Maria Grönlund: Composing is intoxicating

Published: 2006-11-30 by Sebastian Tiger

Maria Grönlund teaches music at Sollentuna Fria Gymnasium. In her spare time, she writes music influenced by jazz, pop, soul and ballads. Last year, she entered several songs in the international songwriter contest "Song of the Year". She won a couple of monthly contests and was also awarded with an honourable mention in August. She was accordingly nominated in two categories for the final round of the contest.

Maria grew up on the Swedish island of Gotland and in Ängelholm in a nonconformist home. Her childhood was accompanied by song and organ music and Maria relates how her relationship to music has always been happy. When she was six years old, her family acquired an old, black piano and Maria and her mother started taking piano lessons together.

“We were soon competing against one another. It was highly stimulating and, at first, Mum was better than me. But then I gradually caught up and overtook her.”

Started her own ensembles
Maria spent much time as a teenager at the municipal music school. She started a choir and played in various ensembles, including the big band. Her first song came to her as she was on her way to music school one day.

“Actually it was more of a jingle. But I clearly recall biking along singing "I’m gonna be in the big band, baby".

At the age of 18, Maria began studying to be a music teacher in Malmö. That was when she fell in love and moved to Stockholm where she continued her studies. She changed direction too and began studying to become a piano teacher. She believed that this was a career that would better suit her. It proved to be the other way round: after working for some time as a piano teacher, she realised that it felt lonely. Since then, she has worked as a class teacher.

Left her career as an artist to be with her children
For a number of years, Maria was a member of the song group "All Blue", which she describes as a little sister to "The Real Group". She wrote and arranged music for the group and they gave many performances.

“However, when I became a mum, I decided to opt out. I have never had a moment’s regret. I really didn’t want to be out late at night when the children were so young.”

Maria says that she has found it difficult to start writing music. This she explains is due partly to her classical music training with its dependence on sheet music. She found it difficult to distance herself from role models such as Mozart and Chopin. The music was always there playing in her mind, but only ever came out as perpetual humming.

“What finally gave me the courage to write down what I could hear inside my head was my students' bold approach to music. Certain motifs recurred and I paid particular attention to them as they seemed to be addressing me.”

Inspiration drawn from creativity
Maria says the experience was like pulling out a plug. Her lyrics flowed more easily too once she had opened the door to musical creativity. These days, she jots all her ideas down on pieces of paper that she sorts according to style and emotion and then uses them when composing.
“My inspiration comes mainly from the possibility of being able to create. When I am able to abandon myself to composing and writing, it is quite intoxicating. It absorbs me so completely that I can hardly speak.”

She says that on occasions, she has gone around feeling fretful without knowing why. This has often shown itself to be music wanting to escape. It has principally come out as tunes, not series of chords or lyrics. Sitting at the piano, however, she thinks more in terms of chords, but as she explains, there is a greater risk there of the chords becoming clichés.

CD this summer
Together with her husband, guitarist Magnus Grönlund, Maria has formed the band "Go!" (Grönlunds’ orchestra). They are currently recording a CD with fully acoustic versions of Maria’s songs and hope to release the CD this summer.

Maria says that her greatest role model is Georg Riedel. She admires the way in which he captures the mood of the lyrics, and the fact that he sets great store by his music for children’s songs while also composing completely other things. This versatility of style is something that Maria practices too. Her entries in the "Song of the Year" contest have been nominated in several different genres, but Maria doesn't bother about genre demarcation. In her opinion, it is important that music has an effect on the listener. She quotes Robert Schumann: "The artist’s vocation is to send light into the depths of the human heart."

Mattias Franzén


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