Tony Nilsson – workaholic with a taste for the eighties

Published: 2008-01-18 by Sebastian Tiger

Hair spray, zebra striped tights, huge drums that echo in an airplane hangar. Tony Nilsson’s songs do not always trigger the most desirable memories. But they do sound like modern new recordings of some of the super productions from the 80s by AOR heroes like ASIA, Journey, and Tony’s own favorite, Mutt Lange. Take the past fall’s hit by ”Idol” Ola Svensson, ”S.O.S,” as an example: pop music sculpted to the smallest detail, from the classic melody to the fireworks at the end including key changes and clever choral arrangements. The final result ends up somewhere between Bryan Adams’ ”Run To You” and Max Martin’s fluffiest rock songs.


This spring, Tony Nilsson is among other things known for Ola’s Swedish schlager competition entry ”Love In Stereo” and the song ”Jag hatar dig” (I hate you), which he wrote for the old Fame Factory participant Alexander Schöld. That he would become a songwriter was not in his plans from the start, however; at first, he wanted to be a pop star himself.

- I played hockey and football first, but after getting a guitar in junior high school I got into music. I went to a music high school but got so upset at all the teachers who just said that I did things “wrong.” So I started a band instead and have tried to become a pop star since then. Until I gave up about a year ago in order to only write sings for other artists

What is the difference between writing for oneself and for others?

- If you write for yourself you make it really hard on yourself. When you are an artist you want to be serious and have credibility, so you have to believe every word you write. I know several great artists who would be better off not writing for themselves.

Who are your songwriter role models?

- Above al it is Mutt Lange, there is nobody else even close. Then there are some more modern folks like Timbaland and Max Martin, who are also really good. But I have always loved melodies from the 80s, that’s the music I have always wanted to make. Just look at Stock Aitken Waterman, who created probably a hundred hits built on the exact same chords. It was static and stiff, but it still swung somehow.

- It is not only aesthetics that he and Mutt Lange have in common; he works with the same manic perfectionism that made Lange record each guitar string separately for AC/DC’s ”Back In Black,” or record 50 song parts on the Def Leppard hits.

- I sit in the same studio as David Stenmarck and E-Type and they think I live in the studio. I am there at 7 AM and go home on the last subway train. If I take a break I get bored and just want to start working again. I forget to eat. And I feel sorry for my girlfriend… but she comes with me to the studio every day.

Do you like working with others?

- I work quite a bit with others but the ones I work best with are the ones who let me decide everything. I worked with an American who got so angry that he couldn’t say anything that in the end we went out and drank beer instead.

Do you mostly work with text writers?

- I actually mostly write my lyrics myself. On S.O.S., the record company didn’t at first want a refrain with the expression ”S.O.S.,” so we took in an American text writer who was to write another text. But in the end, the original refrain worked best. And that’s the way it works, 50% of the time; the first thing that comes into your head becomes the refrain.

Sebastian Suarez-Golborne


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