I am sat in the luxurious five-star Clarion Hotel Sign, in Stockholm, waiting to interview 34-year-old Swedish singer-songwriter John Lundvik. I am wondering what he will be like in person after hearing so many great things about his talent and soulful voice, when in steps a young handsome man with the broadest and most open smile, and I know that In-spire LS readers are about to be dazzled.
I kick off our interview by addressing John as ‘Sweden’s greatest sweetheart,’ to which he bows his head with humility, smiles and says, “Wow.” We both laugh. I ask him to tell me how he became the musician he is today, “Through hard work and having the opportunity of working with the right people. I am working on an international level now.”
That’s right, not only is he big in Sweden, but John has gained global recognition. He tells me excitedly that he is currently a songwriter and ghost singer on the latest season of ‘Empire,’ the American musical drama television series, where he is working with one of the biggest stars ever, American singer and songwriter Alicia Keys.
From those dizzy heights, John takes me right back to the start. He spent his first five years growing up in the London Borough of Croydon, before his family migrated to Sweden in the early 80s. He remembers listening to Stevie Wonder at bedtime as a child and cites him as his musical inspiration, “I fell asleep to him. That was my goodnight story for many years, listening to Stevie Wonder.” He laughs and adds, “I still do.”
However, John’s career did not begin with music, “Athletics was a huge part of my life.” He was a sprinter and became the 18th fastest 100-metre runner in Sweden. He is modest when I remind him of this, but what an accolade. Sprinting was not his destiny, but he regards the training and mental discipline he acquired as something that helps him to achieve his goals, “It has given me the tools to be a better me.”
So, how did he make the move from sport to music? “Athletics was something I did, but music is something I am.” I can completely relate to that. John has taken his talent and turned it into something professional. It is only when you feel you are living a purposeful life, that you can truly be who you are.
As a songwriter, John’s big breakthrough came in 2010 after co-writing ‘When You Tell the World You’re Mine,’ the official wedding song for Crown Princess of Sweden Victoria and Prince Daniel. Let’s just breathe that accomplishment in. “Today, 8 years later, I realise what I’ve done and the impact. I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be a part of Swedish history.”
As a singer, John got his break in 2013 on the Swedish game show ‘Så ska det låta,’ and that same year, he was invited to perform at the lavish celebration of Queen Silvia of Sweden’s 70th birthday.
At this point, I nearly fall off my chair. Why? Well, it’s true that Sweden has become more diverse and embracing of other cultures in recent years, but when John was growing up things were different, so I know his musical achievements are huge. He has not allowed this to limit him at all, “I’ve had my ups and downs of course as a black man in Sweden, but it’s making me so much stronger. It’s been tough, but you have to keep going.” It is a victory that can inspire so many of us to reach for our dreams regardless of race, colour or gender.
He reflects on a childhood memory, “My school friends kept drawing attention to my black skin. I became more aware of the colour of my skin.” He recalls coming home one day and asking his mum, “Am I black?” John sits back in his chair and is quiet for a minute. I see deepness in his eyes and suddenly I understand that this was where he learnt how to toughen up and accept who he is.
John tells me his parents have always encouraged his musical ambitions, although he recognises how tough it must have been for them when he was trying to get his big break.
Speaking of his own family, John beams as he tells me, “I’m a blessed man, I have two children. A daughter, she’s three, and a little boy, he’s nine months.” I ask him what he would say if they were to say, ‘Dad, I want to be an artist,’ and he puts his head in his hands, “I would honestly go, NO!” He laughs, “That’s the first reaction, but if that makes them happy, they have to go for it.”
There is more than meets the eye with John Lundvik. He has left me nodding, smiling and, I have to be honest with you, nearly biting his arm just so that I could take some of his energy back to the UK with me. His early childhood experiences clearly shaped his mindset, behaviour and attitude. Life has taught him, regardless of the ups and downs, nothing will hold him back. I feel an almost familial sense of pride for him and the journey he has taken thus far.
The next big thing on John’s agenda is the Eurovision Song Contest. He is competing with 27 others in ‘Melodifestivalen 2018,’ a Swedish TV show and song competition that will select Sweden’s Eurovision entry for 2018. The winner will attend the finals in Portugal in May 2018. “That’s going to be such an opportunity and one of my dreams come true,” John tells me. “The song is called ‘My Turn’ and it’s about taking the opportunity when you have it.” He explains that it reflects his own journey as a songwriter, having been behind artists for such a long time but finally getting to chance to perform himself, front and centre, “It’s a piece of me.” Let’s send him our positive energy to ensure he makes it through. I could not think of a more worthy winner.
Finally, I ask about his long-term goals, and John’s eyes light up when he tells me that one is, “To sell out an arena.” Which one? “There’s only one. Royal Albert Hall.” London is waiting.
John has been incredibly generous with his time, and despite having meetings to attend and suit fittings for Eurovision, has let me tease out so much about his amazing life to date. As we draw the interview to a close, he leaves us with a nugget of wisdom that we can all take on board: “If you want to become successful, you have to embrace failure, because it’s such a huge part of success. Often we get a lot of nos, then finally we get one yes that will change it all. I’m a living example.”
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Special thanks to Clarion Hotel Sign for allowing us to film in their amazing hotel
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Make-up and filming by Celebrity make-up artist @glowby_aba
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W| By Lydia Amoah I| Unlimited Music & Management AB