Regular readers of this site will know already that we love us some Anne-Lie Rydé. We could probably write a dissertation explaining why, but we’ll try to sum it up in a nutshell. Basically, she was a hugely successful artist in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. She’d done punk, jazz, and rock, and was both admired by many, and respected by even more. Yet despite being a ‘serious’ musician, she was never afraid to speak of her love for schlager music – a genre widely reviled of course. In fact, she even recorded cover versions of her favourite schlager tracks of yesteryear, like ‘All Har Glömt’, Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son’, and ‘En Så’n Karl’ (and you can read more about our love for ‘En Så’n Karl’ here!) amongst others. And it wasn’t just schlager – she straddled whatever musical genre took her fancy, without waiting to hear anyone’s thoughts on the matter, or to consider if it would be met with approval.
Then, after 25 years of her career, she finally said yes to the great titan of Swedish pop music – Melodifestivalen. And with that gave us two of our favourite schlager tracks of all time (more about them below!). Inexplicably though, both grossly underperformed in the contest. But that hasn’t stopped Anne-Lie wheeling them out at gigs still to this day, and introducing them with a pride and a love that only confirms how much she believes in her own music despite other people’s thoughts on it.
And just this month, Sweden got the latest phase of Anne-Lie Rydé’s musical musings – dansband! Which is perhaps the only genre MORE mocked and derided than schlager! Nevertheless, the album has been a success so far in the two weeks its been on commercial release. It’s an album of her all time favourite dansband tracks, recorded with her own twist. And it’s just pure and utter joy in parts! The uptempo moments are our favourite – ‘Hallå’, ‘Två Mörka Ögon’, ‘Du Har Gjort Min Gråa Värld Till’, ‘Inget Stoppar Oss Nu’, and especially ‘Höga Berg Djupa Hav’! The production on the whole album is great too. We’ve been listening to a lot of dansband music recently (we know, WE KNOW!) and have to say that some of them can often sound a bit cheap. And of course, songs like ‘Inget Stoppar Oss Nu’ have been recorded literally hundreds of times – but there really is something very special about Anne-Lie’s album. We can’t get enough of it!
So, we met up with her last Wednesday at the Lionheart studios in Stockholm for a very long chat – as there was SO much that we wanted to ask her about. And thankfully, she wanted to talk about all of it too. She told us that it was her first English language interview since 1982! As a result, we got one of our most open, honest, endearing, and interesting interviews ever. Have a read below;
scandipop: So, congratulations – your new album ’Dans På Rosor’ went top 10 in Sweden last week, number 9. But of course it must have been quite difficult to know what to expect really, sales wise, as it’s been three years since your last album of new material. So how did number 9 compare with your expectations?
Anne-Lie: I didn’t expect anything. Because I’ve never really been an album artist. I prefer the live stage, as that’s where I’m most comfortable and that’s where I’m working. That’s where I earn my money, ha ha, on the stage. It’s always been like that. But you have to make records. Even these days when record sales aren’t the best, if you compare it to when I was making records in the late 70’s, the 80’s and even the 90’s, there’s a huge difference in numbers. The last album I think, didn’t sell much, ‘I Hela Mitt Liv’. It was very dark and very heavy stuff, and people know me these last 20 years as a joyful singer, you know. I was a rock singer from the start, from the beginning, and the stuff I did then was very heavy. But then I was younger, and I looked more cruel, ha ha, and was angrier than I am now! So yes, the last album wasn’t received so well, because people didn’t recognise me in that one. So now I’m doing this, and it’s very happy and from my heart of course, I never do anything that’s not from the heart. But I didn’t expect anything really. And when they told me I was in the top 10, I was like, ‘’oh, ok’’, ha ha! I’m so much older now, you know, so I really don’t have any expectations anymore. And it’s so nice not to have them because it’s a stress, it’s stressful. So now I see what’s happened as a surprise, as a bonus.
scandipop: You had your first hits in the 70’s, then in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, and now you’ve had a hit album in this decade…
Anne-Lie: When will I stop?! Ha ha ha!
scandipop: What in your opinion has been the biggest contributing factor to your longevity?
Anne-Lie: It’s my great love for singing. That’s the simple answer. I have always loved to sing, and I still do. It’s a tough market I’m in, a tough industry. There’s a lot of competition, and I’m getting older. And I heard from a lot of other artists that were older than I am,’’oooh, wait until you’re 50+, then it’s gonna be really hard’’. But I have this drive in me – I want to sing. I love to sing. It’s my therapy in many ways. And I’ve loved singing since I was two years old. But I didn’t know when I was a teenager that I was gonna be to be a professional singer, not until I was 20, 22. So that’s why I still do it, I love it. Sometimes I feel I’m so fed up with the industry, I want to do something else, I want to calm down and relax and do something completely different……
Anne-Lie: Ha ha, exactly! It’s so boring, I know! So yes, that’s what keeps me going.
scandipop: I think people can see that you’ve got that passion for music too. Whenever I’ve seen you perform live, you always look like you’re enjoying it so much. And that’s always much better to see than someone who just looks bored on stage.
Anne-Lie: I agree, and I AM enjoying it so much. And that’s why I said before – I’m a live stage artist. That’s where I’m really enjoying myself. And as long as I can do my live thing on stage, then I can support myself financially too and I keep on going.
scandipop: I’ve been looking through and listening to your back catalogue on Spotify, and there’s such a mixture of different genres on there. Jazz, hard rock, dark guitar stuff, and schlager. Would you say that that’s another reason why you’ve been around for so long, because you keep reinventing yourself?
Anne-Lie: Yes, I have to. I have to try new things to challenge myself, otherwise it gets boring. If you just do exactly the same thing over and over, year after year, it gets very boring. It’s not something which I plan, it’s just become that way. But you’re right, I’m reinventing the whole time to find new ways to get new inspiration and to get a new lust.
scandipop: And of course now when someone browses you on Spotify, they’re gonna see your latest genre interpretation – dansband…
Anne-Lie: Ha ha ha! And so many people have been like, ‘’what?!’’
scandipop: So tell us – why dansband and why now?
Anne-Lie: Because these are songs that I’ve been growing up with. I’ve met so many dansbands down through the years, touring, because that’s how it works – you have us, the rock band on one stage doing a 45 minute set and then going home, and then you have the dansband on the other stage doing FIVE 45 minute sets. And I’ve come to know many dansbands, and I see how they struggle, they have to work so much harder than we have to do. And I always felt it’s not fair, it’s unjust. But two years ago, Dansbandskampen started here in Sweden on SVT – and something happened. I thought, finally they get their recognition and their moment in the spotlight. Finally. And I’ve had this idea for ten years, to do a dansband album, to do these songs, but I knew that I had to be smart and strategic. I had to do it at a time when people wanted to listen to these songs again. And so when Dansbandskampen started two years ago, I thought – now’s the time, this is the moment. So we started to plan it one and a half year ago. And then I was invited to present a prize at the huge annual dansband gala, it’s like the dansband genre’s own Grammy awards, and they wanted me to sing something. So I did a classic old dansband song, that’s known to every generation, ‘Gråt Inga Tårar’….
scandipop: Oh that’s one of my favourites from your new album, I love the last note in it, it’s so good!
Anne-Lie: In the original version, it’s very uptempo, so I did something completely different with it, I slowed it down. And when I performed it a year and a half ago, the audience were like ‘’wow’’, and they said to me that I had to do a dansband album. And I said, ‘’well – I’m already planning one’’! To them, they think that I do the genre justice. They think that I show many people in Sweden who don’t like dansband music, I show them that these are good songs, really good songs. And it all comes down to how you arrange, produce and perform them. And I’ve always done this, I’ve taken old stuff and made it my own. You have to really do it your way, completely different from the original stuff. So I knew then at that moment that I definitely had to do this album. And people are gonna react to this album the same way they did in the 90’s when I did the ‘Prima Donna’ album of covers, and then when I did ‘En Så’n Karl’ and ‘Sån’t Är Livet’. They said ‘’WHAT?! You’re gonna do schlager? But you’re a rock singer’’. But I did schlager, yes. And now they say ‘’you’re gonna do dansband? But you’re a schlager singer’’! Well – I’m a singer. I do all kinds of things. So that’s why I did this album. And that’s why I did it now – because people want to listen. Dansband has a boom right now.
scandipop: Yeah. I mean it’s certainly not exactly in fashion now, but it’s definitely more popular with more people than it used to be.
Anne-Lie: Yes, although you have to remember – in this audience that listen to dansband, there are many many people. It’s big. But I’ve noticed that many people who don’t normally listen to dansband have bought my new album, because they are very good songs and I do it more ‘their’ way. So that’s a good result for this album. It’s a good praise to get! I’m glad that I’ve reached people who don’t normally like dansband.
scandipop: There are so many dansband classics that you could have chosen when recording this album. How did you narrow it down and choose the 12 twelve that ended up on the album?
Anne-Lie: We had around 30 at the beginning that I wanted to do. But then there were many that I couldn’t do because they had lyrics that were sung to women. And I’m straight! And I always have to be very true to the lyric. There’s one song that I love, and it’s a huge dansband hit in Sweden, ‘Jag Vill Vara Din Margareta’ – ‘I Want To Be Yours Margareta’, which is a female name. And I really wanted to sing it but I couldn’t, as it’s not to a guy. And you can’t just change the name, because that’s the song, that’s the title. So I guess I just picked my favourite songs, the ones that I love, that I could do justice to and elevate.
scandipop: I suppose you may have already answered this, but how has the dansband community reacted to the fact that Anne-Lie Rydé has made a dansband album? They can be quite insular and protective of their artists and their music, simply because they know that so many outsiders see it as being so uncool and often laugh at it.
Anne-Lie: So far the reaction has been quite good I think. I’ve had many positive reactions from the community. And I had a review in the big main dansband newspaper, and it was really good. So I was like ‘’phew!’’, because if they had slaughtered me there, it would have been so so awful, so I was quite happy about that. It was a really good review.
scandipop: Ok. So…going from dansband now to discussing schlager music….
Anne-Lie: Yes! Which I love! As well, ha ha!
scandipop: A lot of scandipop readers from all over the world are fans of Swedish schlager music. And that’s how some of them know Anne-Lie Rydé – as the schlager diva who sings the likes of ‘Så Nära’ and ‘Säg Att Du Har Ångrat Dig’. And that’s what we love you for too! However, in Sweden, you obviously had a lot of fans who enjoyed your older material but who were probably quite aghast when you went down the schlager route, just because it’s so not what they were used to from you and because you weren’t that kind of artist. So I’m curious to know if you actually do sense both of those feelings towards you – the love from the schlager fans because you’ve gone down that road, but also the resistance from your older fans for the same reason. And if so, how do you find a balance between the two?
Anne-Lie: In the beginning, when I first started doing some schlager in the 90’s, yes, my older fans thought I was crazy and couldn’t believe it. But then they surrendered and said really this is so good. You have to put your own mark on everything you do, it doesn’t matter what you do. There are some things I’d never do, like I’d never sing country and western music because I’m really bad at it! I’m a power singer, I have to have power when I sing. But yes, those fans that were with me then are the same age as me today, and so they listen to this new album now as well because it’s me doing it. And I’ve never felt that I’ve lost credibility – if that’s an important thing anyway, I don’t know…
scandipop: It’s definitely not!
Anne-Lie: It’s not, no.
scandipop: There are so many artists who think it is though unfortunately.
Anne-Lie: Well it’s not for me! And nobody has accused me of selling my soul, I’ve never ever heard that.
scandipop: Good, I’m glad. Pop artists down through the years in Sweden use Melodifestivalen quite a lot to give their music a stage. But you managed to go 25 years of having hit songs, albums, and tours, without ever going anywhere near Melodifestivalen. But then, in 2004…
Anne-Lie: When I was just about to reach 50 years of age, ha ha!
scandipop: …you entered for the first time ever. But you didn’t just enter any old song, you went full force, neck deep into it with a traditional, uber schlager song composed with Thomas G:Son. A totally Melodifestivalen type track. So what made you, in 2004, finally decide to say yes to the competition.
Anne-Lie: Because I’ve had so many requests to do it through the years. 1980 was the first time they asked me to do a song, and I was like ‘’no no no, I’m a punk singer, I can’t do that’’! Then in 1981 they came back to me and asked me to sing ‘Fångad I En Dröm’, which Björn Skifs then went on to sing, and won with that year! That was originally going to be in a musical which they also wanted me to star in but I said no to everything! ‘’I’m a rock singer, I don’t want to be in a musical and I don’t want to be in Melodifestivalen, how can you ask me that’’, ha ha ha! I was like that then, I was very young, but I think I did the right thing. Then they came back to me, I had one request in 1994, and then again in 1996, and then I had one in 2003! So I had five requests that I turned down. But then in 2004, the boss of Lionheart, the record label, called me and said ‘’Anne-Lie you HAVE to give it up now, you have to listen to this song by Thomas G:Son’’. And I was like ‘’*sigh* Jesus, ok, ok’’. And then I heard it and thought, wow this is SUCH a good song, I really like it and I can’t turn it down. And before, when people has asked me why I kept turning Melodifestivalen down, I always said that I had to have something left to do when I’m 50! Ha ha ha! And I was 48 in 2004 so I thought, ok, it’s almost here, I’m 50 soon. Now’s the time! And then of course once you’ve been there, you can’t let it go – you have to be there every year then! Because it’s great fun. It’s such a good occasion to be in. And the hard facts are that if you’re there and you perform, you don’t even have to go to Globen, you get so much more work out of it, so much more jobs that year, than if you weren’t in it.
scandipop: One of the things I admire most about you is your attitude towards your Melodifestivalen schlager tracks. When I saw you perform at the Love Stockholm festival this summer, before you sang both ‘Så Nära’ and ‘Säg Att Du Har Ångrat Dig’, you introduced them by saying that you loved them then, and that you still love them now, despite them not being the big hits in the contest that they deserved to be. You still believe in them. And I love that! There’s nothing more off-putting for a pop fan than when an artist turns their back on songs from their back catalogue that perhaps didn’t do so well. So it’s great to see you still bigging them up. But what I’d like to know is what your thoughts are on how those two songs performed in the contest, the fact that they greatly underperformed.
Anne-Lie: The first time, in 2004 I was quite disappointed. Because everyone had been telling me that it was definitely going to do so well, that I was gonna win this and that I was gonna win that, and that I was gonna win win win! And I was like, ‘’whoah, let’s cool it down, let’s wait and see’’. But then I got the best reviews in the papers, I got five stars out of five, and all that. And everyone was so convinced that I was gonna go to Globen and that I was gonna finish either first, second, or third. So then when I didn’t even make it to Globen, I was like ‘’WHAT?!’’. Because I believed in what people had said. But the second time, I was prepared, so that was not such a huge disappointment, it was more like ‘’well well’’. However, that second time, the newspapers were quite ugly. The next day, they had on the front page ‘’Big shock tonight – Anne-Lie Rydé is going to quit singing’’. And I’d never said that. And people that knew me called me that day and asked if I was sick or if I was gonna die or what had happened. And that just made me SO angry. I was so angry with them. So I had a very heated discussion with the editor of Aftonbladet via email, I was so angry with him. He was the boss and he should have stopped it. He told me that he couldn’t have stopped it, and I said, ‘’you’re the boss, of course you could have stopped it’’! And that went on for a couple of weeks. But then everything cooled down. And I learnt something I think – the way you can be treated by the press. I have managed to get away with many things, I have never conformed.
scandipop: Yes, Swedish people have told me that you’ve been quite controversial down through the years.
Anne-Lie: Yes, I am. Always have been and always will be! Ha ha ha!
scandipop: Good! Well ’Så Nära’ is an amazing track, it’s definitely one of my favourite songs of all time. The performance of it was also amazing – but for different reasons!…
Anne-Lie: The boa?! Ha ha ha!
scandipop: Yes! Can you tell us, what was the thinking behind that performance?
Anne-Lie: That was all Hans Marklund. He is a director, a choreographer, he does so many shows, he does Allsång På Skansen. He’s brilliant! He’s one of my best friends and we’ve known each other since 1979. So I called him, and he said ‘’I don’t do Melodifestivalen anymore. But I’ll do this for you because I have this idea’’. And that was his idea. And I loved it! So we practiced in a theatre, because that boa it was 13 metres long….
scandipop: 13 metres?! Thank you, I’ve always wondered exactly how long it was!
Anne-Lie: Ha ha! Yes, 13 metres. I still have it actually in a plastic bag at home. On a shelf in my closet.
scandipop: It’s such a memorable performance. My friends and I watch it nowadays and it’s STILL jawdrop inducing!
Anne-Lie: I know. That’s Hans! That’s him. He has so many ideas and still has. He’s like me, he’s my age now but he’s still always thinking. So the ‘Så Nära’ performance was all him, and I was just a marionette, ‘’yes Hans, yes Hans’’! But I trust him 100%.
scandipop: So when you look back on that performance….
Anne-Lie: I like it!
scandipop: You like it?
Anne-Lie: Yes! Especially that part where the camera takes the feather boa with it through the audience! That’s so nice, really.
scandipop: Were there ever any other tracks that came out of those writing sessions with Thomas G:Son, that might one day see the light of day? Because those two songs were amazing, and I’d love to hear more.
Anne-Lie: We have something going on. And I think you will like it! Ha ha!
scandipop: Is that anything to do with a certain competition whose deadline for submitting songs was yesterday?
Anne-Lie: Ha ha! Ahh……maybe. Maybe. Maybe maybe! Wait and see.
scandipop: Well actually my next question funnily enough was going to be – will you ever do Melodifestivalen again?
Anne-Lie: Of course I will! I love it. And now I have no expectations at all and I’m just relaxed about it. It’s a great opportunity to be seen in, and I’ve still got my voice. So why not? Absolutely! They will NEVER get rid of me. ‘’Oh no, not her again’’, ha ha! It’s so funny because, like I’ve told you, I’ve rejected it so many times before, and when I finally do it, I do it over and over again!
scandipop: And if you go back, it’ll be schlager?
Anne-Lie: Yeah yeah yeah, of course.
scandipop: Obviously what happens if you win Melodifestivalen is that you end up going to compete for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest. Has that always been a dream of yours?
Anne-Lie: Absolutely not. I’ve never had dreams. My only dream has been to sing. And now my dream is that my voice will last as long as possible. That’s my dream now. That I’ll be able to sing when I’m 70. Because I have a voice that sings songs that aren’t so soft. I really use my voice as an instrument. As a trumpet, ha ha! And it requires good condition, and it requires that I keep on singing all the time to keep it warm and smooth, you know. So I do quite hard material for the voice. So when that day comes when I can’t do it my way anymore – I HAVE to quit. I will never ever do ‘Säg Att Du Har Ångrat Dig’ in a soft voice. It’s not me and it’s not my kind of singing, so I’ll have to quit then. So I hope, touch wood, you know, my dream is to keep going for as long as possible. So that Eurovision – no way! Because if you go there and you don’t even make the final, then the press will hang you. And so I don’t want that! And everyone who has been there always says that the Swedish competition, Melodifestivalen, was so much more fun anyway.
scandipop: Ok. So after all that you’ve achieved in your career so far, what is there left that you like to achieve still?
Anne-Lie: Hmmm. Well maybe when I’m 70 years old, and if I can still sing, maybe I’d like to do a great part in a musical, that requires a 70 year old lady. Maybe. That would be nice. It would be nice to show people that you can still sing and have a career as a singer, even if you’re 70 years old.
scandipop: Well best of luck Anne-Lie! And thank you very much.
Anne-Lie: Thank you.