Combining danceable sounds with deep lyrics really is a challenge. But this Danish born, Berlin based singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist succeeded extraordinarily! The 22 year old Asbjørn makes us move our feet while losing ourselves in the stories he tells. The best thing about him: He isn’t afraid of anything. He had the courage to found his own label, to wipe the slate clean in a new city, to reveal his emotions and to bring the genre Pop to new levels.
It seems as if many musicians are afraid to call their music Pop as they don’t want it to be confused with mainstream.
Yes, that’s true. A lot of artists think like that. To me Pop was always a really natural language somehow because it’s so physical, so much about universal messages that touch a lot of people. And obviously what I do is not within the mainstream of Pop. I want to create an alternative to the Pop music that is already massively exposed. I never saw Pop as anything to be ashamed of! It’s a way to communicate with many people. When I was a child I grew up with Madonna, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls and Britney Spears. Not a lot of men actually – except from Michael Jackson. Right now there are a lot of exciting artists that take Pop elements but make something totally different of it! Like Lykke Li, Kindness, Blood Orange. They are not ashamed at all of using really cheesy Pop elements but totally doing it in their own way. There’s a whole new wave of Pop music.
Didn’t you have phase in your teenage years when you were really into that subcultural underground stuff?
As a teenager I was really much into Folk music. I was very melancholic. That probably affected my angle into Pop music because Folk, when it’s good, has this intense self-exposure from the artist where you can hear everything and you can hear that it’s a human being that is able to use his hands and his body to express something. That’s my entrance when it comes to production. I really want Pop music to be as intimate as Folk but still I want it to be something physical, something smooth, something to let go of your body. The way you communicate the music with the body – that’s what I try to do when playing live. To create this atmosphere with the audience that you’re free to do whatever you want. And just forget about everything else.
You’ve already mentioned Lykke Li. She recently said that ‘Brotherhood’ is one of her favorite songs. Awesome! However if you could pick one other artist to show your music who would you choose?
Yes, it was really really crazy! You know I’ve been looking up to Lykke Li since she released her first album. And the fact that she even knows who I am and what I do is completely crazy. It’s a quite big thing to me. Well, however I would love to work with Kindness. I’ve been listening so much to his new record. When I moved to Berlin he was the soundtrack. That record definitely has something special to me right now.
You always hear about musicians who came to Berlin and lost themselves in the city. Berlin really has the power to destroy you!
Yes, but I’m definitely a quite disciplined person. I started early with music and built my own label with 19. Nothing can get my out of that when I don’t, I need to do that from myself. It’s really inspiring to be in a place where you see that the atmosphere is destroying a lot of motivation for many people who come here and have all that ambition. They get lost in these intense moments – mostly in the nighttime I guess. And that’s great that you can also do that. It’s so close, you can reach it whenever you want. That creates an exciting balance.
Don’t you miss home sometimes?
I miss my nephew. Of course I miss my family but I also know that it’s the time for me to do this and I know that everything is gonna be there if I choose to be there again. But not now. Right now the excitement of challenging me at a new place and do something unsafe is motivating me a lot.
When listening to your music it’s quite important to pay attention to your lyrics as you reveal so much of your inside and your private life. Was there a certain song that really pushed you to your emotional limits?
I try to do that with every song! When it comes to songwriting we’ve always been taught that there’s a limit between personal and private and that it’s best to stay on the personal side and never be private because that’s too much. But I don’t really believe in that. I believe that it’s really important to put you on the line and I guess that the song that really took that to the next level was ‘The Love you have in you’ which was the first song that actually put a gender on my love. And that song got reactions from all over the world! People have written me that it gave them the courage to either come out of the closet or just declare their love to someone. To me it was so great because it wasn’t only a gay thing, it was a really universal love song and people seemed to understand that. Even if I wrote it from my point of view it still is for everybody. That’s what I want to do with my songs: to tell them from a personal angle but still hit that everybody can relate to it. That is the essence of Pop music.
Which was the first song you’ve ever written?
I started really early! I think in fifth grade my best friend sort of broke it off with me. I was calling his mother like: ‘Hey, can he play today?’ And from then on she was every time like: ’No, he can’t play today.’ That was my first heartbreak. I wrote my first song right then. I found out that it was sort of a good channel for me to get this heartbreak out. Now I can see that I was probably in love with him but I didn’t know that back then. I just knew that I have this first intense feeling in my body that everything vanished but this feeling that is so powerful. That’s why I write songs about really intense moments where it feels like a whole new state is created in your body and in your mind.
Do you still remember the lyrics?
When the winds are blowing, when the waves are swooshing, I come to think of you. Cause you were my best friend, you were my best friend.
You’re kind of a multi-instrumentalist. That must be very helpful, being able to do everything by yourself?
I’m actually not good at that much but I play a lot of different stuff. That’s sort of my approach to my production, to surround myself with all these instruments and just play them to the extent that I can and then, when I can’t anymore, I sample them and that’s when it becomes electronic. Most of the sounds on the record are something that I created with my hands and then just working with it from there.
What’s the best thing about your music?
I’m not afraid to verbalize those teenage feelings that you still have when you’re 22. I’m very honest about where I am emotionally – which is not a super grown-up place all of the time. And then, at the same time, there is this melancholy that I can’t help which is also a big part of me. When the melancholy is out in a song I can be really energetic and happy the rest of the time again.
If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?
I don’t see life that way. It’s always like in a situation that you can’t overcome you have always these thoughts that you would like to change something or that you wish it would be easier but that’s life. Always when you’re on the other side of this struggle everything makes sense. And I think to me all this struggle is such a big part of music and a part of just being human. So it don’t think I would change anything.
Do you often have nightmares?
Not often, but I have a lot of dreams. I have an intense double life when I sleep. Last night I dreamt that all of my skin was peeling off. I was slowly resolving. That’s probably a bit nightmarish. But at the same time I had the fascination looking at my skin. I was like looking at my shell and didn’t really hurt. It was just this horrific image. But perhaps it came because I got this burn when I shot a video for Rangleklods.
What should the world know about you?
I have too much movement in my body. That’s such a big part of my music and what I am. Every time there’s a song that gives me great energy I can’t help it! I’ll be all over the place. Sometimes I feel more comfortable dancing than singing. It’s such a basic communication somehow. And that’s a great thing about Berlin. Sometimes I don’t want to drink, I just want to go to a good Hip Hop club and move and look at people and that’s all the euphoria I need. I usually even start my day dancing.
Asbjørn‘s new album Pseudo Visions is out now btw.
Pictures via Instagram
By Marieke Fischer