This time, we get to know Patrik Ahlm, an eclectic indie/alt/rock artist based in Sweden who has featured on the NAS Top 20 a handful of times. Despite decades in the music business it took until 2021 to release music under his own name. He is an experienced musician, producer, and songwriter in a wide range of genres. His musical diversity has led to collaborations with bands and artists including Time Gallery, Too Far For Gracie, Colorstone, Karin Rudefelt & Doctor Blues, Mad Invasion, Mattias Strömberg, Art Of Illusion, Barbados, Ann Tayler and Backman Johanson, and others.
The track "Music, Love and Heroes" is featured in the New Artist Spotlight Family of Playlists.
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1. Tell us a little about where you are from and what you are currently doing.
I'm a country boy from the very south of Sweden, born and raised in Svedala, located just outside Malmö - 3rd largest city in Sweden. After a couple of years in Malmö and Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, I moved 150 miles north to live in the woods outside the city of Växjö. Still considered to be in the south of a very stretched-out country.
I currently work in music education, as I have for the last 20 years, as a senior lecturer at Linnaeus University in Växjö where I teach contemporary songwriting and music production. At the moment I'm self-releasing my own music. Since 2021 I've released many singles and I intend to continue for as long as I possibly can. After years and years in bands, it's kind of nice, and scary, to be your own boss. I do everything myself from writing the songs to singing/playing, recording, mixing, and mastering.
2. What inspired you to start playing and making music?
It goes back to the early 70s - and my childhood years. My father was an artist (painter) and a musician playing the accordion in his own dance band. I remember sitting with him by the radio on Saturdays listening to the charts and picking out new songs to add to his set. And also joined him for rehearsals, just sitting on the floor in the corner listening to the band practice. But even more essential to my musical upbringing was my older brother. He was very much into music and every penny went into new LPs (vinyl). It wasn't unusual for him to bring home 3 LPs a week. And his taste was so diverse, ranging from progressive rock to early heavy metal/hard rock, reggae, punk, to disco and new age, and so on...
His vinyl collection became huge and I was exposed to all this music 24/7. My brother's appetite for music was insatiable. There was Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 10CC, Rush, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Donna Summer, Chic, Sex Pistols, Clash, Gary Numan, Dire Straits, The Police, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Thin Lizzy, Nazareth, Slade, Sweet, David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, U2... - Everything from Everyone. I was completely brainwashed and loved it.
As a youngster, I was totally into drums and wanted to become a drummer. And when I got my first kit by the age of 12 I instantly wanted to form my own band, which I did, and I vividly recall my very first rehearsal where I came up with my first original song - an instrumental. It just came naturally. Without my father and especially my brother I doubt this would've happened.
And with my own band, I took an interest in the guitar - the perfect tool to write songs. I studied classical guitar until 16 and went from there to the bass, which I consider my 2nd love and my main instrument today. But still, something was missing, so I started to play the piano in my late teens and soon discovered what an awesome songwriting tool it is.
𝟯. Who are your biggest influences?
I've been influenced by a wide range of musicians and musical styles. I wouldn't say there is one particular influence that shapes my songwriting of today. But contemporary pop, whatever the flavor, is my cup of tea. Through the years there are a couple of artists that stand out and that still means the most to me: anything Stevie Wonder - the songs and the singing, 70s/early 80s Rush - the musicianship and adventurous, progressive, and innovative songs, The Police - another trio, the songwriting, and the attitude. The all-in-80s music scene is home base - a time when anything was allowed and so much great music was released.
4. What are your goals in the music industry?
Music comes first - to me it's always been about the song and the playing. Performing on stage has never been my reason to do music. But after half a century in music, I've seen and experienced plenty. I've toured full-time for 15 yrs and recorded albums in the big console and 24ch-tape machine studios. I've had my share of terrible record label deals and I've worked as an in-house songwriter for a publishing company. I'm an introvert but it took many years to realize this. Now I am truly happy with writing and recording on my own, in my own studio, at my own pace. My goals in the industry are to connect with an audience, anyone willing to listen, and hopefully grow as a self-releasing artist/songwriter. I actually write out of necessity, it's who I am, it's how I communicate with myself. I can't see myself not doing this. I owe music so much and I am so grateful I can keep doing this. It makes me whole.
5. Tell us about your creative process when you make new music.
My songs can start from anywhere. Sometimes I pick up a guitar and strum some chords, just letting the fingers go. Sometimes I just mess around with the bass and play some riffs. Sometimes I sit down and play the piano, just improvising because it feels good. What I always do, is try to sing a melody over my chords and riffs. If it sounds good or evokes an emotion I record it on my mobile. If I'm in the studio it could be that I'm listening through some drum loops to maybe get the juices flowing, but this is not my usual way of coming up with ideas. In recent years I've oftentimes started with the lyrics. I collect ideas from anywhere and when there's an interesting idea I write around the idea to see what I can come up with. When I have a couple of sheets of sentences and words I pick the most interesting stuff and go to work. I have a lot of tools and strategies to put lyrics together with the different sections of a song. And when the lyric is done I start putting music to them. I search for rhythms, melodies, and chords to complete the song.
When a song is done I go into the studio and start recording and arranging. I'm not always sure about where it's going soundwise, but the song is almost always completely finished and laid out before I turn on my DAW and start the production.
It's not unusual for me to get inspired by a song on the radio or on Spotify. It could be a rhythm or some kind of beat that catches my attention. And it gets me in the mood to create. I can spend days listening to a certain kind of sound or genre to really get into what makes that particular vibe. That's my research. And it makes me a more efficient producer in the studio.
6. What is your all-time favorite song?
Well, this is quite tricky. I could pick a few that have made an impression and had a great impact and still makes me soft in the knees when I hear them. Because of outstanding songwriting. 1. The Doobie Brothers - 'What A Fool Believes'. The intricate chord progression, the melody, and the vocal performance. 2 Don Henley - 'Boys Of Summer'. The overall vibe and simplicity. The lyrics. Very emotional! 3. Shania Twain - 'You're Still The One'. Another simple song with incredible production and it communicates directly with my heart.
7. What is the best advice you have either given or received in terms of music?
Try everything - except drugs.
90% of what you write will not be in the 10% of your best work.
The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas
Advice flies around us, coming from anywhere and anyone. I guess we are best served to go with what we know. Be honest and true to yourself. Don't over-complicate things. Don't spend more than 10 minutes tops on your kick drum sound.
"Musically I would say one highlight was when my band 'Time Gallery' got to go to Van Nuys, LA, and work on our debut album in 1988 with late producer Keith Olsen and engineer Brian Foraker."
8. Proudest accomplishment?
I’d have to say my proudest accomplishment has to be the creation of my own beautiful family. My wife and I started more than 30 years ago, we just celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary and we are proud parents of five kids - four sons and a daughter (from 32 to 19 yrs old) I have 3 grandkids and guess it won't stop there :)
Musically I would say one highlight was when my band 'Time Gallery' got to go to Van Nuys, LA, and work on our debut album in 1988 with late producer Keith Olsen and engineer Brian Foraker. The studio was Goodnight L.A. and the next-door neighbor to Sound City where a lot of classics have been recorded. We were signed to K.O.R.E Atlantic and got a taste of success.
Today I'm proud whenever I complete a new song and release it publicly. Preferably every month :) It was a very special day when I released my first single in February 2021. Maybe long overdue ;)
9. Just for fun! What's been your most embarrassing moment so far?
Well, I've thought this through - long and hard. And I even consulted my Mrs to come up with something even slightly embarrassing. But I can't. Maybe if I ask the kids...
𝟭0. Tell us about your lowest and highest points in music so far.
My lowest point in music would be when my band had a gig in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. Soundcheck is done, everything was ready and we hit the stage right on time. Lights came on and we find the venue is completely empty. Not a soul! We were supposed to play for 3,5 hours but after less than 30 minutes, and no audience, the venue manager approached the stage and told us to pack it up and go home. We got paid though.
Signing that big record label deal is my high score, a dream come true. Other than that - the Eurovision Song contest is big in Europe, but nowhere is this spectacle more paramount than in Sweden. The national qualifying contest is huge - 5 events plus the finals. One of my high points was when a song of mine came in 4th place in the finals. Of course, I never got to represent my country as a songwriter in the Eurovision, but participating in the big national event was good enough. At least 2000 songs compete every year and I got picked. A fond memory.
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