Agnetha Fältskog interview - English translation
In September, Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA agreed to grant Swedish radio presenter Carolina Norén an interview for the classic Swedish chart show ”Svensktoppen” on Swedish Public Service radio. The interview was broadcast September 19.
Carolina Norén: ”Don't Shut Me Down” by ABBA – and with me on the phone I have Agnetha Fältskog. Hello, Agnetha!
Agnetha Fältskog: Hello, Carolina!
C: And, of course, congratulations to entering the top of the chart, Agnetha!
A: Wow, what a surprise! That was amazing, really fun.
C: Let's just say that I wasn't that surprised, and neither was the rest of the world. However, ABBA.s last number one here on Svensktoppen was actually ”Waterloo”, back in 1974!
A: Was it that long ago? Well, there you go. It was about time, then.
C: It was about time! Exactly.
A: I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you how happy, grateful and moved everyone in the group is by the enormous reception. It feels very nice and warm inside.
C: I'm thinking, the first time you received a call like this from ”Svensktoppen”, and I don't know if you remember this, Ulf Elfving was calling. It was in 1968, you were 17 years old and ”Jag var så kär” (I Was So in Love), had reached number three.
A: Yeah, it's been quite a few years, ha ha.
Agnetha Fältskog: Svensktoppen obviously means a lot
C: What has Svensktoppen meant to you over the years?
A: It means a great deal. We're so used to charts, and have enormous success in several countries, but ”Svensktoppen” – it's our native country and the audience we have back here, and it obviously means a lot. We're very moved by the reception everywhere. I remember that first interview with Ulf, I was very nervous, and almost couldn't believe that I'd entered Svensktoppen, it's something you don't forget. This was also an enormous surprise, because you can never really know how it will turn out. One is never sure that something is going to be successful, and one is glad when it happens.
C: I was actually thinking about that a bit: I know that you love spending time in the studio working, and so on, but was there any point while working on this new material where you started to feel doubt or fear: what if it doesn't work?
A: Yes, we said that in the beginning: a long time had passed since we recorded, and you can never be sure that the voice is going to hold up – was it going to sound old? However, we heard pretty immediately – from both Frida's voice and mine – that it sounded more or less as it did back then. However, you may have to make another kind of effort, and give more, or how to put it, of your ability to tell a story, to empathise with the song. I always used to do that, but it's a lot more now that one has lived an entire life. You put more emotion into it.
C: I was thinking, whose idea was it to do this – who was the driving force behind the comeback?. I mean out of you? From the fans' point of view, it's always been a given.
A: Yes ... Well, one thing lead to another, somehow. We felt that we wanted to do a few new songs for the avatar project that will open in May next year, in London. So we said ”let's do a few songs and see how they turn out, how it sounds. One thing led to another with a few more songs, and then Benny kind of said ”why not make an entire album?”. Yes, and that's how it happened, and since we enjoy working in the studio, it's fantastically fun to be able to create and such.
C: Yes, and you have said that it's sometimes easy to ”tempt” you into doing things if they sound like fun.
A: Yes, that's true.
Agnetha Fältskog about the avatar project: I had to give it a think
C: So you weren't hard to convince, when it came to doing this?
A: No, I don't think any of us were. Not doing this. The avatar project, I had to give it a think, since it meant a lot of work, as it were, on stage. Because I'm not a stage personality in that respect, but I can convey more feelings in the songs.
C: Indeed. The rumours around this comeback started back in 2018. We got to know the song titles, and it feels like these two songs that we have heard, have been underway for a while. Have you polished the songs over the years? What has happened since we first heard of them in 2018?
A: Well, we have been at it. At first we worked on the avatars throughout February...let's see, was it the year before last? No, it was last year. We had just finished working with that, when the Corona situation appeared. Then, after a while, we started recording these songs and it's continued like that.
C: When the songs were released a little over two weeks ago, fans gathered around the world simultaneously. Björn and Benny participated in the live stream and you and Frida were part of the edited program. Björn and Benny said that you were following the broadcast from a distance. How did it feel watching it?
A: It was actually enormous. I've been watching our fans a little, when they're listening to the songs, and they're actually crying. It's quite enormous what a reach it had all around across countries. It's almost hard to take it in, actually.
C: I was present at Gröna Lund (in Stockholm), where fans had been invited, and there were many fans from other countries. I can really attest that emotions were enormously strong. It was, you know, almost sacred. Just like you said, they cried and were deeply moved. One thing many of them said, at least the ones I talked to, was that they missed you – ”the girls”, they said: Agnetha and Annifrid.
C: Do you know when you will get together next time?
A: I don't really dare to say. We're a bit older now, and have our minor ailments, ha ha. But we struggle on. But I don't dare to say, because it's a bit uncertain. At the moment we feel happy that we got this together, and let's hope everything goes well in London, at the premiere over there.
C: Right, in May next year. The avatars. Incredibly cool, actually.
Agnetha Fältskog: I like to sit down when I sing. Frida usually stands up
C: You touched upon the thing about the voice, whether it would hold up. When you released your solo album in 2013, you mentioned in an interview that you'd had the same worry, and had taken singing lessons – which turned out to be one lesson. How was it this time, Agnetha? Did it end up being any singing lessons?
A: Haha. No, it didn't. One knows this, that it has to do with support from the stomach, that you shouldn't ruin...so it doesn't become too much for the throat. Instead, you find support in the belly, and it just fits so well, once you're in the studio. You just, ”wow, it holds up!”. One has different … I like to sit down when I sing. Frida usually stands up. It varies a lot, how you feel that you get the power.
C: You are the one doing the main vocals – at least most of them – on the single ”Don't Shut Me Down”. I should add that ”I Still Have Faith in You” is also in the chart, at number four.
A: Yes, how fun!
C: How does it work when you divide it between the two of you? Do you choose your favourites, or is it directed by the respecive voice registers? Do tell.
A: Yes. It's probably the guys who are in charge of that. We get some lyrics, get to listen a bit, and try a little. It's also happened that one has felt ”this one I'd like to do”. There are no fights about anything. We try it out, but it's usually the guys, I think, who already know who is supposed to sing what. We're also part of each others'... Even if one of us sings the solo verses, we're always join together for the choruses, for the most part.
C: You have also a background as a songwriter, and ran your solo career in the beginning. These days, Björn and Benny usually end up talking about the project. How much are you able to go in a change things, or feel ”that doesn't work, let's try this”.
A: Back in the day it happen pretty regularly, but these days it doesn't. I can come up with a lot of ideas: ”could we add some finesse at this point in the song?” I'm also pretty good at harmonies, but the guys handle most of it. We do as they say, and it turns out well.
C: Another thing when one talks about ABBA and ABBA's music, your songs have been quite associated with you as people over the years. The most obvious example may be ”The Winner Takes it All”, which is about divorce. How about today – what do the songs say about you as people, and artists today?
A: It's probably mostly in the lyrics, and you should probably let Björn answer. One can read one thing or another into composers', songwriters' or lyricists' work, and of course you add a bit of ”it's about him, or me”. But it's general, how to say, relationships. Because it's often about love.
Agnetha Fältskog about the new album: If you like these two songs, you will probably like the entire album
C: The two most recent songs, maybe a little more general. Now that we are talking about love, I've go to ask you: you have said that you're are a romantic person, Agnetha.
A: Yes, I am.
C: And you like romantic music. Will there be more romance on the album? More love?
A: Haha! Well, it's very varied. I can't say much about it now, but it's very varied. I can tell you this much: if you like these two songs, you will probably like the entire album. I do think so.
C: Right. That's good. I feel I need to scratch the surface a little more. What we have heard is a timeless ABBA sound. Can one imagine that it will continue with that sound as well?
A: What do you mean, on the CD?
C: Yes, on the album.
A: Ah, yes. It's very much the ABBA sound. We're not trying to sound different or letting ourselves be affected by other, current things, so to speak. We're trying to keep ... It becomes what it becomes – and it becomes very ABBA when Frida and I get together in the studio. It's almost like a marriage between our voices, and almost hard to tell them apart at times.
Agnetha Fältskog: None of us probably really knew what to expect
C: Now, I know that a lot of people are looking forward to the concert in London in May next year. First, there's the album, in November. The one we were talking about. We mentioned the avatars. What went through your head the first time you heard of the idea?
A: Haha. Well, yes, none of us probably really knew what to expect, but we've worked with it a lot, so you grew into it, eventually. We stand there, doing these songs, with– I don't know how many cameras and people. And then, somehow, it was technologically transferred, in some way that we don't even understand, to other people that are going to be on stage as us – but it's still us, haha! I can't really explain it, it's so hard, but there's a lot of technology and lights involved. But it felt great to do in the end. Because it was so different. Also, there was a vibe, one felt that ”maybe it's the last thing we do”. Same thing with this album.
C: Ooh, you can't say that, ha ha! We want more!
A: You can cut that out.
C: Jonas and I will cut that out! Solo album in 2013. I can reveal to you, here and now, that in the summer of 213, ”Dance Your Pain Away” was the only thing I listened to.
A: I see! That's nice.
C: I know it inside out, but I won't sing it!
A: Yeah, that was cool, actually.
C: Is there anything in the pipeline solo – another solo album from you, Agnetha?
A: Not at the moment, no. I think, and I feel, that I've done a lot now. So I can't promise you that. We have got to find joy in what we have, and all that awaits.
C: Indeed. May I also add that I was very happy when I heard that you would be with us and share. Because I've learned that you are somewhat restrictive when it comes to doing interviews. What do you think, are there further public appearance from you ahead?
A: Not really. But, as you say, I've never really retired that way, but I am restrictive, and I feel that a lot of things are being written, and have been written, about us. We agreed to do, and have done, so many interviews. There's a risk that you ruin it by talking too much. You want keep a little something to yourself. Something private.
C: Agnetha, we respect that, and we are very happy here at Svensktoppen, and, I would imagine, that the listeners who haven't perhaps fainted from the surprise, and have stayed with us, are happy that you could join us. Once again, huge, huge congratulations to topping the chart.
A: Thank you. I also want to send greetings from the rest of the group. I know that they are all very happy about this. It means a lot to us.
C: Wonderful. I hope we can talk again. I almost get shivers suddenly doing the presentation here. So I say: new number one: ABBA and ”Don't Shut Me Down”. Thank you very much, Agnetha.
A: Thanks so much to you, too!