not.
LB: One of the most revealing songs on the album is “Sometimes When I’m Dreaming”.
AF: Yes, it’s a bit of a favorite.
LB: Tell me about that song.
AF: It was Art Garfunkel who sang it and for a long time I thought he was the one who had written it. And it really captured me, partly the melody and partly the lyrics, which are very good. Sometimes it can be that something is complete, that the music and lyrics go together. It’s as if they were written simultaneously. And it’s one of those songs. And then when we did some research we found out that it wasn’t he who had written it, instead it was written by an Englishman Mike Batt.
LB: An incredibly sad song.
AF: Yes, yet another one. It’s typical that I liked it.
LB: I first fall in love when I dream.
AF: Yes, exactly.
LB: Is there such a thing as happy love?
AF: Love should be happy but unfortunately it isn’t always. Unfortunately there’s a very large unhappy part in love. So the one who finds luck and love is lucky. And being able to make it last. But I think you have to work on it.
LB: And you could yearn for it. You can always dream.
AF: Yes. I think you should be allowed to. And it’s nice to be able to yearn.
LB: Are you able to?
AF: Yes, I am.
LB: Do you care what people think?
AF: It becomes less important the older I get, I think, because sometimes I feel I just want to be myself. I don’t want to keep thinking about what others think of me.
LB: Can you practice (improve) your confidence?
AF: I think you can and I think that you should do that.
LB: Have you done it? Or have you always had… are you confident?
AF: Um, I quite easily get offended by criticism, especially when it’s unjustified criticism. I think I myself know how to do something in the best way, so don’t stamp in on my territory. But I’m not very confident when it comes to myself, performing on stage. I am a bit insecure when it comes to that, which is a part of getting my material out there.
LB: But at the same time you seem to know very well what you want.
AF: Yes, I know what I want, but it’s difficult for me to express it with gestures. I feel quite tense.
LB: But can’t you work on that?
AF: Yes, I think I can. If I sat here giving interviews every day, then in about a week it would be a lot easier. I would probably be really funny then.
LB: But aren’t you quite funny the way you are?
AF: Yes, maybe, sometimes.
LB: Would you like a pinch of snuff?
AF: <laughs> This is probably the funniest interview I’ve ever done.