Monday, 28 May 2012

INTERVIEW: DAVID MYHR

Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! In the ELOBF interview booth today is David Myhr - former leading light of Swedish power pop supremos The Merrymakers and now striking out on his own as well as being a label mate of our friends Pugwash - for this not-so-long-distance interview for ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF]! David contacted me after seeing an ELOBF review by Yours Truly KJS which mentioned his gig in London in late March. He's also just released a superb debut solo album, also reviewed here thus:


KJS: David, I guess the first thing to do here is to ask you to fill us in about your musical journey up to and including your time with The Merrymakers?
DM: In brief, I learned the piano at five years of age and fell in love with music in general through the music of: The Beatles in particular around the time when John Lennon died when I was ten years old. I started in a band at the age of fifteen and formed: The Merrymakers when I was twenty. That band took most of my attention in the 1990’s and the climax was the 'break' we had when we got to work with Andy Sturmer from our favourite band: Jellyfish. Our albums sold a lot in Japan and we were making progress in the US. However, it all faded out and [since then] in the Noughties I’ve been mostly writing and producing for other artists, among them the Japanese duo: Puffy. But now I’m back in the game again and really excited to have my own solo record out! Although I’m in my forties I feel I’m in my twenties again - it’s great!
KJS: But now you are a solo artist ... so when and why did you decide to go it alone?
DM: At the precise moment when we decided to dissolve: The Merrymakers. During the final years, there were only two remaining members and we seemed to have grow apart musically. But we were also quite different characters. I was frustrated because I was writing song after song and my supposed song writing partner Anders didn’t seem interested in what I was doing. It was such a relief when I went solo and I could approve all my songs at once! There was no-one I needed to convince anymore about the brilliance of my songs ... except the rest of the world of course now that the record is out!
KJS: Upon listening to the CD, I can detect the influence of ‘The Beatles’, Jeff Lynne [and also ELO, of course!] in the song arrangements and vocal harmonies. You mentioned this in your YouTube posting of: “Don’t Say No” – which was recorded in your kitchen! But what other artistes inspire you, David?
DM: My all-time favourites, except for: The Beatles, their respective solo careers and ELO/Jeff Lynne also include Tom Petty [yet another Wilbury!] and lots of classic stuff from 1965-1975. David Bowie is one of them. But when I think of: Crowded House and Jellyfish as well as lots of other Brit Pop and Power Pop bands - there are just too many to mention! My most recent sources of inspiration include: The Feeling, Keane and Tim Christensen.
KJS: "Soundshine" is a really good name for an album! How did you come up with the idea ... and who is responsible for the colourful artwork for the sleeve?
DM: Glad to hear you like it! I was thinking a lot about possible album titles. I’ve always liked the tradition of using a play with words with some kind of double meaning in the album title. There are many examples from the pop history like: "Rubber Soul", "A New World Record" and my old band The Merrymakers’ album: "Bubblegun". So I was aiming for something like that and my working title for a while was: "Pop Into My Head” but a musician friend of mine said that he “strongly disagreed” about using the name of genre in the album title. And deep inside I kind of agreed. So my struggle continued. I played around with words like: "sound", "sun", "summer" and many others until I came to think of: "Soundshine". It felt really good! Then, when it was time for the artwork, I wanted something playful, colourful, semi-retro but most of all timeless, sunny, and “soundshiny”. I took my list of criteria and talked to the only professional sleeve designer I know. He also designed: The Merrymakers first album cover. We agreed on arranging to take one photo and basing the artwork on that photo. Quite quickly we also agreed on making a miniature montage. He asked me to look around for small things that I wanted to put in the picture. That summer I was in Bangkok with my wife and we went to the famous Chatuchak market. I went around there looking for silly things to put in the artwork and came back with a sunflower, other small flowers, miniature animals, and some other weird stuff. He made a great work in arranging everything and putting it in a landscape that he created. 
KJS: I like "Soundshine" ... it’s a really well put together “feel good” album. But how did you go about writing, recording and selecting the songs for it?
DM: I'm always writing songs every now and then. In the 2000’s I had the luxury of working as a guest producer for a musicians programme at a university in my former hometown of Pitea. Those occasions, recording with talented students, have been important for my song writing because every time I went there I wanted to experiment with a new song. I always hoped that those songs would be candidates for: The Merrymakers third album - but as I mentioned before, it never materialised. Another outlet was to send them to my publisher in Japan in the hope that she would find Japanese artists interested in recording them. But a few of them actually became singles for the Japanese duo: Puffy. When the day came to start recording my solo debut, I went through my list of song ideas. There were quite a few lying around from those demo sessions that weren't recorded by those Japanese artists. So it felt like a natural decision to make something out of them. But the first thing that happened was that “I Love The Feeling” was suddenly picked to be recorded as a single by the Japanese artist: Miku Kakoi - but I didn’t let that stop me from recording my own version as well! The recording is a long story in itself! In summary, I called a Swedish producer and drummer named Andreas Dahlback and told him I was eager to make an album. He invited me to his studio and we called in a guitarist and a bass player too for the sessions. During four days in the summer of 2010, the four of us recorded the basic tracks for all of the songs on the album. It was such a relief to see things happen so fast after so many years of inactivity with: The Merrymakers. Whenever Andreas had time, we continued with overdubs in his studio. I was playing pianos, keyboards, and additional guitars and we also had a brass section. Later on I brought the project to my home studio where I spent ages doing vocals and more additional stuff. It was mixed in the spring of 2011 and finally mastered at Abbey Road Studios which was very cool!
KJS: I’ve seen much positive critical acclaim for this release.So, what were your goals for the album?
DM: My main goal was just to make the album. I had been carrying the songs around within me for years and I felt a strong need to see them materialise and be heard by more people than just myself, my wife and a few students. But once I threw my self into the business again, of course the list of goals became longer and longer. An important one was to have it released by a Japanese label. It was no easy task to track down a surviving record company with an interest for Power Pop! But I did finally succeed and that led to my promotional tour there in January this year. The gig in Tokyo was a true milestone in my career. I had been longing for so long to play for a Japanese audience again. Later, I also found labels in Spain and in the UK too. So, yes, I have basically achieved what I wanted and what I thought was realistic. But, of course, I would love to have my songs utilised more in TV, films and commercials in order to have them heard by a larger audience. But, if that happened, it would be a bonus and not something I had counted on.
KJS: How is the album doing? ... Are you getting regular air play out there in radio land?
DM: It is difficult to get on the radio. The competition is worse than ever [and it was never easy]. If you mean by: "radio land”, those in Sweden, it has only been picked up by some local radio stations. Sweden is the third biggest exporter of music in the world, but it’s a small country, and to get a 'break' here may be even more difficult than in other territories. For instance, I did a promotional tour to Spain in March and several radio stations there were very welcoming and they gave the record some airplay. So it varies. But in short, the album has been very well received and appreciated in the Power Pop community. But the majority of the people have no idea that it exists! The million dollar question is how to reach out to them. Who knows ... maybe this interview will lead to another three or four copies being sold, Ha ha!
KJS: You recently joined your ‘LoJinx’ label mates ‘Farrah’ and ‘Pugwash’ on the stage at ‘The Borderline’ in London [and ELOBF featured a review of that gig]. What has been the reaction to your songs when you have performed them live?
DM: Shock and confusion! No, just kidding! The reaction to the few live performances I’ve done has been great. The two best concerts were the one in Tokyo mentioned above and also the one you are referring to in London. It was such great fun to share the bill with my friends in Farrah but also my new friends in Pugwash. They are both brilliant bands in their respective ways, and the crowd at 'The Borderline' was enormously welcoming with a very positive attitude. It was a great night!
KJS: How did you get on with Thomas Walsh and the gang [Pugwash] when you shared the stage with them that night?
DM: It wasn’t until after the show that I could finally relax and stop worrying about musical and technical stuff. It was then when I discovered the extremely sweet personalities of the Pugwash guys. I already loved their music but I also really loved hanging out with them. Thomas [Walsh] talked about the possibility of making something together in Dublin in the future. That’s something I’d really like to see happen.
KJS: Are there any plans for you to return to the UK in order to tour and promote“Soundshine”?
DM: At the moment, I’m awaiting the reactions from media and radio. I would need some help from them in order to create the interest. My song: "Got You Where He Wanted” was hand-picked by: "The Word Magazine" to be part of their compilation CD that will be included in the June issue. And "R2 Magazine" also wrote a really positive review. So, with a little luck, there will be more of that. Nobody would be happier than me if I could come back to play a bit more in the UK!
KJS: If you had to pick a favourite track on the CD ... what would it be and why?
DM: I think I’d choose: "Never Mine” - which is the opening track. It has a certain melancholy that I like and the melody is the kind of melody that stands on it’s own, so to speak. It’s a quality I always say to my song writing students that melodies should have. What I mean is that they have to be good enough to work without any accompaniment. I think, in that particular case, I have succeeded [and hopefully in other cases too]. Also, I have a soft spot for [George] Harrison style slide guitar playing - which is an art form I practice on this song. Not to mention the Jellyfish and Beach Boys style middle eight.
KJS: What [and when] will be the next David Myhr project? Can you give us a clue to your plans?
DM: Well Keith ... it took fourteen years from the release of The Merrymakers' album: "Bubblegun" until I had gathered the songs, strength and finances to make: "Soundshine". So, if I were you,  I would count on a follow-up in 2026 after recovering from this! Until then I will be tirelessly try to make this album heard by every living soul on the planet. That’s my project right now!
KJS: Here’s a question that I always ask next when ‘interviewing’ for ELOBF: David, what would be your personal favourite ELO, ‘Beatles’, ‘Move’ and /or Roy Wood tracks?
DM: My favourite ELO song is: “Livin' Thing”. But first and foremost it’s the verses that I love. It’s such a brilliant chord progression when the very traditional C-Am is followed by Ab-Fm. Jeff Lynne himself talks in a YouTube clip about the magic of the next chord - Em - which is also true, but for me, the magic comes with the Ab. Sorry if this is a bit nerdy and only in musician speak! My favourite ELO album is probably "Time". I love “Twilight” and the beautiful “Ticket To The Moon”. Also, Andy Sturmer of Jellyfish introduced The Merrymakers to its B-side “Julie Don’t Live Here”. He even suggested us making a cover version of it. Loved it! As for The Beatles, everyone knows it’s impossible to choose a favourite track. I went from loving the obvious ones to the obscure ones [“I’m Only Sleeping”, “Hey Bulldog”]. But then, one day, since I get this question every now and then, I decided to make a serious attempt at picking “the best song” without considering the cool factor or anything. I made a list from the top of my head of forty “favourites” and started to cross out one after one, until I realised what my favourite song was. It was: “Help!”. And I’m still happy with the choice.
KJS: ELO Beatles Forever is pleased to have introduced you and reviewed your album in 2012. The album, as previously mentioned, has now been released here in England on ‘LoJinx Records’. Could you please tell the ELOBF readers how to get a hold of “Soundshine”for themselves?
DM: There are many ways. The easiest way I think is visiting my web page www.davidmyhr.com and click on: "Store”. I’m shipping all over the world and also offering a digital download. But there are many other places where it’s available such as: iTunes, amazon and the LoJinx web site. For those who want to listen to it before making the purchase, there’s also Spotify of course.
KJS: I would like to extend my appreciation and thanx to David for participating in this interview.
DM: Thank you so much for your interest! My pleasure!

ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] recommends "Soundshine" by David Myhr to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO, Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe MoveThe Idle RaceThe Beatles'Brum Beat' and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO [and related] Universe ... KJS ... 28-May-2012

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