|Published: 2008-03-20 by Kristofer Kebbon
There are few songwriters that have had as much amazing success the past decade as Jörgen Elofsson. His international breakthrough came in 1999 with the songs Sometimes and You Drive Me Crazy, which he wrote for Britney Spears. Both songs became singles, and the album sold 23 million copies—a success that has been followed by more.
Jörgen’s success wasn’t anything that just fell into his lap. Before he had his breakthrough, he had worked single-mindedly on his musical career for 20 years.
–I started late with music, I was 16. But when I got into music, I really got into it.
Earlier, Jörgen’s main interests had been sports, books, archaeology, and painting. He left all these for music. As soon as he had learned to play the guitar, he also began writing music. He took the lyrics for his songs from submitted poems to a Swedish magazine.
Quit his solo career
Already at the start, Jörgen was dedicated to his work. He soon left his own band because hen noticed that he was the only one who really worked at it. Instead, he began a solo career under the name Shane. His career never really took off, and he gave it up at the start of the 1990s.
–But I was at least one of the first Swedish artists to be played on MTV!
Since 1994, Jörgen has been able to live off his songwriting. That was when he wrote the song Guld i dina ögon (Gold in your eyes) for Carola Häggkvist and got a publishing deal with BMG. It was through BMG that he came into contact with the songwriting and producing collective Cheiron, and he eventually moved from his home town of Ängelholm to Stockholm.
–The same day I moved, I was offered to share a studio. The other owners, who were rather undisciplined, were shocked by my working tempo.
Jörgen moved literally into the studio. He put an army cot there and bought a gym card to have someplace to take a shower. He ran back and forth between his own studio and Cheiron, where he had begun working together with David Kreuger and Per Magnusson, a real dream team, as it turned out.
To put oneself into inspiration
Inspiration is about putting yourself in a state, says Jörgen. One method he uses to reach this state is to work together with others.
–I prefer to work with other songwriters. When it works best, it is just as creative as playing in a sandbox. Artists can also be good collaborators. They might not always be the best in the world at handicraft, but they often have a burning interest in what they do.
Many times, the songs show up as quick insights. Other times they can sit and rise for several days before they break out. It is a painful process and it makes him quite depressed.
Most often, Jörgen begins with a text when he writes. He writes almost all his lyrics himself, which is something he likes.
–The text is the foundation that I hang the song on. It is important that there is some drama and several layers to the text, otherwise it just turns out flat and then it is hard to build something from it.
If he gets stuck, he never sits and combs the material. Instead, he sets it aside and starts on a new song. He often has around ten songs going on at the same time, but the never leaves anything unfinished.
–Becoming an accomplished songwriter take a long time. It seems as if many people don’t understand that. I could write a song in five minutes right now, and it would probably be fine. But the really good songs can take months to finish. A good song has to take hold of the listener and then never let go. It has to tie up all the loose knots at the end, and when it gives me goose bumps, I know it’s good.
Success not without its problems
Today, Jörgen has written songs for some of the biggest pop artists in the world. He has written music for winners of Idol, not only in Sweden, but in several other countries as well. His songs have been number one on hit lists around the world, and he has even gotten into the Guinness Book of World Records.
He has of course earned quite a bit of money through his music, and he wonders why this is not as accepted as when a good football player gets rich playing his sport.
–Why should it be so controversial when artists make money with their art? I don’t think people understand how much work is necessary to make it big. Then there are always those who feel that greed is the biggest driving force, but that sort of force wouldn’t keep you going year after year.
Jörgen says that he sees his work as a calling. He has seen colleagues who have been broken down by their success.
– In order to get through both the good and bad times, you have to have a very powerful will and you have to see some meaning in what you do. I am lucky to be so anchored in music and to get such a kick out of giving from myself. But I have been burnt out many times.
Critical towards the musical climate
Jörgen is worried about the development in the music world. He thinks that music is being devalued, which is partly due to there being too few quality filters. Anyone can make music and put it on MySpace. Also, there are now technical advances that allow one to imitate the sound worlds of earlier epochs. All this leads to an overrepresentation of retro genres – a sort of nostalgia that doesn’t contribute to musical development—on the contrary.
–Music is the foundation of the universe! It is the messenger of emotion, but unfortunately, today’s music industry consists to a great extent of many men in suits. I think one has to work at developing many new mainstream artists, because mainstream is necessary—even for more ”respected” genres.
The role of the songwriter
When he was young, Jörgen didn’t think that one could work as a songwriter without being an artist. Today he knows that it is possible if you are prepared to fight hard.
In an interview in the economic daily Dagens Industri a couple of years ago, he described his songwriting role as being wholly subordinate to that of the artist. He still wants to work in the background, but it doesn’t mean being invisible.
–It is important that songwriters are seen and work as role models, but I have no desire at all to end up in tabloids. Sometimes, though, I feel like making my own record again. Maybe I still have left a need to express myself as an artist, Jörgen laughs.